The Raiders entered this week nearly $30 million over the salary cap, once you factor in the $6.2 million they have to account for by placing the franchise tag on strong safety Tyvon Branch. Teams have until Mar. 13 to be in compliance with the cap.
No team is in worse shape than the Raiders when it comes to the salary cap. However, it wasn’t long ago that the Pittsburgh Steelers were in an even worse situation.
Today, the Steelers are about $12 million under the projected $120 million cap. They got there by paring more than $40 million from their cap in about a month’s time.
This isn’t to say that the Raiders can follow the Steelers blueprint because the Steelers saved $14.26 million of that $40 million by cutting five aging, expensive players.
The Raiders don’t have many of those kinds of players, with weighty contracts, on their roster, with the possible exceptions of defensive tackle John Henderson ($4 million salary), cornerback Chris Johnson ($3.5 million) and safety Hiram Eugene ($2.5).
Therefore, they will have to rely upon restructuring the contracts of starting players such as quarterback Carson Palmer, defensive tackles Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly, outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley and wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey.
The Steelers saved more than $25 million by restructuring the contracts of five players — Ben Roethlisberger, LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons, Willie Colon and Ike Taylor.
The aforementioned Raiders players with sizable contracts for 2012 can restructure in ways that could save the Raiders most of what they need to save between now and the 13th.
As of Tuesday night, the Raiders had yet to submit any restructures to the league office. General manager Reggie McKenzie is spearheading the heavy lifting in terms of reworking contracts, and he isn’t sharing any of his notes.
Suffice, McKenzie will prevail upon a handful of players with sizable contracts that they need to help out right away, in exchange for a little extra spending cash down the road.
Wimbley will be the toughest one for McKenzie to iron out, given Wimbley is guaranteed $6.5 million of his $11 million salary for 2012, and he stands to recoup the $4.5 million difference, and thensome, if he balks at a restructure, gets released and hits free agency.
The good news for the Raiders is, they still have time. All they need now is cooperation from their players. Before long, the Raiders will be just like the Steelers, under the cap and ready to spend again.
Follow me on Twitter: @corkonthenfl