Christopher Hansen stays up late to bring you an after dark version of the podcast discussing free agency.
or other podcast clients: http://raidersblog.com/feed/podcast
Christopher Hansen stays up late to bring you an after dark version of the podcast discussing free agency.
or other podcast clients: http://raidersblog.com/feed/podcast
To me, one of the most important yet least talked about changes to the Collective Bargaining Agreement that was signed in 2011, is the ability for teams to rollover any unused salary cap from one year to the next.
What this means is that if your favorite team is $5 million under the salary cap, they can notify the NFL that they want to take that amount and add it to the following year’s salary cap. Your most hated team only has $1 million in cap space and chooses to roll it over to the next year. Therefore, your team has $4 million more available to spend next year than your opponent. So you can see the benefits of being frugal already, right?
But let’s talk about why this even happened in the first place. In negotiating the current CBA, both owners and players were looking for compromises that would benefit them the most. This was a compromise that both parties agreed to willingly because it serves a benefit for each.
The players loved the idea because previously any unused cap space would go to waste when the NFL calendar changed seasons. That meant money that could have been paid to the players, wasn’t. The ability for teams to rollover unused cap space meant a more likely chance that the money would actually find the pockets of the players and not just end up as the angel’s share.
For teams, this was a better and easier way to manipulate the salary cap to their liking. Teams don’t HAVE to rollover unused cap space. They can choose to let it disappear at the end of the year if they choose to. This provides front offices with some flexibility. Front offices had the ability to manipulate the team’s cap number in the last CBA, but on a much smaller scale and with a lot more work.
In the old CBA, contract incentives fell under 2 categories: “likely to be earned” (LTBE) or “not likely to be earned” (NLTBE). LTBE incentives counted towards the cap for that season. NLTBE incentives did not count against the cap. However, should a player have a LTBE incentive in his contract that was not reached, then that cap space was “refunded” as an addition to the following year’s salary cap. This is how teams were able to manipulate the cap.
Teams could negotiate LTBE incentives into contracts late in the season that in reality would never be met. For example, with 1 game left in the season, the team would renegotiate with the backup QB (who had played zero snaps thus far) that if he threw 7 touchdowns in that season then he would get a $500,000 incentive. Seven touchdowns over the course of a season is an easy goal, and under the CBA, was considered “likely to be earned.” But as a practical matter, a backup QB with only 1 game left wasn’t going to throw 7 TDs. When the backup QB didn’t reach his incentive trigger, that $500,000 LTBE incentive would then be tacked on to the salary cap the next year. Confusing I know, but it worked.
The current rollover process just involves notifying the league office whether you wish or do not wish to rollover any unused cap space. Simple as that.
There is an unintended consequence to this new cap rollover element of the current CBA. There are far less late season renegotiations of contracts. Under the old CBA, because cap space was “use it or lose it,” teams tried to use it to effectively. In weeks 14-17, teams would really ramp up renegotiation efforts with players they wanted to re-sign. In the renegotiation, the team would add on additional salary to the current year, which used up cap space that would have been lost anyways. The player and agent would agree because it’s more money up front. But now, because teams aren’t losing that cap space, there isn’t any incentive to renegotiate and to pay players up front.
The current rollover situation provides teams flexibility in dealing with players, cash, and in cap space. However, there is one more log to throw in the fire. In 2013, the salary floor will be introduced. Basically, teams will have to spend at least 89% of the unadjusted salary cap number in 2013, and beyond. Remember that word “unadjusted.” It becomes very important in terms of the spending minimum in just a second.
The salary floor or “spending minimum” was introduced to make sure that teams couldn’t be overly frugal; i.e. CHEAP. Towards the end of the previous CBA, the NFL Player’s Association had begun to notice that some teams were taking advantage of all the spending room they had, while other teams (the Bucs are the first team to come to mind) were just fine with spending very little and fielding a non-competitive team.
The introduction of the spending floor is what will make the next few years under the current CBA interesting. The current salary cap is around $120 million. With an 11% differential between the cap and the floor, that means that teams only have about $13.2 million to play around with. I say ONLY $13.2 million because roster shuffling due to injuries and signings make that number a lot smaller than what it really is.
How a front office manages that 11% will likely mean the difference between a dynasty and a dumpster fire. The brightest general managers and salary cap managers will shine.
My first question when I heard about the ability to rollover any unused salary cap was, “Is it compounding?” Meaning, if we rollover $5 million this year and don’t use it next year, can we roll it over again? The answer is yes.
My next question was, “Is there a limit to how much you can rollover?” No, there isn’t. A team can continuously rollover as much as it wants and build up as much of a bankroll as it pleases.
A lot of fans may have a problem with a team being cheap for the first few years of this. But being “cheap” now, will allow them to be rich later. Much richer because the savings basically grow exponentially.
Say the Browns only spent 90% of the $120 million salary cap in 2013, giving them $12 million to rollover. For ease of calculation, let’s say in 2014 and beyond, the NFL keeps the salary cap at $120 million. This is the cap number that all teams are given to work with. That salary cap number is then adjusted to reflect any rollover cap from the previous year.
Remember when I said to remember that word, “unadjusted?” This is where it becomes important.
Even though the Browns were able to add $12 million to their salary cap number, the salary floor is still only 11% of the UNADJUSTED cap number. This means that the Browns have increased their ceiling, but the floor hasn’t moved. The Browns could still lowball and come in at 90% of the 2014 unadjusted cap number (again, $120 million) instead of the cap plus their adjusted $12 million.
Now the Browns have more cap space than anyone else in 2014 because they we so “cheap” in 2013. The first benefit to that is more flexibility because the gap between the floor and the cap is now a lot larger than other teams. The second benefit is that they can grow their cap space exponentially now. They can turn $12 million in 2013 into $24 million in 2014. If their cap usage is still only at 90% of the unadjusted cap, then the Browns will have $36 million EXTRA cap space in 2015.
Being able to spend $36 million more than most teams is quite the competitive advantage, isn’t it? If planned correctly, a team could position itself for a very long run of success simply because it has more resources to work with.
Now, extra spending ability is worth nothing if a team has a poor scouting system and spends that extra money on bad players. So while a team can be great with its money management, it can still be awful on the field.
It’s still necessary to continue thinking this through because if a team doesn’t it could cripple the organization financially for years.
Bank robbers are usually great at devising ways to get into banks. But the stupid ones only plan to get into the vault and don’t consider how they’re going to take that money out of the bank and get it to a safe place. They lack the exit strategy. For teams that consider going this route, I urge them to plan their exit strategy.
Returning to our previous example, if the Browns stack up $36 million in extra cap money they will obviously go spend it on players. Let’s say the Browns sign every major free agent on the market that year and eat up $32 million of that extra cap space in 2015.
So while the Browns are now paying out $152 million in salaries ($120M + $32M they just signed) they only had $4 million to rollover, which means their salary cap is only at $124 million. Oops. Now they have $28 million they have to get rid of. They can’t cut any of the guys they just signed because that will accelerate all the signing bonuses into that year which only exacerbates the problem. Instead, they have to then cut other players they wanted to keep just to get under the salary cap.
It’s important to note here that the league office would likely flag the big free agent contracts and report back to the team that by agreeing to this contract the team would be over the salary cap for next year. The league office almost never rejects these types of deals but will alert teams when they see something of issue. It’s also completely possible it could be overlooked (seen it happen).
This is why it’s so important to understand every word of the collective bargaining agreement, rulebook, etc. A team can make or break its success by knowing the accounting processes of the salary cap, which obviously has nothing to do with schemes, playbooks, or film.
Personally, I don’t think being completely cheap is the way to go. I do think a smart team will be tighter with its money this year and next to allow it some flexibility later on. This especially goes for younger teams that are a couple of years from developing into contenders. Those teams could use extra cap space in a couple of years to really make a run at the Super Bowl.
The Oakland Raiders came into the offseason with salary cap issues and needing to improve a team that finished a disappointing 8-8 last season. New general manager Reggie McKenzie was hired to reshape the Raiders’ front office and establish a new philosophy to guide the team into the future.
McKenzie has a plan and as time passes his philosophies will slowly be revealed. So far, McKenzie has made a flurry of moves designed to help the Raiders reach short-term and long-term goals such as getting under the salary cap and shedding back-loaded contracts that would have handicapped his plans in 2013 and beyond.
A lot of activity doesn’t always indicate a lot of change. As it stands, the Raiders will return 16 of 22 starters.
What does the Raiders activity or lack of activity mean for the team in 2012?
1. Reggie McKenzie wants to win and knows how to build a team to do it.
Overreacting, overvaluing and overpaying is not a recipe for success in the NFL. The most successful teams find value. Making a big splash is free agency is usually a recipe for failure.
The top free agents are almost always overvalued and no team loses a player they truly want to keep.
Without the cap flexibility, the Raiders were never going to be big players in free agency, but instead of signing one top free agent and overpaying for his services, McKenzie has already brought in two value free agents at positions of significant need.
McKenzie knows building a winner requires patience. Even with limited cap space the Raiders should be able to sign a handful of free agents that can help the team for a reasonable price.
The moves being made aren’t just moves to help the team in the future, but moves that can have a positive impact on the win total in 2012.
2. The Raiders may struggle to find a natural pass rush.
With the release of Kamerion Wimbley, the Raiders lose their best edge rusher. Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly will continue to apply pressure up the middle, but the Raiders lack a natural edge rusher.
A healthy Matt Shaughnessy will help the pass rush, but the Raiders will still have to rely on the blitz much more than they ever have before.
The struggle with the blitz is that elite quarterbacks can beat it consistently and the Raiders’ division could be adding another in the form of Peyton Manning to go along with Philip Rivers.
McKenzie still has time to find a natural edge rusher, but as it stands the Raiders will have to manufacture pressure on the quarterback.
Allen’s entire defense hinges on the team’s ability to get a pass rush, so the blitzing safeties and linebackers will have to execute in their new roles.
3. Darren McFadden’s health is vitally important.
Dennis Allen hinted that the Raiders would look into if the practice fields were contributing to the high-rate of foot injuries the team had sustained over the last few years. If the Raiders’ practice field has contributed to foot and leg injuries, McFadden has been hurt by it the most.
Michael Bush is testing the free agent market and is likely to find a team that will make him a full-time starter. That leaves Taiwan Jones and Marcel Reece to backup McFadden.
Jones and Reece are both very capable, but neither are proven running the ball or carrying the load when an injured starter goes down.
With Carson Palmer in the fold, the team can survive without McFadden, but if the team has playoff aspirations McFadden must stay healthy.
4. The offensive line is in flux again.
The Raiders offensive line has been in a constant state of change over the past decade. Tom Cable and the zone-blocking scheme initially brought some success, but that quickly faded and the Raiders began the transition back to the man blocking scheme over the past two seasons.
Greg Knapp’s return to Oakland means the zone-blocking scheme is coming back and the Raiders return only two of the five starters on the offensive line from a season ago.
To solidify the offensive line, the Raiders signed right guard Mike Brisiel from the Houston Texans. Brisiel is a solid zone-blocking guard that will provide a nice upgrade over Cooper Carlisle. Brisiel may also help implement the scheme as he is familiar with Knapp and offensive line coach Frank Pollack.
The question remains what the Raiders will do at right tackle, left guard and center. Stefen Wisniewski will either stay at guard or move to center and the Raiders will need to address whichever position Wisniewski doesn’t play.
The theory behind the zone-blocking scheme is that high-priced lineman are not required if the team knows what traits to look for in an offensive lineman. The Raiders will put the theory to the test in 2012.
Jared Veldheer and Stefen Wisniewski will also have to learn the zone-blocking system. Both should be able to pick up the scheme and both have traits that should translate, but it’s still something new and developing a new skill takes time away from their development of existing skills.
The Raiders should be able to run the ball, but pass protection could be an issue when the line might have three new starters.
Perhaps Joseph Barksdale is ready to compete for a starting job and maybe the zone-scheme can salvage Bruce Campbell’s career.
In the end, the offensive line could be a strength or a weakness of this team. We’ll just have to wait and see.
5. The Raiders will be much better in coverage.
The Raiders released 2011 starters Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson, but brought back Michael Huff and Tyvon Branch. After a terrible year in coverage, a few changes were merited and McKenzie has started the process of solidifying the secondary.
McKenzie signed Ron Bartell to play cornerback on a modest one-year deal. It’s the kind of bargain contract that can pay huge dividends for the Raiders if Bartell is fully recovered from a neck injury he sustained early last season.
Bartell is 30 and had seven solid seasons in St. Louis before being released. He still has all the physical tools to be successful and he can obviously play, but even if there was some question if Bartell had lost a step, McKenzie is known for his ability to tell which players can play and which players can’t.
The Raiders have to figure out what to do on the other cornerback position. One option is free agent cornerback Tracy Porter who will have a visit with the team later this week according to Vittorio Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Porter is a young cornerback with the skills that will fit what Dennis Allen likes to do on defense. Porter’s best seasons came when Allen was his position coach in New Orleans.
Allen’s defense will help take the pressure off the secondary, but the changes have already been positive and McKenzie should continue to add solid depth.
At 1 p.m. PDT, March 13, 2012 the NFL’s free agency period starts and the Raiders must be under the salary cap. There are a number of player contracts that have not yet restructured or otherwise addressed which will likely have an impact on the salary cap and the Raiders’ free agency plans.
The two sides aren’t talking and extra guarantees are triggered on Friday and Wimbley is likely to be released before they do. Wimbley’s release would save the Raiders just $2 million in cap space and leave the Raiders without a strong-side linebacker on the roster.
His contract is due to pay him $4.75 million in 2012. It’s far too much for part-time backup with Henderson’s miles. The Raiders would save approximately $4 million by releasing Henderson, but that also leaves the Raiders with a need for a run-stuffing defensive tackle
Kelly’s cap number is nearly $9 million and one would expect a restructured contract would have reduced his $6 million in base salary in order to save the Raiders valuable cap space, but nothing has been announced.
With only a few hours to go before Kelly’s $8.9 million cap number counts against the Raiders, one has to wonder if Kelly is in the team’s future plans.
If the Raiders released both Kelly and Henderson, they would either need to move Lamarr Houston inside or begin the search for a defensive tackle in free agency.
Once the Raiders are comfortably under the cap, they can start trolling the bottom of the free agent market to see if they might be able to land a player or two. Don’t expect the Raiders to land any big fish, they don’t have the cap space to lure the top free agents.
There are a few free agents on the market that can help the Raiders that aren’t elite players and the Raiders should aggressively pursue them.
OC Option 1: Chris Meyers
Greg Knapp has returned to the Raiders and will re-introduce the zone-blocking system to the offensive line. Knapp spent the last two seasons in Houston coaching the quarterbacks and would have worked closely with Meyers. So would have the Raiders new offensive line coach Frank Pollack, as he was the assistant offensive line coach in Houston last season.
Considering Meyer’s ties to the coaching staff and the Raiders’ desire to get a young offensive line up to speed in the scheme quickly, Meyers should be one of the Raiders biggest priorities in free agency.
Meyers shouldn’t cost considerable amounts of money to sign as he only fits in the zone-blocking system.
OC Option 2: Scott Wells
If the Raiders miss out on Meyers they can always take a look at Wells. Wells has a link to the Raiders of his own having been selected by the Green Bay Packers in the seventh round of the 2004 NFL draft during which time Reggie McKenzie was responsible for scouting college players for the Packers.
Wells is also well-versed in the zone-blocking scheme and could help the Raiders jump start the transition. Like Meyers, Wells fits best in the zone-blocking system and that will keep his cost in an affordable range.
DT/NT Option 1: Broderick Bunkley
If the Raiders release Henderson they will be in need of a two-down defensive tackle to support the run.Bunkley played under Dennis Allen last season and fits the two-down run support role perfectly.
Best of all, Bunkley doesn’t figure to cost an arm and a leg in free agency.
DT/NT Option 2: Aubrayo Franklin
Should the Raiders want a nose tackle that offers nearly zero pass rush ability, they might look at an affordable option like Franklin.
Franklin would be great against the run, but the Raiders would have to make sure they had more of a pass rush on the field in nickel and dime situations.
The traditional nose tackle that offers little to no pass rush is a dying breed and the Raiders will have to determine if a specialist like Franklin is worth the cap dollars.
ILB Option 1: Joe Mays
The Raiders desperately need players that can support the run and Dennis Allen also coached Mays last season. While Mays’ coverage ability is merely average, he’ll come cheap enough that the Raiders would use him primarily on running downs.
Rolando McClain would remain the team’s top ILB, but Mays would enable the Raiders to show more 3-4 looks and Mays would definitely push McClain for playing time as the middle linebacker.
OLB Option 1: Manny Lawson
The Bengals turned Lawson into a two-down strong-side linebacker playing in the 4-3 defense. The release of Wimbley would create just that type of need on the Raiders roster.
Defensive coordinator Jason Tarver coached Lawson for five years in San Francisco from 2006 to 2010 and knows his strengths and weaknesses. Lawson excels at defending the run, something the Raiders haven’t done well over the last 10 seasons.
The Raiders shouldn’t waste any time bringing Lawson in for a visit because, although Lawson isn’t likely to be a hot commodity, the market for outside linebackers is extremely thin.
ILB/OLB Option 2: Jameel McClain
McClain is primarily a two-down run stopper, but he’s not terrible in coverage either. He’s been over-shadowed by Ray Lewis in Baltimore, but has played well enough to garner some interest as a free agent.
An added bonus is that McClain can play inside in the 3-4 and probably slide outside in the four-man front. That should fit perfectly with Allen’s multiple front defense.
CB Option 1: Richard Marshall
Marshall produced nicely in cornerback in 2011, but he didn’t start until late in the year. Marshall is 27 and entering his prime, provided the market for his services doesn’t push his salary out of the Raiders’ range, he should and will be considered a starter with good potential.
Raiders should be heavily interested in the available cornerbacks and don’t be surprised if Marshall is one of the primary targets. His best fit is outside and not covering the slot. If the Raiders decide to continue to use Huff as the slot cornerback Marshall would figure to be a good fit outside.
CB Option 2: Terrell Thomas
It will be difficult for any team to give Thomas a full value contract he deserves because he is coming off a torn ACL. However, Thomas was on of the best when it came to defending the run from the cornerback position. He’s been liability in coverage at times, but that’s largely the product of the New York Giants pass rush as Jason Pierre-Paul had not yet burst upon the scene.
The Raiders would roll the dice on Thomas’ health as he is just 27 and would still solidify their group of cornerbacks.
CB Option 3: Tracy Porter
Porter is looking for his big payday, but if his cost remains reasonable the Raiders could be in the mix. With only sophomore’s DeMarcus Van Dyke and Chimdi Chekwa left at the position the Raiders will be looking to add depth at cornerback via free agency and the draft.
Porter had a down year and that’s a concern considering he was playing for a contract. Dennis Allen is familiar with Porter from his time as secondary coach for the New Orleans Saints.
Expect the Raiders to a least inquire and hope the market remains cool for Porter’s services.
CB Option 4: William Gay
Gay is yet another cornerback entering his prime that the Raiders should take a long look at in free agency. Gay isn’t spectacular at anything, but he’s a solid cornerback that is a more than capable second or third cornerback.
Gay should also remain affordable as teams will recall him surrendering a 30-yard touchdown to Eddie Royal in the playoffs last season.,
Free agency starts Monday and the Raiders are still hacking away at troublesome contracts to get under the salary cap. Once the Raiders are comfortably under the salary cap they will turn their attention to signing free agents.
It wouldn’t be uncommon for a team to end up signing the majority of their own free agents, but this is no ordinary year in Oakland. Reggie McKenzie will try to re-shape the roster and the fringe-roster players could all be seeking employment on Monday.
Some Raiders’ free agents will be retained and others will be boarding flights to different cities in 201
QB Jason Campbell
Odds he leaves in free agency: 96%
Campbell is a classy player that understands the business side of the game. He didn’t make any noise when he was benched in favor of Bruce Gradkowski and he stuck around to support the team even though the Raiders had moved on from him last season.
Despite the bonds Campbell forged in Oakland, he’ll be boarding a flight for a new city in 2012. Where will depend on who wins the Peyton Manning sweepstakes and which teams rolls the dice on Matt Flynn.
Teams that need a quarterback include, Miami, Cleveland, Washington, Arizona, Seattle, Denver, Kansas City and Jacksonville.
Campbell may find it difficult to find a starting job in 2012, but that doesn’t mean he wont select a team where his odds of starting are increased.
Denver would be an interesting location for Campbell. Tebow’s success appears unsustainable and they don’t have much behind him. Unless the Dolphins lose
QB Kyle Boller
Odds he leaves in free agency: 100%
Boller will be hard-pressed to find a job as a second or third quarterback and it’s probably close to the end of the line for Boller.
RB Michael Bush
Odds he leaves in free agency: 90%
The Franchise Tag was given to Tyvon Branch, leaving Michael Bush to test the waters of free agency.
While the Raiders might want Bush to return, there will be teams calling that are willing to offer Bush much more than the Raiders will be able to offer.
The Bengals find themselves looking for a starting runningback for the first time in many years. Cedric Benson fizzled out as a starter and the Bengals will be looking for a back to pair with Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. The Bengals can find more balance offensively if they sign a legitimate starter and Bush has proven valuable and durable as the backup in Oakland. Potential fit.
RB Rock Cartwright
Odds he leaves in free agency: 25%
Cartwright was the Raiders’ special teams captain in 2012 and will come cheaply. Expect the Raiders to keep Cartwright around in 2012, but he wont be a top priority. He’s expressed a desire to stay with the Raiders and the Raiders will eventually return the favor.
WR Chaz Schilens
Odds he leaves in free agency: 85%
Vincent Jackson is ready to find a new team and that leaves a hole at receiver in San Diego. The Chargers rarely open up the bank for a free agent, so Schilens potential and affordability make Schilens an interesting target for the Chargers.
Schilens is familiar with San Diego having gone to college at San Diego State and he’s a native of southern California.
The Chargers have seen enough of Schilens to know he has talent, but not so close that they realize that he’s been healthy for one year of his career.
WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh
Odds he leaves in free agency: 99%
No one wanted him seven games into the 2011 season before Carson Palmer and Hue Jackson called. He didn’t do much with his time catching 11 passes for 146 yards in nine games.
He’ll file back into the unemployment line and that’s likely where he will remain.
C Samson Satele
Odds he leaves in free agency: 99%
Satele will reportedly not be retained by the Raiders. While that’s certainly not a bad move, Satele is cheap and can backup multiple positions on the offensive line. He’ll find a work somewhere.
RT Khalif Barnes
Odds he leaves in free agency: 99%
Barnes was not a very good starter at right tackle, but he could be signed to be a backup lineman somewhere in 2012
The Raiders will shift to younger players and/or players that fit the zone-blocking scheme and neither describe Barnes.
OL Stephon Heyer
Odds he leaves in free agency: 98%
Heyer was brought in to challenge for a starting job and he never did although one could argue the line played better when he was at left guard and Stefen Wisniewski was at center.
Regardless, Heyer is a free agent and doesn’t fit into the Raiders’ plans to shift to zone-blocking.
DE Trevor Scott
Odds he leaves in free agency: 48%
Scott is one player that might benefit from the Raiders new defense and he’ll be inexpensive to retain. It wasn’t long ago when Scott was an up-and-coming pass rusher and that might be enough to intrigue Dennis Allen. Intrigued enough to keep Scott in Oakland?
DE Jarvis Moss
Odds he leaves in free agency: 84%
Things didn’t work out for Moss in Denver or Oakland and Moss will be looking for his third team in 2012.
He flashes ability, but he’s far too inconsistent. Gut feeling is Rex Ryan calls and offers Moss a job as a backup with the Jets.
LB Ricky Brown
Odds he leaves in free agency: 99%
He was a player with ties to the organization and Al Davis kept coming back to Brown when he needed him.
Brown will have a tough time finding a team in 2012 and there is a very good chance
LB Quentin Groves
Odds he leaves in free agency: 99%
Groves was benched in favor of Aaron Curry mid-season and outside of solid special teams play offered little more than a body for the Raiders defense.
He’ll be in a different uniform in 2012.
LB Darryl Blackstock
Odds he leaves in free agency: 95%
He was a special teams player and was familiar with Chuck Bresnahan from his days as a coach for a UFL team. Given Blackstock is affordable and there isn’t much film on the guy, it’s conceivable the Raider will give him the opportunity to earn a roster spot in camp.
CB Lito Sheppard
Odds he leaves in free agency: 93%
Veteran cornerbacks that are on the street mid-season aren’t typically the type you want starting down the stretch, but Sheppard is a veteran and he’s smart.
He may be limited more now than he used to be, but he can still be relatively effective as a backup.
FS Matt Giordano
Odds he leaves in free agency: 50%
Giordano is familiar with Dennis Allen from his time with the Saints, but it is unknown if Allen has a favorable opinion of Giordano.
Giordano had five interceptions last season playing part-time, but also seemed to shy away from contract and let far too many receivers behind him to feel comfortable with him as anything more than a backup.
SS Jerome Boyd
Odds he leaves in free agency: 98%
Boyd is a fringe roster player and bounced between the practice squad and the active roster. Unless McKenzie and Allen see something in Boyd worth developing they will set their sights on other players.
DB Bryan McCann
Odds he leaves in free agency: 99%
Filled in admirably for Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore in the return game. He’s a specialist and given his success in that area he could find a home in 2012.
There is an outside chance the Raiders might keep McCann around to limit the wear on the Raiders’ two young receivers.
FB Marcel Reece
Odds he leaves in free agency: 0%
As a restricted free agent, if another team wanted to sign Reece they’d have give the Raiders compensation depending on the level of the tender. That’s extremely unlikely and Reece is considered a big part of what the Raiders want to do on offense.
Don’t worry, Reece will be back with the Raiders in 2012.
DE Desmond Bryant
Odds he leaves in free agency: 2%
Like Reece, Bryant is a restricted free agent. He’s a great rotational lineman and can play multiple positions on the defensive line.
He’ll undoubtedly be back this season.
According to a source with knowledge of the situation, Raiders strong safety Tyvon Branch will receive the franchise tag.
With only a few days to go before the deadline to apply the tag the two sides remain far apart to reach a long-term contract.
It’s not impossible that the Raiders will reach a long-term agreement with Branch at some point in the future, but at least one side feels a deal can’t be reached before the deadline on Monday.
Branch just completed his rookie contract worth about $2.2 million and is looking for pay in-line with starting role. Branch averaged 112 tackles per season since becomming a starter at the beginning of the 2009 season.
Branch has been used as a box safety to help support the run, something required because of the Raiders problems in the front seven.
It is believed Branch will be an excellent fit in Dennis Allen’s defensive scheme and was immediately mentioned as a top priority for the Raiders.
A lot has been made of the Raiders lack of draft selections in the 2012 NFL draft. The Raiders have just two, but are likely to be awarded a few more by the NFL when they announce compensatory picks in late March.
The best pick that can be awarded is a pick at the end of the third round and compensatory selections can’t be traded.
In the NFL there is a salary cap and salary floor to keep all the teams as competitive as possible, but when it comes to draft selection they are traded like currency for acquiring players or more selections.
With such limited resources this offseason, the Oakland Raiders may need to take a page from the Oakland Athletics to stay competitive.
The most important lesson of Moneyball was the A’s determined a way to find value in the market. They did more with less and that’s exactly what the Raiders need to do this offseason.
Don’t Overvalue the Cornerbacks
Four of the 12 playoff teams in 2011 were ranked in the top half of the league in pass defense and three of those four teams were ranked in the top four overall. The Cincinnati Bengals were the lone exception having the 9th ranked passing defense in 2011.
The remaining eight playoff teams were all well below average pass defenses and the four worst pass defenses were all playoff teams.
It was an extraordinary year for passing and a terrible year for pass defense. Most teams will be in the market for help in secondary having determined the secondary is now an area of weakness. There are no shortage of options at cornerback to assist these teams.
It’s obvious that a great pass defense is not required to win a Super Bowl and with limited draft picks and salary cap room, the Raiders should play closer attention to other areas and not overvalue the available cornebacks.
The market is going to inflate the value of the available options, particularly Brent Grimes, Brandon Carr, Cortland Finnegan and Carlos Rodgers.
The Raiders should look for bargain options like Tim Jennings, Williams Gay, Richard Marshall and Terrell Thomas to see if one might be able to help solidify the group, but the Raiders should avoid the inflated costs of the top cornerbacks.
The Raiders have some decisions to make when it comes to player contracts. Kamerion Wimbley, Aaron Curry and Michael Huff need to drastically reduce their cap numbers to stick around.
There is still time to work things out, but the Raiders strategy has to be to find cheaper alternatives that can accomplish the same tasks if one or more of them are released. In some cases the generics could actually be better which could steer McKenzie to release and not worry about restructuring the player.
Manny Lawson would be a good sign a.nd fill-in at linebacker Defensive coordinator Jason Tarver was his position coach when he played for the 49ers. Lawson is similar to Curry. He can rush, but he’s not a particularly good pass rusher, but he’s solid against the run. Dennis Allen would be able to utilize Lawson is a variety of ways as a blitzer.
The Baltimore Ravens have plenty of free agents and they will not be able to sign them all. One that stands out is strong-side linebacker Jarrett Johnson. Johnson is particularly good at stopping the run, which has been a problem for the Raiders since 2002.
Johnson will be a popular free agent, but he’s been extremely durable. Johnson has played in 129 straight games for the Ravens, a franchise record. Johnson is 31 and that could keep his costs down on the open market.
Jim Leonhard has been extremely consistent for the New York Jets, but he’s 29 and hasn’t been able to stay healthy. He’s not likely to command a huge sum in free agency and the Raiders could use a strong cover safety if they are forced to put Michael Huff on the street inside of pay him $8 million in 2012.
Find a Big Man
If the Raiders are planning to play the 3-4 with any regularity they will need a nose tackle that can draw the double team up the middle.
John Henderson is likely to be released due to his contact and that leaves room for run defender on the inside.
Available nose tackle’s include Antonio Garay, Sione Pouha, Paul Soliai, Aubrayo Franklin and Kelly Gregg.
Franklin and Gregg would be the perfect players for the Raiders considering their cost would be minimal. The Raiders wouldn’t need a full-time player unless they planned on shifting to the 3-4 permanently.
Pouha, Garay and Soliai are likely to be cost prohibitive for the Raiders and they will look at some of the cheaper options.
If Tommy Kelly is released the Raiders could look at Broderick Bunkley to play defensive tackle. He improved drastically under Dennis Allen in Denver and was one of the better run defenders in the entire NFL last season.
A linebacker and a tackle could help solidify a run defense that has ranked routinely in the bottom of the league.
Get a Bush Replacement
Unless the Raiders can work out a favorable deal with running back Michael Bush, he’ll hit the open market where he is likely to fetch more than the Raiders are willing to pay. It would be a surprise if the Raiders placed the franchise tag on Bush consider the hefty price tag.
Bush departure would leave a hole behind oft-injured starter Darren McFadden. Oft-injured slasher Taiwan Jones and special teams ace Rock Cartwright are the other two backs. Jones may or may not be ready for an expanded roles in the offense. Cartwright is strictly a special teams player, but he’s also a free agent.
The Raiders either need a big bruiser or just another back that can run Greg Knapps’s zone-blocking system effectively.
Good news for the Raiders is that the market for backs is deep and not many are buying.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis would be a good option because he knows how to pass protect having come from New England. Greg Knapp is much more run heavy, but it is nice knowing that the player in the game can put a body on someone to spare the quarterback a hit.
Mike Tolbert is another back that knows how to pass protect and would be great second option to McFadden. He’s built like a bowling ball and could be uses in rush and pass situations.
Justin Forsett would be an inexpensive option for the Raiders. He’s not a big back, but he had a career year in Greg Knapp’s zone-blocking system. He’d be a good pickup as a true backup to McFadden and may actually be able to steal enough carries away from McFadden to keep him fresh.
McKenzie should also keep open the possibility that Bush could be re-signed at a reasonable price.
Take Advantage of Value in the Marketplace
If Reggie McKenzie realizes a certain player is being undervalued by market, he should sign the player and rehab his value.
The Raiders could have 6 or 7 good defensive ends and still sign a defensive end that is being drastically undervalued. It’s better to sign a good player for an affordable price and let the coaching staff worry about how to utilize the player.
There’s always room on the roster for good players, so if McKenzie thinks the player is good, the coaches will figure out how to put him in position to win games.
While the Raiders will be hunting in free agency for players at positions of need, they should also keep their options open at other positions to see if the league might be undervaluing receiver, defensive end, offensive tackle, etc.
That means the Raiders should be talking to everyone, including the top free agent receivers to get an idea for what the market is going to look like and what sort of deal the players are expecting.
It may be that the Raiders need to strike now to land a number one receiver, but they wont know until there is competition in the marketplace.