With NFL Salary Cap growing, Raiders breathe easier


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Jan 22, 2006
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With NFL Salary Cap growing, Raiders breathe easier

IT WAS a sigh that could be heard as far away as Indianapolis.
The best guess among those in the know Monday at the NFL scouting combine is that a collective bargaining agreement extension is imminent and could be agreed upon as soon as today in a conference call with league owners and union chief Gene Upshaw.

The salary cap, we're told, should be higher than the original projections of $92 million and $95 million and could approach $100 million.

It will be good news for the NFL that it hasn't strangled the golden goose.

It will be great news for the Oakland Raiders, who could embark on their annual shearing of the salary cap with a razor rather than a pair of dull scissors.

The Raiders, as is their custom, are way over the cap, having tied up more than $121 million in 47 players in mid-December. The number was artificially high, with its usual assortment of bloated deals.

It's always been a source of amusement to Raiders management that the outside world looks at their cap numbers every year and predicts dire circumstances, citing "cap hell."

They were in cap hell last year, and all Al Davis did was trade for Randy Moss and sign LaMont Jordan and Derrick Burgess.from Sports 1

Without a bargaining agreement, however, this year's version of cap hell would have caused Davis, Mike Lombardi and Co. to break out in a sweat.

If greed takes over and things somehow fall apart, the Raiders' financial outlook would change for the worse. Bonuses on new and extended contracts could only be prorated four years instead of six, meaning individual cap numbers would be higher.

The ability to push accelerations from released players, as well as bonus money, into 2007 would be lost because 2007 would be an uncapped year.

The Raiders rely heavily on all these tactics every year. Compliance wouldn't have been a problem, but signing new players and the No.7 pick in the draft would have been considerably more difficult.

Agreeing to part ways with Derrick Gibson clears $9,937,000. Ronald Curry, Denard Walker, Bobby Hamilton and Ron Stone have salary-cap figures that add up to nearly $18 million, and cutting them would save nearly $16 million against the cap.

Those moves could put Oakland under the cap by March 2 even without deciding the fate of quarterback Kerry Collins.

But Collins, whose cap figure is $12,897,668, has a $2.5 million roster bonus due on the fifth day of the league year, which starts at 12:01 a.m. on March 3 and is the first day of the free-agent signing period.

Assuming the Raiders have no intention of paying Collins' current contract, which also owes him $6 million in salary and $4,250,000 in likely to be earned incentives, the two sides must agree on a renegotiated contract before March 7.

The Raiders, other than reasonably complimentary reviews of Collins by both Davis and coach Art Shell, are giving precious few clues.

It's possible they're busy surveying the horizon of potential replacements, keeping open the possibility that there is not a viable option for 2006.

Collins has not returned repeated phone calls to his home.

He may be as much in the dark as everyone else. When it comes to dumping quarterbacks, the Raiders are good at keeping a secret. Jeff Hostetler was stunned when he was cut in favor of Jeff George, and George was shocked to find himself looking for work when Jon Gruden wanted Rich Gannon.

Jumping to more conclusions as the Raiders head into cap compliance, free agency and the draft:

-Texas quarterback Vince Young was one of the first players the Raiders interviewed at the combine. Shell, in an interview with the Santa Rosa Press Democrat at the combine, offered that the Raiders could "be a spread team," which happens to be the formation Young is comfortable in.

All of which means one thing — no chance the Raiders draft Vince Young.

-The leak of Young's 6-for-50 Wonderlic score is troubling if it's true, and worth the involvement of lawyers if it's a mistake, as Houston general manager Charley Casserly claims.

No professional league is worse at keeping supposedly confidential information confidential. Just ask any of the yearly substance abuse program offenders who find themselves in public view before they've had a chance at an appeal.

-News of John Shoop's reassignment from quarterbacks to tight ends has brought another round of "What about Rich Gannon" conjecture regarding his addition to the coaching staff.

Not likely. Gannon thinks being an NFL assistant is just about the worst job a person can have in terms of pay, pressure and time away from the family.

-Tragic news if the Raiders or 49ers had designs on drafting Maryland tight end Vernon Davis. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock reported Davis "literally exploded" at his Monday workout. Davis, who still looked intact during an interview, said he had talked with both San Francisco and Oakland.

-The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are more likely to pursue Terrell Owens than Charles Woodson when free agency begins.

The Bucs desperately need a quality receiver, and coach Gruden absolutely loves Owens' considerable skills. He's also stubborn enough to think he can deal with the T.O. experience so long as he gets the requisite effort and production.

Woodson? The Bucs already have the NFL's No.1 defense, have a star cornerback in Ronde Barber who produces in a way Woodson never has, and a capable second starter in Brian Kelly.

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