The Las Vegas Raiders are in a solid salary cap situation entering the new league year, but they could be in even better position if these four surprise cuts happen.
The Raiders currently hold over $60 million in cap space for 2020, but with these four cuts, the Raiders would have over $84 million going into free agency. Sure, some of these four played huge roles on the team in 2019, but as the team moves to Sin City, changes are coming.
As the Raiders head into Las Vegas, they will surely have a much different group of players than they did this previous season. The Raiders made plenty of changes in the 2019 off-season, and 2020 should be no different, as we saw solid improvement with this team, going from four to seven wins.
With a 7-9 record, the Raiders were an average team that surpassed most people's expectations, but the frustrating part is that the team could have been even better. After starting out at 6-4, the Raiders lost five of their last six games, and saw their playoff hopes end in Week 17 of the regular season.
Let's take a look at four surprising cuts that could help the Raiders in the long run.
Gabe Jackson is a great guard when healthy, but the problem is, he has struggled with injuries the last two seasons. With an injury-plagued season, Jackson struggled a bit and did not live up to his expectations. While Jackson was hurt, Denzelle Good did a fantastic job filling in for him, and the Raiders rewarded Good with a contract extension.
With that being said, I would be surprised if the Raiders cut Jackson, as he is a great player, but the fact that releasing him would result in no cap hit makes this something to keep an eye on. If the Raiders released Jackson, they would save about $9 million, in addition, they would receive no salary cap penalty for cutting him.
Jackson has the potential to be great, but the Raiders showed that their offensive line could survive without him, and the Raiders could do a lot with that $9 million this offseason. The Raiders offensive line is a good one, and fellow guard Richie Incognito was just wrapped up for two more years, but changes could be coming.
One of the Raiders' biggest signings in 2019 was former Chargers receiver Tyrell Williams, who was expected to be the WR2 for Oakland. Unfortunately with all of the Antonio Brown issues, Williams became the WR1 for the team and did very well at first.
Eventually, it was proven that Williams could not be a WR1 and had a big drop problem, killing drives for the Raiders and dropping touchdowns in close games. Williams was injured for the majority of the year, which is an argument that could be made for both sides, as he really tried to gut it out.
Without Williams' injury, he likely would have played better, but on the other hand, if he has an injury problem, he will never be worth the money he is being paid. If the Raiders cut Williams, they will save around $11 million this season, money that could go towards another receiver like Robby Anderson. In addition, the expectation is the Raiders will bring in an elite college wideout in the first round this April.
Zay Jones may not be too surprising of a selection here, considering he is only making a bit over $1 million this season, but that is what makes it seem like the team may keep Jones around. Although Jones did not produce much for the Raiders, he has a unique skill-set that Coach Gruden could find a way to use.
On the other hand, the Raiders will likely completely redo their receiving core besides Hunter Renfrow and possibly Tyrell Williams, so there may be no room for Jones. If the Raiders are able to draft a receiver in the first round, land a top free-agent wide receiver, and another young piece, Jones will be gone.
With the emergence of Darren Waller at tight end, and Josh Jacobs at running back, the wide receiver group is the only thing holding this offense back right now. Sure, Jones may be a better wide receiver down the road, but on a Silver and Black team looking to make an impact in year 1 in Sin City, there may not be room.
Derek Carrier has been a good piece of the Raiders tight end group the last two years, being a solid blocker and making a big play on occasion. I have no reason to believe that anyone from the fans to the organization has any issues with Derek Carrier on or off the field, but with Darren Waller and Foster Moreau playing so great, the Raiders may move on from Carrier.
Carrier does bring a different skillset than both Waller and Moreau, but it may not be enough to stay on the roster. Releasing Carrier would save the team around $2 million this season, money that could go towards a free agent or an extension for a different player.
A three-win jump from one year to the next is solid growth, but the fans in Las Vegas are going to be expecting a winner in 2020, much like the hockey team a few years back. Of course, this is an organization that is in a much better place than it was a year ago, and with more draft capital, and cap space, ten wins is not out of the question.