Raiders

Raiders have salary-cap flexibility heading into pivotal NFL offseason

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AP

Raiders have salary-cap flexibility heading into pivotal NFL offseason

The Raiders got plenty of draft capital in return for trading Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper, but that wasn’t the main benefit of those deals.

Mack was worthy of a market-resetting contract for NFL defensive players either before last season or the next, and he got it after being sent to the Chicago Bears last September. Cooper will get serious cash from the Dallas Cowboys as soon as this offseason, following his third Pro Bowl campaign in four seasons.

The Raiders initially planned to pay both guys in addition to an expensive offensive line, and high-priced quarterback Derek Carr.

Those Cooper and Mack deals are no off the books and the Raiders, thanks to some poor drafts, don’t have a big-money extension coming up for a long, long time. They don’t have any long-term commitments beyond Carr, and their recent top draft picks are still on rookie deals.

That has given the Raiders tremendous salary-cap flexibility heading into a pivotal offseason meant to springboard coach Jon Gruden’s second Raiders stint.

The Raiders have roughly $71 million in salary-cap space in 2019, according to OverTheCap.com. That ranks fifth in the NFL, and would allow the Raiders to pursue most anyone in free agency.

The Raiders can clear even more space should they chose. They could save $10.2 million by cutting elite left guard Kelechi Osemele, and another $4.6 million by parting with receiver Seth Roberts. They could save $5.475 million by axing Donald Penn, coming off a season largely spent on injured reserve, and $5 million more by cutting backup quarterback AJ McCarron before the NFL league year begins.

Paying roster bonuses to Jordy Nelson, Tahir Whitehead, Lee Smith and Kyle Wilber essentially locks those guys to the roster.

There was never a danger of Carr being cut, but his $19.9 million base salary next season is now fully guaranteed.

New general manager Mike Mayock has stated his “buyer beware” approach to free agency, and Gruden, who ultimately has final say, has a soft spot for established veterans.

They signed a ton of unrestricted free agents to short-term deals. They might follow a different path this year.

Truly, the Raiders can do most anything they want.

“We’ve got some money this year, and we’ve had at least three meetings already about free agency,” Mayock said in a sitdown with reporters a few weeks ago at the Senior Bowl. “We’re stacking that board right now, as we speak. Between Jon and I and our pro scouting staff, that’s as important a board to stack as our draft board. We have some money and we would love to come out of it with a couple of starters. We have an awful lot of holes and we’re not going to fill them all. The more you can do in free agency, the more surgical you can be in the draft.”

Let’s take a look at player the Raiders have on the books, and their soon-to-be free agents. The figures are the 2019 salary-cap numbers for the Raiders’ highest-paid players, via OverTheCap.com:

Quarterback

Derek Carr $22.50 million
AJ McCarron $5.0 million
Nathan Peterman $645,000

Running back

Keith Smith $1.5 million
DeAndre Washington $787,299

Wide receiver

Jordy Nelson $5.368 million
Seth Roberts $4.650 million
Keon Hatcher $570,000

Tight end

Lee Smith $2.616 million
Derek Carrier $1.7 million
Darren Waller $720,000

Offensive line

Kelechi Osemele $10.2 million
Rodney Hudson $10.17 million
Donald Penn $7.225 million
Gabe Jackson $7.0 million
Kolton Miller $3.061 million
Brandon Parker $930,758
David Sharpe $645,000
Denver Krikland $645,000
Cameron Hunt $570,000

[RELATED: Tucson, Birmingham reportedly parterning to host Raiders in 2019]

Defensive line

Justin Ellis $4.75 million
PJ Hall $1.069 million
Eddie Vanderdoes $869,303
Arden Key $830,844
Maurice Hurst $649,761

Linebacker

Tahir Whitehead $4.291 million
Kyle Wilber $1.5 million
Marquel Lee $708,426
Nicholas Morrow $647,500
James Cowser $645,000

Defensive back

Karl Joseph $3.781 million
Gareon Conley $2.854 million
Nick Nelson $744,669
Makinton Dorleant $570,000
Montrel Meander $570,000

Specialists

Andrew DePaola $905,000
Drew Kaser $720,000
Johnny Townsend $624,389

All others under contract but not listed have cap figures of 2019 for $570,000 or less.

[RELATED: Raiders hire new strength and conditioning coach]

Free agents

CB Rashaan Melvin (UFA)
TE Jared Cook (UFA)
RB Marshawn Lynch (UFA)
S Marcus Gilchrist (UFA)
DT Johnathan Hankins (UFA)
WR Martavis Bryant (UFA)
DT Clinton McDonald (UFA)
WR Brandon LaFell (UFA)
S Reggie Nelson (UFA)
RB Doug Martin (UFA)
CB Leon Hall (UFA)
DE Frostee Rucker (UFA)
DT Ahtyba Rubin (UFA)
K Mike Nugent (UFA)
Dwayne Harris (UFA)
DE Kony Ealy (UFA)
Bene Benwikiere (UFA)
G Denzell Good (UFA)
OL Chaz Green (UFA)
DE Jacquies Smith (UFA)
OT T.J. Clemmings (UFA)
G Jon Feliciano (UFA)
S Erik Harris (RFA)
DE Shilique Calhoun (RFA)
CB Daryl Worley (RFA)
CB Dexter McDonald (RFA)
RB Jalen Richard (RFA)
S Tevin Mitchell (ERFA)
K Daniel Carlson (ERFA)
WR Marcell Ateman (ERFA)
LS Trent Sieg (ERFA)
LB Jason Cabinda (ERFA)
OT Justin Murray (ERFA)

How Jordan Devey signing gives Raiders versatile offensive line depth

How Jordan Devey signing gives Raiders versatile offensive line depth

The Raiders hope Rodney Hudson plays every single offensive snap in 2019. He might be the league’s best center, and is the unquestioned leader along the offensive front.

They need a Plan B, even if they never hope to use it. Jon Feliciano was the primary reserve at guard and center, leaving a void upon signing with the Buffalo Bills.

Jordan Devey will fill it. The former Kansas City Chief signed a one-year contract with the Raiders on Thursday, the team announced, adding depth and versatility to an overhauled front.

Devey spent parts of five NFL seasons with New England, the 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs, primarily as a reserve guard. He played more center over the past two seasons, and has some tackle work on his resume. Devey finished last season on injured reserve with a pectoral issue

Offensive line coach Tom Cable prizes versatility, especially with a need on the inside. Second-year pro Brandon Parker is expected to be a swing tackle.

Kolton Miller and Trent Brown will be starting tackles, with Hudson at center. Gabe Jackson and Denzelle Good look like starting guards at this time.

[RELATED: Raiders GM Mike Mayock explains the value of important pro day tour]

Devey was clean cut Thursday when signing with the Raiders, but he rocked a pretty serious mullet last season in Kansas City.

Raiders GM Mike Mayock explains the value of important pro day tour

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USATSI

Raiders GM Mike Mayock explains the value of important pro day tour

General manager Mike Mayock and his traveling Raiders band are on a college pro day tour.

They were at Alabama on Tuesday, Ohio State on Wednesday and will be at Kentucky on Friday, connecting with elite NFL draft prospects worthy of the Silver and Black’s No. 4 overall selection. Coaches and scouts have shuffled in and out, which the GM personally visits prestigious schools important to this year’s Raiders draft.

Alabama’s Quinnen Williams, Ohio State’s Nick Bosa and Dwayne Haskins, and Kentucky’s Josh Allen are the main attractions, but the Raiders are keeping a close eye on everyone at these big-name schools.

The Raiders have watched game film on all of them and evaluated NFL combine workouts. They have met with several and done homework on those under consideration. Mayock’s pouring over tape day and night preparing for his first NFL draft as an NFL general manager.

They know these prospects well, but Mayock still sees advantages in going to pro days himself.

“I think it’s a couple different things,” Mayock said Wednesday in an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco. “When you’re in person you get a better feel. You can watch all the tape in the world, which we do, but when you’re here in person you sometimes get a better feel for their movement ability. You get a better understanding for how they interact with each other, with the coaches. I’m big on collecting information.”

Mayock didn’t see Williams or Bosa do any on-field work. Both guys stood behind excellent combine stats and bowed out of pro-day drills. According to Maiocco, Allen will follow suit and sit out during drills at Kentucky's pro day Friday. 

“We’re seeing more and more of the top 10 or top 20 guys who are electing not to work out,” Mayock said. “To be honest with you, if you have a couple years of tape and a full combine workout, we ought to be able to evaluate him.”

The Raiders will conduct a private workout with Williams so defensive coordinator Paul Guenther can see him up close. Such an exercise will happen with other prospects the Raiders are considering throughout the draft, especially with their four valuable selections in the top 35 overall.

The Raiders were still able to check in with Bosa, believed to sit high or on top of their draft board. Kentucky’s up next, where the Raiders will keep an eye on several prospects including a host of defensive backs. Allen will be a focus despite not doing anything at Wildcats pro day. He has done enough already. That includes a decision to return for his senior season, which Mayock believes paid big dividends.

He has moved near the top of most draft boards following a season where he had 88 tackles, including 21.5 for a loss, 17 sacks, and five forced fumbles.

[RELATED: NFL insiders believe Raiders could be most improved in 2019]

“He’s a talented edge rusher,” Mayock said. “I think most of the league’s very aware of him. He put some weight on this year and carries it well. I think he’s kind of a testament to coming back to school as a senior. I think he enhanced his draft status immeasurably coming back bigger, stronger faster and having the kind of year he had.”