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.

Agent Drew Rosenhaus responds to Mike Mayock's Antonio Brown statement

Agent Drew Rosenhaus responds to Mike Mayock's Antonio Brown statement

The Raiders sent a well-coordinated shot across Antonio Brown’s bow Sunday afternoon, after the superstar wide receiver left training camp frustrated over not being allowed to wear the helmet he wants.

Raiders general manager Mike Mayock issued an in-person statement to reporters on the scene in Napa, and within minutes, the team had video of it posted on its social media accounts.

Brown spends significant time on those popular platforms, so he undoubtedly heard the Raiders' frustration straight from Mayock’s mouth.

The first-year GM made it clear that he wants to know if Brown is “all-in or all-out” after leaving camp frustrated that his preferred Schutt Air Advantage helmet failed a safety test and now is banned from use. Mayock said the Raiders have been supportive of Brown’s quest to wear the helmet he wants but have “exhausted all options.”

As of 10 p.m. Sunday, Brown hadn't responded to Mayock on social media through outright statements or cryptic posts. But  his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, did so late Sunday in an appearance on WSVN-TV’s "Sports Xtra," aired in the Miami market.

Here’s what he had to say, in its entirety.

“We have worked very closely with the Raiders, and will continue to work very closely with the Raiders,” Rosenhaus said. “I’m not sure we agree that we’ve exhausted all the options, as Mike Mayock said, but there’s no doubt it’s still an ongoing process. We are trying to work with the team and the league and the union on a solution. We haven’t figured that out yet.

“To say that AB is upset about the decision to not let him wear his helmet is accurate, but we’re still processing it and figuring it out. I wouldn’t make too much about him not being there today, as much as we’re still trying to come up with a solution that works for everyone.”

That was Rosenhaus’ response to this statement from Mayock: "Antonio Brown is not here today, and here's the bottom line: He's upset about the helmet issue. We have supported that. We appreciate that. We have, at this point, exhausted all avenues of relief. From our perspective, it's time for him to be all-in or all-out.

"We're hoping he is back soon. We have 89 guys busting their tails. We are really excited about where this franchise is going, and we hope AB is going to be a big part of it starting Week 1 against Denver. End of story. No questions."

The Raiders formally break training camp Monday morning, and will conduct a practice at their Alameda training facility Tuesday. They are scheduled to leave Wednesday to play a Thursday preseason game against the Green Bay Packers in Winnipeg, Canada.

Antonio Brown misses Raiders practice; GM Mike Mayock shows frustration

Antonio Brown misses Raiders practice; GM Mike Mayock shows frustration

NAPA -- The Raiders have clearly reached a breaking point with Antonio Brown.

General manager Mike Mayock made that point clear during Sunday's final training-camp practice, which their superstar receiver did not attend over his longstanding helmet issue.

His quest to use a preferred Schutt Air Advantage helmet hit a snag on Saturday -- it failed an NFL test, per Pro Football Talk -- and he left camp in frustration.

The Raiders, and Mayock in particular, have been supportive of Brown's helmet preference. Going AWOL at this point, when he's healthy enough to practice fully for only the second time since dealing with frostbitten feet, is a point of contention for his employer.

"Antonio Brown is not here today, and here's the bottom line: he's upset about the helmet issue," Mayock said in a statement to reporters on hand Sunday in Napa. "We have supported that. We appreciate that. We have, at this point, exhausted all avenues of relief. From our perspective, it's time for him to be all-in or all-out.

"We're hoping he is back soon. We have 89 guys busting their tails. We are really excited about where this franchise is going, and we hope AB is going to be a big part of it starting Week 1 against Denver. End of story. No questions."

Brown’s helmet saga has gone on for months, because the Schutt Air Advantage helmet he has used in some form or another since high school was no longer permitted for use in NFL games. Only helmets certified by an independent safety body (NOCSAE) are eligible for use, and helmets over 10 years old are not eligible for certification.

According to an epic Twitter thread by NFL Network’s Mike Silver, Brown has been so frustrated by an inability to use his preferred helmet, that he resorted to repainting a Schutt Air Advantage helmet brought in from outside the team when the Raiders wouldn’t give him one.

Brown filed a grievance with the NFL and NFLPA to wear his preferred helmet, and an independent arbitrator formally ruled against him on Aug. 12.

Drew Rosenhaus, Brown’s agent, said the following day that he believed a resolution was close thanks to a loophole in the certification rules. If Brown’s camp could find a Schutt Air Advantage helmet less than 10 years old, they could re-condition it and get it re-certified.

Brown’s camp crowd sourced the effort and acquired a few such models, though the NFL and NFLPA told Brown’s representation that a newer version would have to be submitted to an independent lab for testing. Per a source, the helmet failed the test.

Brown’s representatives were informed of the failed test on Saturday. After failing the test, the source said, the Schutt Air Advantage has now been placed on the list of helmets prohibited by the NFL.

Brown voiced his displeasure with that decision on social media, using language that will not be repeated here.

He left Raiders camp for a second time after receiving bad news about his helmet.

He came back Tuesday from his first absence, a 10-day stint in Florida, where Rosenhaus said he was gone only to receive treatment for frostbitten feet.

His private treatment ended before his Aug. 13 return to Napa, and Brown was healthy enough to run full speed in pre-game warm-ups before Thursday’s exhibition in Arizona and participate fully in Saturday’s walk-through practices.

He was supposed to practice fully on Sunday, for the first time since July 30, but left camp instead over this helmet news.

Brown’s decision to leave amplified the Raiders’ simmering frustration and prompted Mayock’s statement, which drew a line in the sand.

[RELATED: AB's agent responds to Mayock's statement]

The Raiders traded third- and fifth-round picks to Pittsburgh for Brown, and subsequently reworked his contract to pay out $50 million over three seasons, including $30 million guaranteed.

Brown spoke after Thursday’s preseason game and refuted a report that he would retire over this helmet issue.

“Why would I retire, man?” Brown said. “I have a beautiful career. I’m healthy. I love to play the game. Obviously, I inspire people with the way I play the game. I’m grateful to play the game. I’m excited to put it all on display, not only for my family but for these guys and our shared goals and everybody in the community who believes in me.”

Brown said that before Saturday’s news that his preferred helmet was prohibited. He and Rosenhaus have stated that they are willing to work within the system to find a helmet suitable for Brown to wear and feel safe playing in.

Brown has to decide his next course of action, whether or not to return to a team that has grown frustrated with his decision to leave the team over this issue, when there are plenty of certified helmets to choose from.