2015 NFL Free Agency Preview: Why the Raiders Should Not Spend Big


The Oakland Raiders find themselves in an advantageous situation this offseason. With a few more cuts, namely Matt Schaub and Maurice Jones-Drew, the Raiders could end up with more than $70M in cap space before Free Agency begins on March 10th.

With all that available money, plenty of holes on the roster to fill and a lot of talent on the open market to fill those holes, it’s easy to see the appeal of quickly trying to get the team back into contention. Or at least relevance.

Before we get into further detail, here is some important information to know about the cap:

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Every NFL team has a spending floor to reach, which is 89% of the salary cap from 2013 to 2016. The cap number for 2015 is $143.28M.  There are some other more detailed rules, such as cap carryover, but the jist of it is that the Raiders have to spend more than any other team in the NFL to reach the floor.

So yes, the Raiders have a ton of money at their disposal. But before you plead for Reggie McKenzie and Mark Davis to make it rain and bring in a huge haul of top talent in free agency, just know that this method of team-building has a long, consistent track record of not working out.

Just take a few minutes to browse through the recent free agent classes, and see which players lived up to their big contracts, and which didn’t. 2014 Free Agents2013, 2012, and 2011.

The vast majority of these players did not live up to their contracts. Many of them were coming off great seasons, were healthy, and only in their mid-to-late 20’s when they inked these big deals.

That sounds a lot like this free agent class because, well, it sounds like every free agent class.

Furthermore, look at the teams that have been the big spenders in these classes.

The Buccaneers ($147.38 million), Bills ($118.98 million), Saints, ($114.55 million) and Rams ($106.2 million) have all been big spenders in one of these classes, and none of them followed up their spending spree with a winning season.

The Eagles were a self-proclaimed Dream Team thanks to Vince Young’s declaration in 2011, after spending $127.1 million…and we all know how that worked out.

In 2009, the Broncos were the only team to top $100 million in free agency spending, and they finished the following year 8-8.

2008, the Jets topped the spending list at $109.62 million, didn’t make the playoffs and fired their coach. 2007 – The Niners spent an outrageous $129.37 million and their record got worse, going from 7-9 to 5-11 after their spending.

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On the other side of things, look at all the recent super bowl winners. The Patriots, Packers, Ravens, Seahawks, and Steelers. There is a reason these teams weren’t mentioned with the other examples. That’s because they don’t make big splashes in free agency.

The best talent on those teams is drafted and developed. Free agency is used as a tool to supplement the roster, and not much more than that.

Building an NFL team is a process, and as played out as that word may be, it’s true.

McKenzie deconstructed a roster full of bad contracts…and why did the Raiders have those bad contracts to begin with? Because players were overpaid to join the team in free agency (Kamerion Wimbley), and because some of them were overpaid to stay with the team before they hit free agency (Stanford Routt).

And now that the team is finally free and clear of everything, it seems like the majority of the fan base wants to go right back to splurging in free agency.

Tying back into the spending floor that Oakland needs to reach – yes, they have to spend money. But the most sensible way to spend that money would be on two, maybe three premium free agents, and then a handful of role players or younger quality starters.

Not Suh, Cobb, Maclin, Iupati, Hudson, Knighton, Graham, Spikes, Maxwell AND McCourty, or whatever dream list you’ve put together. And yes, I’ve seen that list suggested.

Two or three of these of those guys is plenty, and then go after a handful of younger free agents who are being looked over. Like Malcolm Smith, Mason Foster, Clint Boling, Jabaal Sheard, Henry Melton or Da’Norris Searcy just to name a few. Some combination of players like that, paired with a couple of the high-end guys will work just fine.

And then keep building through the draft. A trade down is a possibility and would go a long way in filling out the roster. But even if no trade down happens, another draft class like 2014’s and an actual foundation will be in place.

I want the Raiders to win just as bad as anybody reading this column, but I don’t want the team to take shortcuts to try to do it.

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