With the Raiders‘ maiden voyage to Las Vegas, they wrapped up their season with a middling 8-8 record. The major highlight of this season was their 40-32 shootout victory against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Due to the pandemic and the expected lowered revenues, the NFL’s salary cap is projected to be decreased to $176,000,000. This is a reduction of $22.2 millions or 11.2% from the prior season. All teams will be adversely affected with some more than most. Using this projection, the Las Vegas Raiders will be approximately $19,000,000 over the cap. Before we can discuss possible additions to the team, we must first look at some players, who may be cut for financial reasons.
The first name on the list is wide receiver Tyrell Williams. He missed the entire season with a shoulder injury and his production has been dipping. His 1,000+ yard season with the Chargers seems like a distant memory at this point. Cutting him will save the Silver and Black $11,600,000. In his place, Nelson Agholor had a breakout campaign with 896 yards and 8 touchdowns. Oakland may choose to re-sign Agholor.
Next up is offensive guard Gabe Jackson. He has played his whole career with the Raiders. Although he has been a steady presence in the line, his production has not been commensurate to his contract. A Jackson cut will free up $9,600,000.
A common denominator for these players is the production not matching the investment of the team in them. This is the scenario with offensive tackle Trent Brown and defensive back Lamarcus Joyner. They are not bad players and are good at pass protection and run defense, respectively. However, Oakland may be able to get more bang for their buck in the free agent market. Releasing both players would provide $25,200,000 in additional cap space.
With Oakland picking 17th in the draft, they can opt to select 6’3, 305 pound Rashawn Slater from Northwestern. He is a versatile athlete who can play any spot on the line.
The next cut is possibly the riskiest one. Marcus Mariota is an $11,350,000 insurance policy. Mariota is one of the better backup quarterbacks in the league. One day he might even start with another franchise again. However, right now the Raiders can make use of their resources somewhere else. With starting quarterback Derek Carr’s injury history, this is definitely a gamble, but a backup can be drafted in the upcoming draft.
With these cuts, Oakland will have a war chest of $38,750,000 in cap space. Here are the free agents they can use that money on.
3. Troy Hill
Playing in the AFC West means Oakland has to face off against the explosive passing offenses of the Chiefs and Chargers. This means that having a dependable sec0ndary is of utmost importance. Los Angeles Ram Hill can be a key contributor for this unit.
At 5’11 and 183 pounds, he can seamlessly shift between an outside cornerback and playing the slot. With his frame he is best suited to be matched up against speedy receivers, instead of freight trains like D.K. Metcalf. He has become a more willing tackler by racking up 74 tackles this season. For reference, he had a total of 70 the two seasons prior. One downside to this signing is that he may be a beneficiary of being in the league’s top defense rather than one of the reasons driving it. Moving away from playing alongside the likes of Jalen Ramsey and Aaron Donald will be the litmus test for the versatile defensive back.
But Hill might be worth the gamble for the price tag, which can prove to be an adept under the radar signing for around $5,000,000.
2. Melvin Ingram III
The journey to replace Khalil Mack continues for the Raiders. While finding an available game-wrecking pass rusher is nearly impossible, Oakland can go in the right direction and try to replace his production. Los Angeles Charger edge rusher Ingram is a three-time pro-Bowler from 2017 to 2019.
But of course, his knee injury has kept him out of games. While the injury is a major concern, it will also help drive his asking price lower. As an added bonus, this signing could possibly weaken a division rival’s defense.
Ingram can be signed to the Silver and Black for around $14,000,000 per year.
1. Trent Williams
Williams has been one of the most dependable and consistent left tackles in the league. The eight-time Pro Bowler has been absolutely dominant in pass-protection and is able to erase elite pass rushers. Further, he is able to excel regardless of the scheme he is playing in. The former All-Pro would cost a pretty penny, but if it means protecting Carr from a possible season-ending injury then it would be money well spent.
The San Francisco 49ers will fight hard to resign Williams, but if the Raiders are successful in snagging him from their West Coast rivals, contract negotiations would start at $18,000,000 to sign him.