Oakland Raiders: New Leaders Have Work To Do
Bret Armstrong – Jan 28, 2012Floating around the internet, I've seen more than a few people say they don't know what to expect under this new regime of GM Reggie McKenzie and newly appointed Head Coach Dennis Allen.
Simply the fact that Allen was given a four-year contract is a change from the normal two-year deal offered by the late Al Davis during his 48-years controlling the staff of Oakland Raiders.
However, some would say that the Raiders are overdue for a change. While I may not have been amongst that crowd, I can certainly understand their point of view.
By far, the biggest slabs that need slicing and dicing before they are served are the coaching staff situation and the salary cap status. One for the new Head Coach to figure out and the other the business of the new GM.
Although Al Davis has been given some part of the credit for bringing the vertical passing attack to professional football, for years Davis hired offensive coaches and focused his own efforts mostly with respect to the defensive side of the ball.
Now, for the first time in over 30 years, the Raiders will rely on a head coach to control the scheming on that side of the ball. It will be the first time since 1963 that Mr. Davis won't have any say in what happens going into a season.
So the expectation is that a lot of things may be unexpected or out of the ordinary. But really, a lot of the things that "The Maverick" did were out of the ordinary and unexpected. So in a sense, the new organization may be more ordinary than people think.
The hot topic right now is who are going to be named as the coordinators in this new era. But really, it goes without saying that Allen himself will have a lot to do with what happens on defense. I expect him to announce at his press conference Monday whether or not he will call the plays for the unit, but regardless of that I'd expect his influence on that side to be overwhelming.
Common sense would stand to reason that the defensive coordinator of this squad is practically unnecessary. I'd say that the odds are Allen will not want to let his first head coaching gig be abolished because somebody couldn't manage to teach his philosophy or properly handle the play-calling duties.
Still, it goes without saying that you'd like to have somebody that is capable of performing such tasks.
Offensively, I expect the new staff to be on board with keeping a lot of the same offensive coaches. Al Saunders still has a second year left on his current contract and with the expected changes on defense, some continuity on offense would make a whole lot of sense.
In addition, Dennis Allen is the youngest coach in the NFL. The odds of him successfully overhauling a defensive staff as well as an offensive staff are exceedingly bad.
I'd also add to that the Raiders have a fine offensive staff currently in place. A top ten in the NFL staff to be precise, from line coach Bob Wylie, to running backs coach Kelly Skipper, to extraordinarily experienced and successful offensive coordinator Al Saunders. Keeping the nucleus of the current staff is indeed the best option.
The Salary Cap
After the coaching staff there is the matter of how do you deal with the personnel side. The fact that free agency is just a little over a month from now is not going to go away. As soon as this staff is done evaluating talent at the East-West Shrine game, the Senior Bowl, and the NFL combine, they must set their sights on who is going to actually be here and what exactly they will be doing next year.
Trading injury prone half back Darren McFadden has been a hot topic as of late. The fact is that McFadden just made the most money he will make under his current contract in 2011. McFadden turned in a whopping $8,121, 667 in 2011 and only played in seven games. Trading McFadden would not only give the Raiders extra draft choices or players, but it would also save them $9,372,916 over the next two seasons as there is only $2,133,334 left guaranteed in his contract.
Trading DMC is certainly a fair option, but so is McFadden restructuring his contract. Many would say he owes it to the team to take some cap pressure off them during the next year when money is really tight.
Other players that could be available for trades are wide receiver Louis Murphy, defensive end Matt Shaughnessy, strong safety Mike Mitchell and tight end Brandon Myers. Although none of these players will save the Raiders a substantial amount of dinero or net them any decent return.
Right now, the Raiders approximate cap figure for 2012 including all base salaries and bonuses is $115,101,146 based on figures accounted by www.spotrac.com.
That figure does not include outstanding penalties or futures contracts. Off the top of my head, I can't think of any outstanding cap penalties. Cap penalties would come from players that were under contract and were cut or traded before that contract expired and they still had bonus monies on those contracts. Think JaMarcus Russell or DeAngelo Hall.
The Raiders have also signed 12 players to futures contracts. Figure the grand total of that as approximately $3-4 million. Also keep in mind that most of those players are what they commonly refer to as "Camp Bodies," meaning most of them won't actually count against the cap. Also keep in mind that the Raiders have until the last week of training camp, at almost the beginning of September, to be under the salary cap for 2012.
The salary cap for 2011 was $120 million. The NFL also included a grace amount for teams such as the Raiders that were in financial trouble once the cap was announced. I believe that number was around $133 million. That grace amount will be absolved in 2012.
The good news is that the base cap number is set to increase a certain percentage in accordance with the amount of money the league makes this year. Figure it around $123-125 million this season. Still, the Raiders are cutting it close regardless.
The Raiders currently have 20 potential free agents in 2012. They are:
SS Tyvon Branch, HB Michael Bush, HB Rock Cartwright, C Samson Satele, WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, LS John Condo, T Khalif Barnes, QB Kyle Boller, QB Jason Campbell, LB Quentin Groves, T Stephon Heyer, DE Jarvis Moss, WR Chaz Schilens, FS Matt Giordano, DE Trevor Scott, SS Jerome Boyd, FB Marcel Reece, CB Lito Sheppard, LB Darryl Blackstock, and DT Desmond Bryant.
That leaves them with 33 players under contract at an average salary of $3.488 million in 2012.
However, $36 million of that is actually divided between just linebacker Kamerion Wimbley, defensive tackle Richard Seymour and cornerback Stanford Routt. Of the three players, Seymour is most likely to be released or traded. It would save the Raiders $15 million, but also cost them $7.5 million as a penalty. Overall, they'd save $7.5 million against the cap.
If they decided to trade Darren McFadden, it would free up around $4.8 million this year after a $1.06 million penalty, but it would become abundantly necessary to re-sign Michael Bush and that would likely cost them at least that much money if not more. The biggest difference is that Michael Bush probably won't miss half the season with injury.
It will be up to GM Reggie McKenzie to decide what the priorities are moving forward. Obviously, the Raiders are going to have to address the secondary on defense and the depth of the offensive and defensive lines immediately. A back-up quarterback may become necessary too.
The Raiders are also going to have to figure out how to squeeze a few rookies into the cap too, assuming that the rooks make the team.
The bottom line is that while Dennis Allen is figuring out what he's going to do with his staff, Reggie McKenzie is going to be busy on the phone with player agents and other teams shopping for the best deals on restructures and potential trades.
As you can see, the new organization has their work cut out for them.
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