Here are players under contract that the Oakland Raiders could potentially release, a.k.a. cap casualties.
The 2016 season has come and gone. For the Oakland Raiders, it was quite the year. A 12-4 season has optimism high headed into 2017, as the fans are eager to have their “what if?” question answered, had Derek Carr not been injured.
Like every NFL offseason, it will be a busy few months. Between players being released or traded, free agency and the NFL Draft, there will be plenty for Reggie McKenzie to do as we impatiently wait for the start of the 2017 season.
The first order of business for McKenzie will be releasing players who are under contract — also known as cap casualties.
With Derek Carr due for a massive extension, and Khalil Mack, Gabe Jackson and others not being too far behind, Reggie will need all the cap space he can get to keep this team competitive.
Let’s take a look at which players could end up being cap casualties for the Raiders this offseason.
Note: All salary cap figures are from Spotrac.
$9.5M in savings if released, no dead money.
Starting with the most obvious candidate, Sean Smith was a major disappointment in the first year of his 4-year, $38 million contract.
The rough season began immediately for the former Chief, as he was beat deep multiple times in the opening game in New Orleans. It got so bad for Smith in the opener that he was benched for D.J. Hayden. Yikes.
Smith would improve and play better in a handful of games, but all in all, it was an awful season for the 28-year old veteran. He allowed 999 yards receiving when targeted, second most in the entire NFL.
To be fair, the scheme should share some of the blame here. Sean is best when he is able to use his size and physical play-style to press his matchup, and he was rarely given that opportunity. But at the end of the day, regardless of scheme, Smith simply allowed too many big plays.
In typical McKenzie fashion, Smith’s contract is a team friendly one. Per Spotrac, he can be released before March 11 without a dead money hit, and it would save the team $9.5 million.
On the surface, this seems like a no-brainer. Just cut bait on the failed experiment and move on with it. But it’s not that simple.
For one, the depth behind Smith is terrible. David Amerson regressed in 2016, D.J. Hayden will likely be gone, and then there is T.J. Carrie, Antonio Hamilton and Dexter McDonald. Not exactly a star-studded group.
McKenzie might also not be as critical of Smith’s performance as the fan base is, and the same could be said for Jack Del Rio. It’s no secret that Sean is best as a press cornerback, and the team simply did not use him correctly in 2016. If they actually capitalize on Smith’s strengths, 2017 could be an entirely different story.
Also, the firing of Marcus Robertson as DB Coach is an indication of where they think the blame lies, so maybe they’ll be willing to give Smith another chance with a new DB Coach, as well as with John Pagano now on the staff.
And not everyone thinks Smith was awful in 2016, despite what most of the numbers say. Pro Football Focus graded him out as the 17th best cornerback in the league, as surprising as that may be.
So this is certainly a case that could go either way. Most will probably want Smith to be gone, but I don’t think that’s what happens.
Prediction: Smith stays, perhaps with a contract restructure.
$7.47M in savings if released, $1.5M in dead money.
Depending on who you ask, this might seem like a ridiculous notion. But the truth of the matter is that David Amerson regressed in 2016, which was the first of his new 4-year, $35M contract that includes $17.5M in guarantees.
Only if there was a way Amerson could play the Tennessee Titans every game, the guy would be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. But unfortunately for Amerson, that’s now how this works. Against teams not named the Titans, 2016 was a mixed back for the former second-round pick.
After recording 4 interceptions and 25 passes defensed in 14 games played with the Raiders in 2015, surprising just about everyone with his high level of play, Amerson’s production declined this most recent season.
His interception total was cut in half, and the number of passes defensed dropped to 16. While the number of big plays allowed and the number of missed tackles went up. Not exactly the direction you want any of those stats to trend.
Amerson was on the wrong end of too many touchdowns allowed, including a vicious stiff-arm delivered by Steve Smith Sr., which led to a 52-yard touchdown. Ice up, son.
Therefore, his inconsistent performance puts his roster spot in question. $7.5M is a lot of money to be saved, especially when it could be used to re-sign Derek Carr, Khalil Mack, or Gabe Jackson.
But at the same time, $1.5M in dead money is a decent chunk to eat, and Mckenzie may like to eat, but he prefers not to eat dead money.
Amerson has had one outstanding year and one mediocre year. He deserves a tiebreaker year in 2017, and if his performance continues to decline, he can be released next offseason without any dead money hit.
Prediction: Amerson stays.