Raiders

Why Raiders cut Jordy Nelson, AJ McCarron but left door open for return

Why Raiders cut Jordy Nelson, AJ McCarron but left door open for return

The Raiders paid Jordy Nelson a $3.6 million roster bonus in Dec. 2018, roughly four months before it was due. It was done for salary-cap purposes, but doubled as a signal the veteran receiver would return in 2019.

Coach Jon Gruden said so directly, but his plans obviously changed after acquiring high-priced receivers Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams.

The Raiders needed to decrease their cash flow as much, if not more than they needed extra cap space. In light of that need, they deemed Jordy Nelson expendable.

He was released Thursday afternoon, along with backup quarterback AJ McCarron.

Those cuts saved a combined $8.5 million in cap space and decreased outgoing cash flow, important outcomes after signing four veterans to massive contracts with significant guaranteed money in the last few days. 

Nelson’s base salary would’ve become guaranteed on Friday. That’s also when McCarron had bonuses and some salary locked up, so that’s why Raiders chose to make hard cuts the day before.

Cutting Nelson saved $3.5 million in cap space and comes with $1.8 million in dead money, a penalty that could’ve been avoided had they left Nelson’s original contract alone. Paying bonuses early was designed to absorb some extra money into the 2018 cap – Lee Smith, Kyle Wilber and Tahir Whitehead also received early sums – but ended up being for naught in Nelson’s case.

McCarron’s release saved $5 million in cash and cap space.

The Raiders need some flexibility after a flurry of high-priced free agent moves this week and the trade for Antonio Brown, which came with a restructured contract.

The Silver and Black hoped to retain both players but didn’t find it feasible with their offseason needs, goals and new financial commitments. They have not, however, ruled out either player coming at a reduced rate.

"I'm sick to my stomach and I don't even know these guys,” Raiders general manager Mike Mayock said in a Thursday interview with SiriusMX NFL Radio. “Unfortunately, there are financial realities of this game. At some point, who knows? They might come back to us and we would welcome it with open arms."

Both guys would have to return at reduced rates, though they'll have options on the open market.

[RELATED: AB feels pressure to produce in last season in Oakland]

Nelson will become a free agent for the second time in as many years. He has played a full decade in the NFL, including nine previous seasons with the Green Bay Packers. The Packers cut him this time last year, and he quickly signed on with the Raiders.

Ultimately, the Raiders paid Nelson roughly $10 million in salary and various bonuses for a year’s service. He had 63 catches for 739 yards and three touchdowns, and dealt with knee issues down the stretch.

Oakland appreciated his steadiness and influence on a young receiver corps, and that could still be valuable with Brown and Williams in the receiver room.

The Raiders traded for McCarron just before the regular season and hoped to retain him in 2019, but they couldn’t. The Raiders need another quarterback if McCarron doesn’t come back – Nathan Peterman’s the only reserve quarterback on the roster – and there’s a real chance the Raiders draft a developmental prospect in the middle or later rounds.

Tom Brady says he's 'open-minded' about uncertain future with Patriots

Tom Brady says he's 'open-minded' about uncertain future with Patriots

When you think about the New England Patriots, you don't see Steve Grogan, you picture Tom Brady. Aside from six Super Bowl rings for Brady and a trophy case full of accolades and records, there could be one big difference between the two quarterbacks. 

Grogan was a late-round draft pick who spent his entire 16-year career as a Patriots QB. Brady famously was a late-round draft pick who has spent his entire 20-year career as a Pats QB. But that could change. 

With rumors swirling that Brady might move on from New England this offseason, the 42-year-old addressed his future in his weekly interview with Westwood One Sports Radio on Sunday. 

"It's only been a couple weeks and I've had a lot of time with my family the last couple weeks and just been decompressing from the season," Brady said. "I've said earlier I'm open-minded about the process, and at the same time I love playing football and I want to continue to play and do a great job. I'm looking forward to what's ahead.

"Whatever the future may bring, I'll embrace it with open arms."

Brady is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career on March 18. The Athletic's Jay Glazer recently called the Raiders going after Brady with their move to Las Vegas a "no-brainer." And Brady was spotted in Sin City on Saturday night talking to none other than Raiders owner Mark Davis at UFC 246. 

The Las Vegas Review-Journal's Adam Hill spoke with UFC president Dana White -- who's a friend of Brady -- Saturday night after the fights, and White said a Raiders-Brady pairing absolutely "has legs." 

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is set to make $18.9 million next season, but the Raiders would save $16.5 million and take a cap hit of just $5 million if they trade or release Carr prior to June 1. 

[RELATED: Brady offers Jimmy G advice before NFC Championship Game]

Brady wouldn't come cheap, even at his age, though he certainly would create an insane amount of buzz and sell boatloads of tickets in the Silver and Black's first season in Las Vegas. Raider fans might also finally have reason to forget about the Tuck Rule, 18 years after the fact. 

Buckle up, things could get interesting. This is Las Vegas, after all.

Tom Brady to Las Vegas Raiders 'has legs,' UFC's Dana White believes

Tom Brady to Las Vegas Raiders 'has legs,' UFC's Dana White believes

Given the uneven performance Derek Carr had in the Raiders' final season in Oakland, it wouldn't be surprising if the team brought in another quarterback to start for the franchise' in its first season in Las Vegas.

Whether it's veterans like Cam Newton and Marcus Mariota or draft prospects like Tua Tagovaiola and Justin Herbert, there's no shortage of possibilities for Jon Gruden to consider as Carr's replacement and/or backup.

By the looks of the Connor McGregor-Cowboy Cerrone UFC fight Saturday night, it appears there's another name on the list, and it's the biggest one possible.

Yep. That would be Raiders owner Mark Davis in the white, and six-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady in the black leather jacket on the right. If that doesn't get the rumor mill swirling, the following context might do the trick.

According to Adam Hill of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, UFC president Dana White -- who is a friend of Brady's and already is a suiteholder at Allegiant Stadium -- believes a Brady-Raiders pairing isn't all that farfetched. 

Carr is set to make $18.9 million in base salary in 2020, so it's difficult to see a scenario in which he and Brady are on the same team. Brady might be the best QB of all-time, and simply put, he's not taking a major pay cut. However, the Raiders would save $16.5 million and take a cap hit of just $5 million if they trade or release Carr prior to June 1, which would appear to be a precondition for bringing Brady to Sin City.

Of course, if the Raiders did that, it would be under the assumption that Brady could regain some of his three-time MVP form -- which, if you watched him in New England this past season, is nowhere near a certainty. In fact, one could argue that Carr is a superior QB to Brady right now, thus making that hypothetical move both illogical and unnecessary. While throwing for nearly an identical number of passing yards in 2019, Carr posted a far superior completion percentage than Brady (70.4 percent to 60.8 percent) and averaged 1.3 more yards per pass attempt. Of the 30 quarterbacks that qualified for ESPN's Total QBR rating -- which values the quarterback on all play types on a 0-100 scale adjusted for the strength of opposing defenses faced -- Carr was ranked ninth (62.4), while Brady was ranked 17th (53.7)

[RELATED: Mayock gives glowing review of Carr's 2019 with Raiders]

One would imagine that Gruden knows what he has in Carr, and considering his lukewarm-at-best endorsement of the Raiders' incumbent QB at the conclusion of the season, it wouldn't be surprising if the team opted to go in another direction. Brady certainly would provide plenty of excitement -- and would sell plenty of tickets -- but it would also be a big gamble on the Raiders' part.

Given it's Las Vegas, maybe that's the way to go.