Originally written on Thoughts from the Dark Side  |  Last updated 3/12/13
The Raiders made 4 moves late in the first day of the new NFL league year. Declining to resign any of their 17 free agents the Raiders watched as both of their top free agents, LB Phillip Wheeler and DT Desmond Bryant signed large contracts with other teams – Wheeler for 5 years, maximum contract of $26M and with $13M guaranteed by Miami and Bryant with Cleveland for a 5 year deal worth up to $34 million. The Raiders weren’t likely to be able nor interested in resigning either player for those amounts and wisely let both players go. The team wasn't idle, though, announcing this evening that they had cut two former top ten players in S Michael Huff and WR Darrius Heyward-Bey.  Both Huff and Heyward-Bey were well liked in the locker room and both are known as hard workers and team players but both were set to earn well more than their play on the field deserved and the NFL is a business before anything else. It seems likely that one if not both was designated a “June 1st” cut which will spread the accelerated cap hit over both 2013 and 2014. Two players expected to get cut, Rolando McClain and Tommy Kelly, survived the first rounds but both are still likely to be cut before the season starts. It’s possible that both will be cut after June 1st, itself which would have the same effect. Also cut, the team announced, was Dave Tollefson who was signed last year to a 2 year contract but was underwhelming and lost playing time consistently as the season progressed. The moves mean that Lamarr Houston may be the only starting defensive lineman returning and that 2nd year player Miles Burris may be the only returning starting linebacker. The Raiders have approximately $32M in “dead money” for 2013.  Dead money means that the team is paying that money out to players that are no longer on the team. As the 2013 salary cap is approximately $123 for 2013 so slightly over a quarter of the teams allotted cap money is being used on players that aren’t with the team anymore. However the moves did bring the Raiders to approximately $16 million under the cap which means they can sign some mid-level free agents once the market starts to die down and players’ demands drop a bit. There was one signing already announced.  CB Philip Adams, who played on the team last year and was a restricted free agent this offseason was signed by the team for a reported one year contract worth $630,000.00.  The Raiders declined to tender any restricted contract to Adams – the lowest amount would have been worth $1.3M so the Raiders saved themselves some money with that move, too. The team is slowly working to clean up more than a decade’s mismanagement as the Raiders pushed the limits of the salary cap under Davis in the early 2000’s trying to sign and re-sign aging stars like Jerry Rice and Bill Romanowski to make one last run at a Super Bowl.  It worked, of course but the contracts played havoc with the team’s numbers for years afterwards and Davis’ refusal to clear out the roster and start to rebuild perpetuated the issues. Now, the Raiders are really starting over – even more than last year when many of the contracts were so prohibitive the team couldn’t even afford to cut players that it wanted to, like Rolando McClain. Last year’s motto was “The greatness of the Raiders is in their future.” Reggie McKenzie is hoping today’s moves will start to set the groundwork for a great future sooner than later. For more news and thoughts on the Raiders throughout the day, follow me on Twitter @AsherMathews
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