The Oakland Raiders restructured the contract of right guard Mike Brisiel, according to Steve Corkran of the Bay Area News Group. Brisiel lowered his base salary from $4.35 million to $1.35 million, which gives the Raiders an additional $3 million in salary cap savings in 2013.
Brisiel saved the Raiders about the same amount of money by restructuring as he would have if the team had just released him. In return, Brisiel probably got some form of a guarantee. After Richard Seymour’s deal voided, McKenzie started by restructured his biggest free-agent acquisition from a year ago, but there is still plenty of work to be done.
The Raiders are reportedly $1.5 million under the salary cap of $123 million salary cap after Brisiel’s restructuring. This is the first significant move the Raiders have made this offseason, and starts Year 2 of the great purge. In Reggie McKenzie’s first season as general manager he dumped Stanford Routt, Chris Johnson and Kamerion Wimbley for salary cap purposes.
The Raiders can gain additional cap space by releasing or restructuring the contracts of Carson Palmer, Tommy Kelly and Darrius Heyward-Bey. The Raiders could save $16.1 million by just releasing those players per spotrac.com figures, but should try to reduce their cap numbers with the goal of keeping them on a roster.
Restructuring a contract and trying to keep a productive player is a worthwhile endeavor for the Raiders because the roster currently sits at just 46 players and is short of starters. Even after signing exclusive and restricted free agents, the Raiders will need to add 36 players to the roster to reach the roster limit by training camp.
For every player released, the Raiders will also have to find a replacement. The Raiders don’t have the resources to replace four starters with comparable free agents. At best, the Raiders will be able to afford a few free agents making an average of about $3 million per season. That’s an improvement over 2012, but hardly an ideal situation.
Palmer will likely have to take a pay cut similar to Michael Vick to stay in Oakland. Despite the presence of Terrelle Pryor, there’s a reason the Raiders have been linked to Geno Smith. If the Raiders can’t work out a deal with Palmer, the team will have no choice but to release him and take the hit. Considering the situation, there’s a very good chance a deal gets done if it’s beneficial for both sides.
Kelly’s contract has the most room for a typical restructuring in which guarantees are added and spread over additional years to bring down the cap number. Since Kelly will be 33 next season and had a down year in 2012, the Raiders might be reluctant to concede much to Kelly who will not make nearly as much if he hits the open market.
Heyward-Bey has the second-highest base salary on the team to Palmer, according to spotrac.com. That makes Heyward-Bey both a good candidate to restructure and also an easy player to release. The Raiders would save $5.3 million by releasing Heyward-Bey, which might be preferred to paying him any more than the $1.8 million he was worth in 2012, according to ProFootballFocus.
ProFootballFocus pegged Palmer’s 2012 performance at $8.2 million and Kelly’s at $1.2 million. Those numbers are worth considered when thinking about what the Raiders will do this week with those players. Palmer’s number can probably be brought down to around $9 million, but there is almost no chance Kelly or Heyward-Bey can be restructured to a range that makes them a decent value.
Michael Huff’s deal is the most difficult situation for the Raiders because it carries a ton of dead money with it and not much savings. The Raiders will have to choose between taking a big cap hit and paying Huff $4 million in base salary and a $4 million roster bonus. His cap savings of $1.8 million is barely more than the $2.3 million performance based value he was given by ProFootballFocus. Ultimately, the Raiders might have to hang onto Huff and his fat contract for another year.
Expect the Raiders to be busy prior to the start of the new league year to free up cap space. Maximizing cash flow will be important even though the Raiders will be hunting for bargain free agents. Given the relevant information, the Raiders will probably restructure Palmer’s deal, release Kelly and Heyward-Bey and leave Huff’s deal alone. The Raiders should probably gain at least $15 million in cap space in the process.
It’s possible McKenzie is able to work out restructured deals for Kelly and Heyward-Bey, but he’d likely have to keep kicking the can down the road to do it. Continuing to push cap hits into future years is just going to prolong the pain, albeit with the sting lessening each year. McKenzie should have the mess he inherited resolved after 2013 and taking care of Palmer, Kelly and Heyward-Bey are just the next steps.