With NFL teams having one more hour to hand out franchise/transition tags to any expiring free agents they wish and the Oakland Raiders still having yet to use their tags on likely candidates Lamarr Houston and Jared Veldheer many were left in the dark about whether or not the Raiders and general manager Reggie McKenzie would opt to use the franchise tag or not.
Well according to reports, Raider Nation has their answer and it may be one that is to the dismay of fans who are concerned about losing their arguably two best players on the roster to free agency.
According to sources, McKenzie and the Raiders will not use the franchise tag. Instead opting to attempt to hammer out long term deals with their upcoming free agents or simply allowing them to test the open market to see what their value is around the league.
ESPN’s Adam Caplan reported, citing a source, that Houston is not expected to get slapped with the franchise tag. The move comes after Tony Pauline reported during the combine that the Raiders were expected to use the franchise tag of transition tag on Houston but shouldn’t come as much of a surprise as McKenzie likely feels that Houston is not worth the $13.116 million that would need to be forked out to restart the negotiation process next offseason.
Houston is available asset to the Raiders and is likely their number one target to keep from hitting free agency, however Houston isn’t likely to ask for less money after a year with the franchise tag especially when his numbers should climb playing with better talent on the defensive line. Recording a career high in sacks with six last season and having the potential to hit the open market in a class that is light on defensive linemen, there is a potential that Houston could demand a large contract.
Getting a big payday could mean moving from Oakland to another team, a risk McKenzie may have to take in order to retain his valuable defensive linemen at a market value that is in the best interest of both parties. Houston is a talented player, but he is likely not one that is worth anywhere near double digits in yearly salary. If Houston walks it would be a huge blow for a Raiders franchise that is looking to convince fans that they are committed to winning after two years of deconstructing the roster, but all of their hard work would also be undermined by overpaying to retain their free agents. Saddled between a rock and a hard place it appears McKenzie is taking the risky route of trying to negotiate a deal with Houston before he hits the true open market on March 11. If the two sides can’t agree on a fair deal before then we may be seeing Houston as one of the bigger names in free agency as a pass rusher, but if it isn’t for the right price the Raiders may be forced to make an unpopular decision by letting him walk and letting another team overpay Houston to continue their rebuilding goal of smart cap-flexible contracts.