Every football fan in America these days knows of the big mistakes Al Davis has made in recent years. Both draft busts and free-agent busts have led football fans to believe that Davis has completely lost his way with the Raiders.
Davis did come back with his best offseason in years last year and it was somehow attributed to Tom Cable, who was recently fired as head coach. With that now in the rear view mirror, Davis now has a chance to get it right if/when the collective bargaining agreement is made.
One thing I believe I can safely assume is that there will be some type of salary cap whatever the agreement may finally be. The salary cap has gone up the last few years by an average $7 million per year.
The last salary cap number was $128 million in 2009 so I will guess the cap number to be at $141 million as it indicates a $14 million bump in two years. The Raider's payroll was $152 million in 2010 and they have a lot of key free agents of their own to try to keep.
That doesn't look very good with the estimated cap number.
So how can the Raiders bring in some good players to fill needs while keeping their current key players?
Turn the page to see how.
Nnamdi Asomugha is the best corner in football bar none.
But the best thing that could happen to the Raiders is the voiding of his ridiculous contract. The Raiders have an excellent chance of re-signing Asomugha as he likes the direction they are going.
If for some reason Asomugha leaves, the Raiders can bring in a few top-flight players to upgrade weaknesses. However, it is reasonable for Asomugha to take $12 million, as that is still more than Darrelle Revis, and the Raiders save $5 million.
That puts Davis at $6 million over the cap.
The biggest draft bust in history will no longer be collecting checks from Davis. Russell was paid the last $3 million of his guaranteed money after being released last offseason.
Russell can now sip on all the "sizzurp" he wants and it won't be on Davis' dime.
That puts Davis $3 million over the estimated cap.
Davis has wasted so much money over the years.
Javon Walker of all people got $2 million from the Raiders for absolutely nothing. You can blame Lane Kiffin for this one as it was his idea to bring Walker to Raider Nation.
Either way, Davis no longer has to pay Walker.
Now he's only $1 million over the cap.
Robert Gallery made $6 million last year as his contract was to be a franchise left tackle. Gallery busted at left tackle and has become a pretty good guard but $6 million is too much for what he's done there.
There have been some guards like Jahari Evans that command left tackle money but they are dominant players.
Gallery is not that.
There have been reports that Gallery is upset by the firing of former Raider head coach Tom Cable and he now wants out. Gallery has done nothing to say he's worth $6 million so if he wishes to follow his heart to Cable in Seattle, he is replaceable.
But the best-case, reasonable scenario to keep Gallery would be for half of what he made in 2010. Having Gallery back at an above-average guard salary gets Davis $2 million under the estimated cap; $5 million if he leaves, but I believe Gallery will realize the direction of the Raiders and stay.
Michael Huff is coming around so I wouldn't be so quick to let him out of Raider Nation now. It wasn't his fault that he was misused his first few years in Raider Nation at strong safety.
In an interview after the final game of last season, Huff said, "Don't worry Raider fans. I'm not goin' nowhere." That is a good sign because he should well know that he's not going to get the money he got in his first contract.
Huff made $5.75 million last year and he has to understand that's not going to happen with any team in 2011. Someone paying him around $2 million per year is more reasonable at this time.
Al Davis is now $5.75 million under the cap.
Bruce Gradkowski and Ricky Brown cost about $1.76 million apiece and are not needed. The same goes for Charlie Frye and Michael Bennett, who cost around $1.25 million apiece
Gradkowski and Frye can't even stay healthy as backups while Bennett made more money than Michael Bush for the 2010 season. Perhaps Davis will use that money to help keep Bush.
$1.76 million is too much money for a man that isn't even the second-best middle linebacker on the team. Not re-signing these four guys will save Davis $6 million dollars.
Thomas Howard and his $1.75 million salary should be allowed to walk too unless he comes back for less. He is being paid a little too much for a cover linebacker that doesn't tackle very well.
Johnnie Lee Higgins and Samson Satele should also be allowed to walk. All these two did in 2010 was occupy a combined $1 million in salary.
This would have Davis $14 million under the projected cap.
Cooper Carlisle is done as an effective football player.
All I saw him do the past season was give up sacks and get pushed back in the run game. Carlisle simply isn't going to work in the power blocking scheme that Hue Jackson has brought in anyway.
It's time to see what physical specimen Bruce Campbell can do with the opportunity to start. Carlisle was a soldier at one time so I'd rather see him retire than for the Raiders to cut him.
His annual $2.5 million will put Davis $16.5 million under the cap.
For what the Raiders got out of Chris Johnson last year, he really shouldn't get the $3.25 million he's scheduled to make in 2011. He couldn't stay healthy in 2010 and when he was, he was usually spotted running behind a receiver that had scored a touchdown on the Raiders.
On top of that, Stanford Routt outplayed him this season and may just be the guy to play opposite Nnamdi this coming season. This is why Johnson should be cut this year unless he is willing to restructure his contract.
This takes Davis to $19.75 million under the cap.
Zach Miller has been the most consistent offensive weapon the Raiders have had since his arrival in 2007. Miller just took his first trip to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl but would have had more with a decent quarterback in his first three years.
Al Davis likes to pay his men top dollar when they play well, but top dollar goes to Atlanta's Tony Gonzales at $6 million. Gonzales is the best to ever do it at his position so he deserves that top dollar.
I look for Davis to keep Miller at $4 million, which is around the top of the next group of men down.
That is a raise of $3.5 million and has Davis $16.25 million under.
There's nothing like a great insurance policy for a player that goes down. Michael Bush was the best insurance provider the Raiders could have had last year.
In the three games Darren McFadden missed, Bush rushed for 288 yards with two touchdowns and two 100-yard games in his stead. Bush is a great complementary piece to go along with providing insurance for McFadden.
His short-yardage and red-zone runs were a very important part of the Raider offense in 2010. The fact that he can break a long run and catch the ball will give the opposing defense no clue what the Raiders will do when Bush comes in to spell McFadden.
If his DUI arrest hasn't done too much damage. $2 million is a good number for his value.
That's a raise of $1.5 million which brings Davis' total to $14.75 million under the cap before the draft.
Kamerion Wimbley is now the ultimate Raider as he has come to Raider Nation and reclaimed his career. He led the Raiders in sacks with 9.5 despite playing outside linebacker in a 4-3 defense that doesn't blitz a lot.
Wimbley was also solid in coverage and set his edge in the running game. Therefore, I fully expect Davis to reward his efforts as the former first-round pick probably exceeded all expectations that were set for him in 2010.
I think $5 million is a good number.
That puts Davis at $9.75 million under the cap.
There will probably be a rookie salary cap when a collective bargaining agreement is reached. There's no telling what the rookie cap number will be but either way, the Raiders won't have one.
Therefore, there definitely won't be an overpaid rookie to take up three quarters of what's left under the projected cap. This means that there is room to pick up a free agent or two when the CBA is reached.
Davis can now put the finishing touches on his Super Bowl-contending squad.
I have a good prospect at center in mind for the draft but that is another article. Before we even get there, Jared Gaither is an elite left tackle and the Raiders are badly in need of one.
He was with Jackson and Al Saunders in Baltimore so he probably knows the offense better than any current Raider lineman.
Everyone loves to give Jared Veldheer a hard time for giving up 7.5-10 sacks in 2010 in only 11 games. I say 7.5 to 10 because sacks allowed aren't an official stat and stat gurus disagree on what sacks should be charged to Veldheer.
Either number is way too many sacks to allow in just 11 starts as Mario Henderson gave up 9.5 in 16 games. Add to that the fact that the Raiders lined up an extra lineman at tight end to help out along with chipping with a running back.
"He's only a rookie from a Division II school!"
There are no handicaps in football, as the NFL is a business of doing the job or not. Besides, Gaither gave up only three sacks in his rookie year, which is right in line with all the elite left tackles in their first year.
Future franchise left tackles usually show up well right away when they get to the league. The Raiders run the risk of quarterbacks getting hurt while waiting for a guy that may not ever become an elite left tackle.
Just remember Veldheer's man knocked starting quarterback Jason Campbell out of the Jaguar game. Kyle Boller then went into the game cold and threw a game-losing interception and that's how close the Raiders were to having a winning season in 2010.
The Raiders especially need an elite left tackle to give Raider quarterbacks extra time to wait for the deep ball to break open. They shouldn't have to take away Miller and McFadden as check down options in the process.
It has been reported that the Colts are interested in Gaither so if he's good enough for Manning, he's good enough for Campbell. Baltimore can decide to tender him again but if it works out, Davis is probably looking at $5 million as Gaither's recent injuries would preclude him from something bigger. Davis can always load the contract with total starts incentives to make that number grow.
Davis would then be $4.75 under the cap.
Despite what happened in 2010, Albert Haynesworth is a beast with something to prove going forward. Mike Shanahan no longer wants him in Washington and no one is going to trade for that huge contract.
This means he will be released for the 2011 season and the Raiders can get him for much cheaper. Haynesworth is a dominant player in the 4-3 scheme against the run and the pass.
The Raiders can pay Haynesworth what they paid Tommy Kelly, as he is a pass rushing tackle that's been driven back this season one-on-one against the run.
Do the Raiders allow Kelly to continue to improve against the run under the influence of Richard Seymour?
Or do they trade him and bring in Haynesworth to pair with Seymour as possibly the best DT tandem in the NFL?
It's just a thought that I haven't concluded on yet.
But I have to believe running on this defense will be pretty hard with Haynesworth on it.
The lower-level Raider free agents can be signed to similar deals and new lower-level free agents can be brought in to replace lost ones. The middle of the second round on doesn't pay very high so the Raiders don't have much to worry about here.
Players will have to be cut for these picks to make the team in the first place. The salary cap may even be higher as I projected the salary cap according to the recent annual increases of it.
With a little luck and Davis playing his cards right, he can still build himself a contender for the 2011 season. You may have noticed that I didn't include the pickup of a wide receiver in free agency.
That's because I believe in this young group of receivers including a healthy Chaz Schilens in 2011. I really like this list of moves to make this offseason but there are plenty of others that can produce a winner this coming season.
But one thing is for sure.
Davis, Jackson and company are hard at work to put this thing together to "just win baby."