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While the Oakland Raiders have handed out some big contracts already to keep potential free agents off the open market, they won't have to start paying out on those deals until after there's a resolution to the league's labor dispute.
The Raiders have made more than $80 million in commitments to five of their players, but none of those deals include signing bonuses that need to be paid before any games are played.
"When you're signing these players to contracts the way we signed them, these contracts are all for the future," senior executive John Herrera said Monday. "These guys will have to come in and play and earn their money before they get paid. The Raiders have not paid out a dime at this point in time."
The Raiders have been one of the most aggressive teams so far this offseason as most clubs wait until a new collective bargaining agreement is reached before making moves. The current CBA expires Thursday.
Oakland gave cornerback Stanford Routt a $31.5 million, three-year deal; handed defensive tackle Richard Seymour a $30 million, two-year contract with $22.5 million in guarantees; placed a $10.1 million franchise tag on linebacker Kamerion Wimbley; signed defensive tackle John Henderson to an $8 million, two-year deal and signed special teams standout and backup running back Rock Cartwright to an undisclosed contract.
"What we did is protect our football team," Herrera said. "These are moves that protect our franchise and protect our team and put us in a position to move on."
Herrera equated the move to keep Seymour as Oakland's "first-round pick" this year since the Raiders sent that selection to New England before the 2009 season to acquire Seymour. He has already played two seasons in Oakland, making the Pro Bowl last year as the Raiders finished 8-8 for the first non-losing season since 2002.
Seymour made a big impact on the field, as well as in the locker room where a mostly young team viewed him as a strong leader with the experience of having won three Super Bowl titles with the Patriots.
"In my opinion, he was the heartbeat of our defense as far as high level of performance he demands from everybody on the field," Routt said. "He's definitely someone you don't want to disappoint or let down because he came from New England where he won three titles. You don't want him to have any harsh feelings about no longer being in New England."
The Raiders tried to keep Wimbley for much less money by exercising a $3.5 million buyback option that would have given him about $4.1 million next season. But the NFL ruled that contract was invalid so the Raiders used the franchise tag instead to keep the player who led the team in sacks last season.
Oakland views Routt as a potential number one cornerback after he had his best season in six years as a pro last year, putting up some of the best numbers in the league in terms of shutting down opposing receivers.