Oakland Raiders: Who Can They "Afford" to Cut for Salary Cap Space?

D.J. O'ConnorSenior Analyst IIIFebruary 29, 2012

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 06:  Eric Decker #87 of the Denver Broncos catches a twenty seven yard touchdown pass in front of Michael Huff #24 of the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum on November 6, 2011 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

It's amazing how small the Raiders initially reported $11 million excess of the salary cap seems now that reports have come out with that number doubled to $22 million over the cap.

Now is the time for new GM Reggie McKenzie to do what he was hired to do, which is to get very creative in finding ways to shed $22 million from the 2012 payroll.

When making these decisions, there are a few ways to trim the payroll: restructure contracts and release players.  We've already seen Stanford Routt released and I'm sure we can expect more. Here are my candidates to be released if they don't restructure their contracts.

Michael Huff

The first-round pick of the 2006 draft finally seemed to be paying dividends when he was named second-team All-Pro in 2010, a contract year for him.  He re-signed with the Raiders at four years, $32 million and is due reportedly eight million in 2012.  Huff himself has said: "I didn't play like an eight million safety" after the Raiders' defense failed in the final stretch of 2011, costing the Raiders a playoff spot.

Huff can be easily replaced by Tyvon Branch moving to free safety and inserting Mike Mitchell into the starting lineup at strong safety.  Branch must be re-signed before we can go ahead with that position change, and cutting Michael would free up some money.

John Henderson

Henderson was given a two-year deal worth several million before the lockout.  For an aging, rotational defensive tackle, that is a hefty price to pay.  He was signed because of how respected of a run-stuffer he was in Jacksonville, but the Raiders continued to get gutted on the ground.

I say let "Big John" go and give more playing time to the the up-and-coming undrafted defensive tackle from Harvard, Desmond Bryant.

Kamerion Wimbley

I never thought he was worthy of being one of the top five paid linebackers in the NFL, and unfortunately he proved me right.  He had only seven sacks in 2011, three of which came against San Diego in one night.  That's four sacks throughout the remaining 15 games.  He is not a top-five linebacker and he shouldn't be paid like a top-five linebacker.

NFL.com reported that Wimbley is unwilling to take a pay cut.  To him I say don't let the door hit you on the way out.  Even if the Raiders use more three to four sets, they have depth with Travis Goethel and Trevor Scott, and they have been rumored to be very interested in drafting a linebacker.

Michael Bush

Bush is not under contract. At the end of the day, that will work best in Oakland.  As much as I want him to stay, the Raiders are $22 million over the cap and can't afford to stockpile talent at one position and ignore other needs.  Darren McFadden has been endorsed by Dennis Allen and Greg Knapp, so forget those trade rumors about DMC for a package of picks.  

Bush is talented as he ran for nearly 1,000 yards as a starter for just half the season last year.  But Bush's talent is also why he can't stay.  He'll be worth too much money in free agency for the Raiders to keep as a back-up.  

Kevin Boss

Boss was ignored last year in Hue Jackson's offense as the Raiders focused on the deep ball with Denarius Moore, Jacoby Ford and Darrius Heyward-Bey and running the ball with McFadden and Bush.  Boss was slowed by injuries and was quiet until he made a fantastic touchdown reception in the season finale on his final play of 2011 (he left the game with a concussion).  

Unless Greg Knapp has plans for his tight end to be a primary part of the offense, Boss isn't worth the three to four million he is due.  The Raiders can turn to Brandon Myers, David Ausberry and Richard Gordon for a new tight end already on the roster.  Knapp made a reliable receiving tight end out of Zach Miller back in 2007. Let's see him try again with another young tight end.

These are my primary targets to cut.  The Raiders also owe big bucks to Tommy Kelly, Carson Palmer, Richard Seymour and Darren McFadden, but I would rather see those contracts restructured than terminated.  These players would be hard to replace.