Raiders Spending Without Hurting Long-Term Salary Picture

In signing eight free agents from outside organization, GM McKenzie hasn't committed huge amounts to future seasons

At this point, the Raiders must be running out of checks.

After entering the free agency period with more than $60 million to spend on improving the roster, the Raiders have been signing new players almost every day since the official start of the free-agent period on March 10.

Wednesday night ESPN reported safety Charles Woodson has signed a one-year deal to remain with the team, while former Tampa Bay offensive tackle Donald Penn officially signed a two-year contract worth a reported $9.6 million, with only $4.2 million guranteed.

So far, the Raiders have brought in eight free agents from other teams: Penn, tackle Austin Howard, guard-center Kevin Boothe, defensive ends Justin Tuck and Antonio Smith, outside linebacker/defensive end LaMarr Woodley, cornerback Tarell Brown and  wide receiver James Jones. Plus, general manager Reggie McKenzie has re-signed Woodson, safety Usama Young and running back Darren McFadden.

It seems as if by this point that Oakland would be running low on funds, but that’s not the case, as NFL analyst Kevin Seifert of points out. Seifert notes the Raiders still have about $25 million in salary-cap space for 2014 to address more needs – such as a quarterback – and drafted players.

But Seifert makes an even more interesting point: even with all this spending, the Raiders have been smart about their deals, careful to not tie themselves up with expensive, long-term contracts that could limit their roster flexibility in the coming years.

“The good news for the Raiders is that all seven (before Penn’s deal was announced) of the players … signed ‘pay-as-you-go deals’ that have no fully guaranteed money after the first season,” he wrote. “That means the Raiders could part ways with any and all of them without paying another cent and with a negligible amount of dead money on their future cap totals.”

If some of these players come up big in 2014, they of course will be retained and their salaries activated for 2015. But if they should fall flat, Oakland won’t have their contracts as anchors, the way some past deals have impacted the team’s salary cap.

“In the end, they haven’t hamstrung their future decisions at all,” wrote Seifert.

Meanwhile, McKenzie talked for the first time about all the Raiders activity on Wednesday, in an interview with Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group at the San Jose State pro day.

McKenzie told McDonald that he believes the Raiders are on a good path toward being better in 2014.

“What we’re trying to do is add some veteran leadership,” McKenzie said. “The bottom line is trying to upgrade the team through production and leadership. We’ve got some young guys, and we want to try and get that good mix, try to build.”

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