Hard to imagine Raiders using franchise tag in 2017

Hard to imagine Raiders using franchise tag in 2017

There isn’t much downtime on the NFL calendar. The Super Bowl just exited the rearview and free agency is but a few weeks away, leaving some time to lock up players before they hit the open market.

Teams have a weapon designed to prevent a player from doing so. It’s called the franchise tag, a collectively bargained instrument that helps keep important players in the mix albeit at an expensive rate.

Teams can apply the franchise tag starting Wednesday. Don’t expect the Raiders to use it, or the less forceful transition tag.

The Raiders don’t have worthy candidates among their free agent class. Running back Latavius Murray is the biggest name in that group, but he seems destined to reach the open market.

Virtually securing Murray with the franchise tag – we’ll get into tag descriptions later – should cost $12.7 million for a running back, according to ESPN projections.

The Raiders won’t put themselves in a spot where they’d have to pay that freight. Even the rarely used transition tag would be too rich for their blood.

Most important members of last year’s 12-4 run remain under contract, with but a few key components set for unrestricted free agency. Murray, linebackers Perry Riley and Malcolm Smith and right tackle Menelik Watson are the starters headed for the open market.

Here’s a refresher on tags available to the Raiders and other NFL teams.

Exclusive franchise tag: A player who receives this tag is set to return to his club, and can’t receive an offer sheet from another team. He will get paid an average of the five largest salaries at his position in 2017 or 20 percent more than his 2016 salary, depending on which number is higher.

Non-exclusive franchise tag: This tag is more common than the last. Tagged players can receive offer sheets from other teams, but the courting team must give up two first-round picks for his rights. That’s typically too high a price too pay for a tagged player.

A non-exclusive franchise tag will pay a player the average of the top five salaries at his position from the 2016 season or a 20 percent raise over his 2016 salary, depending on which number is higher.

Transition tag: This tag only allows a team to match an offer sheet a player receives. There’s no compensation if that player is allowed to leave. The player will get paid the average of the top 10 salaries at his position.

Teams can apply tags and rescind them. Also, parties are free to work out a long-term deal instead of paying the 2017 salary required under the tag. Only one tag can be used per season. Tags can be applied until March 1. The Raiders last used a tag in 2012, when the applied the franchise tag to safety Tyvon Branch.

Fantasy football waiver wire: Target Raiders' Jalen Richard in Week 8


Fantasy football waiver wire: Target Raiders' Jalen Richard in Week 8

Whether you're alone at the top or in the basement of your fantasy football league, there's a good chance that somebody on your roster hasn't met expectations.

It could be someone like Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper, Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry, or even Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. You might not be able to recoup their draft value, but you can turn to the waiver wire to try and get back some of that production.

Here are four players to keep an eye on heading into Week 8. Each is owned in fewer than 60 percent of ESPN and Yahoo's fantasy football leagues. 

Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears QB (Owned in 51.1 percent of ESPN leagues, 52 percent of Yahoo leagues)

Trubisky did it again Sunday. He threw for 333 yards and two touchdowns, adding a rushing touchdown and 81 yards on the ground. It was the third consecutive week in which Trubisky threw for at least 300 yards, rushed for at least 45 yards and scored multiple touchdowns.

The second-year pro did throw two picks, and completed barely more than 50 percent of his passes. But Trubisky was the highest-scoring fantasy QB headed into Sunday night for the second time in three weeks. He’s worth considering as a streaming option in Week 8, and might even be an upgrade over your current signal-caller(s).

Marlon Mack, Indianapolis Colts RB (Owned in 53.9 percent of ESPN leagues, 55 percent of Yahoo leagues)

Mack topped a solid Week 6 performance with a stellar game in Week 7. He ran for 126 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, and caught two passes for 33 yards and a score in a rout of the Buffalo Bills. It was the second consecutive week in which he got significantly more touches than Nyheim Hines, a previous waiver-wire favorite of ours, and Mack has emerged as the top option in Indianapolis' backfield. 

The Colts will head to Oakland next week to face the Raiders, and the Silver and Black defense has allowed more than 100 rushing yards in four out of six weeks this season. If he keeps this up, there probably won't be a return of (the) Mack in our Week 9 column. 

Jalen Richard, Oakland Raiders RB (Owned in 17.1 percent of ESPN leagues, 20 percent of Yahoo leagues)

Doug Martin is likely to assume most of the injured Marshawn Lynch’s rushing workload, but Richard still offers higher fantasy upside, especially in PPR formats. He has at least six catches in four out of six games this season, including each of his last two games.

Richard is a solid matchup play in Week 8, as the Colts' defense has allowed big fantasy weeks from opposing running backs. Indy contained the Bills’ backs after LeSean McCoy was injured in Week 7. But as long as health is on Richard’s side, he’s an intriguing flex option. 

Danny Amendola, Miami Dolphins WR (Owned in 24.4 percent of ESPN leagues, 10 percent of Yahoo leagues)

Amendola might be the biggest believer in Brocktober, as the 32-year-old caught six passes for 84 yards and one touchdown Sunday against the Detroit Lions.. Since Osweiler took over for an injured Ryan Tannehill, the former Patriots pass-catcher has more targets (18) and catches (13) than any other Dolphins wide receiver.

Miami has a short turnaround, but Osweiler will remain under center on Thursday Night Football against the Houston Texans. It remains to be seen how well Osweiler will perform on the road, but as long as Amendola remains his safety valve, the wide receiver belongs on your radar. 

Analyzing Jon Gruden's 2018 Raiders rookie class


Analyzing Jon Gruden's 2018 Raiders rookie class

Raiders coach Jon Gruden has a reputation for preferring veteran players. That seemed to be the case this year, when he assembled the NFL’s oldest roster and starting cutting recent draft picks with development left ahead.

While previous draft classes haven’t gotten much run, this year’s group is seeing opportunities to shine and gain real-world job experience.

“I’m excited about the rookie class,” Gruden said. “I’ve been accused my whole life of hating rookies and liking old players, and now I’m playing 10 rookies. What do you say to that, America?”

[RELATED: Major roster upheaval expected?]

Not sure if the entire country cares, but Raider Nation certainly does. The fan base is looking for a glimmer of hope in an otherwise nauseating 1-5 start, and there are some real signs of optimism in the group.

Let’s take a look at the rookies contributing (or, in one case, set to contribute) to this year’s squad:

LT Kolton Miller -- The UCLA product has struggled the last few weeks while playing through injury, but there’s a strong belief he is the long-term solution at an important position.

DT P.J. Hall -- An early season ankle sprain has slowed his progress and dulled his impact. He isn’t a hulk, but Hall could develop into a tenacious inside pass rusher who can push the pocket.

RT Brandon Parker -- The small-school product has a long way to go, but he must learn on the job now that Donald Penn is on injured reserve. He isn’t doing half bad, considering he missed most of training camp with an ankle issue.

DE Arden Key -- He has all the bend, length and athleticism that coaches want in an edge rusher. He’s technically proficient, but he must be more efficient to consistently impact the cornerback. There’s room for improvement against the run and to avoid biting on play action and misdirection.

[RELATED: Key, Hurst, Hall are bright spots]

CB Nick Nelson -- Gruden believes the Wisconsin cover man finally is healthy and ready to contribute after tearing his meniscus during the pre-draft process. He has been inactive most weeks.

DT Maurice Hurst -- He'll be viewed as a fifth-round steal in time. He's the Raiders’ most polished rookie, and has been effective against the run and pass. He could be a mainstay in the starting lineup.

P Johnny Townsend -- The Florida product has disappointed thus far, proving unable to flip field position in the Raiders’ favor. He hasn’t shown enough power, and has shanked too many to be acceptable at the pro level.

LS Trent Sieg -- He has been a servicable replacement after Andrew DePaola tore his ACL.

K Matt McCrane -- He has missed four field-goal attempts in three games, and kickoffs haven’t been steadily deep enough. McCrane must do better, or the team could look to another kicker.

LB Jason Cabinda -- The undrafted rookie was promoted from the practice squad after Derrick Johnson was released. Cabinda will make his NFL debut next week against the Colts.

Drafted players who didn’t make the regular-season roster: LB Azeem Victor (waived), WR Marcell Ateman (on practice squad)

Undrafted players on IR or practice squad. RB Chris Warren III (IR), WR Saeed Blacknall (practice squad); K Eddy Piñeiro (IR), FB Ryan Yuracheck (practice squad), TE Paul Butler (practice squad), S Dallin Leavitt (practice squad)