The Las Vegas Raiders enter the 2022 season as few have before, with huge expectations and a new GM/head coach duo. Last season, circumstances resulted in a regime change following a playoff berth. New general manager Dave Ziegler and coach Josh McDaniels wasted no time in acquiring two potential Hall of Famers (Davante Adams and Chandler Jones) and locking up two homegrown favorites (Maxx Crosby and Hunter Renfrow). The duo also issued a new deal to Derek Carr, an extension that does give the Raiders a lot of options in terms of escaping the deal. Darren Waller is also due a deal soon, and it sounds like it could be coming sooner rather than later.
From a salary cap standpoint, all of this leaves the Raiders in an interesting position. The salary cap can be easily manipulated from year to year by restructuring contacts, signing bonuses, etc. However, I decided to take a few different looks at where the ’22 Raiders stand entering the season.
A side note for our readers. All this data came from Spotrac before 9 a.m. on Friday, September 2022. Thus, any contacts, extensions, etc. signed after then will not be included in these figures.
The Las Vegas Raiders Active Roster
|POSITION||CAP DOLLARS||% OF CAP||NFL RANK|
Looking at the above table, you should notice the Raiders ranked 28th in spending on offense and 31st in defense. How are they so low in both? The two main reasons are: Dead Cap and Cap Space. Almost $41 million in dead caps is disgusting, especially for a playoff team. It would’ve been even worse had the Chicago Bears not claimed former first rounder Alex Leatherwood. The teams with more dead cap than the Raiders are five teams in rebuild mode and the Philadelphia Eagles, who have a quarterback on a rookie contract. The good news is that the Raiders have some money to play with to both extend Darren Waller and reinforce the current roster. In total, the Raiders are 28th in spending on the active roster.
Las Vegas Raiders Positional Breakdown
|POSITION||PLAYERS||CAP DOLLARS||% OF CAP||NFL RANK|
If you notice the players add up to over 53 and the cap dollars on this table don’t match the first, that is because this is the full roster, which includes IR.
So, what do the numbers mean?
Before we dive into this table, there are a couple things to explain about the Raiders’ 2022 cap hits. The extensions that Carr, Adams, Renfrow, and Crosby signed don’t have their major cap hits this season. The front office structured it this way, I imagine, because they knew they were going to be eating a major amount of dead cap this season. Clelin Ferrell is actually the second highest cap hit, a rookie deal Raider Nation is looking forward to being off the books.
So, the Raiders don’t find themselves spending too heavily in one area compared to the rest of the NFL in the 2022 season. The skill positions have been given a fair number of resources, with QB, RB, WR, and TE all falling between 9 and 19 in NFL rank.
The Raiders went to the bargain bin on defense, spending second to last at linebacker and in the secondary. Denzel Perryman’s contact being a steal and Divine Deablo being on a third-round rookie contact allowed this to be possible. At LB, the Silver and Black are certainly getting good bang for their buck. The secondary could be a challenge for new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. Nate Hobbs will need to keep ascending and Rock Ya-Sin needs to be a legitimate full-time corner, or the Raiders will regret not addressing the secondary, possibly neglecting it by trading Trayvon Mullen for nothing.
Raiders Ranking Against 2021 Playoff Teams (14) By 2022 Positional Cap Hit
- Offense: 12th
- Defense: 14th
- Quarterback: 5th
- Running Back: 4th
- Wide Receiver: 6th
- Tight End: 5th
- Offensive Line: 14th
- Defensive Line: 6th
- Linebacker: 13th
- Secondary: 13th
- Dead Cap: 14th
It should definitely be cause for concern that every playoff team from last year is spending more money on their offensive line than the Raiders. Unlike the linebacker position, this isn’t because there are good contracts and competent rookies in the positions for the Silver and Black. They simply just didn’t address the offensive line well enough. Kolton Miller is the only one of the group that you can argue has shown a full season of production. If this team fails to meet expectations, the offensive line is the most likely culprit.
Raiders’ Ranking Against 2022 Hopeful Playoff Teams With A QB NOT On A Rookie Contract
*Teams included: Raiders, Chiefs, Vikings, Packers, 49ers, Colts, Cowboys, Broncos, Rams, Buccaneers, Cardinals, and Bills (12)
- Offense: 12th
- Defense: 12th
- Quarterback: 7th
- Running Back: 4th
- Wide Receiver: 5th
- Tight End: 4th
- Offensive Line: 12th
- Defensive Line: 5th
- Linebacker: 11th
- Secondary: 11th
- Dead Cap: 12th
This gives the scope of how the Raiders are spending compared to teams in a similar situation. The Raiders addressed the skill positions and the defensive line in an adequate financial manner. If there are positions you don’t want to go light on in today’s NFL, they are playmakers and pass rushers.
No matter the salary cap punishment, Ziegler and McDaniels were hellbent on cleaning up the last regime’s mistakes. The team is pretty much set for the next 2–5 years. Carr, Adams, Renfrow, Miller, Crosby, and Jones all see their cap hits rise next season, so there isn’t a ton of new money to add talent. Of course, they can manipulate the cap, but only so much wiggling can be done.
For this season, the Raiders are getting a good deal at quarterback. A ranking outside the Top 10 in quarterback cap hit when that quarterback isn’t on a rookie deal but can get you to the playoffs is a win for any franchise. The Raiders refused to spend on OL, LB, and the secondary. At linebacker, they have some good contacts. As far as the secondary, they have some young talent and some cheap contracts with potential.
And The Offensive Line?
As far as the offensive line, they are counting on major improvements, incredible play from young guys drafted in the late rounds or being able to completely scheme around a bad unit. Most good teams don’t heavily spend on running backs. The Raiders ranked 4th among last year’s playoff teams, and most of that cap hit came from Josh Jacobs (1st round rookie deal).
It was the Bengals (QB on rookie deal), the Cowboys (they must regret the Zeke contract), and the Titans (Derrick Henry is one of the last true workhorses) that spent more. I would say only the Titans got to the playoffs last year because of the value of that RB contract. The skill positions will have to carry this team. The offense is going to have to score in large sums. The AFC West is an arms race. The front office knew this and loaded up on offense. It should be a fun offense to watch, but if the offense isn’t Top 8, the Raiders will be watching playoff football from the coach in January.
The State Of The Raiders’ Future
The Raiders must win now, or they are in no man’s land. This team is not positioned for a rebuild and the franchise is married to Carr. Although Carr’s contracts have some escapes, the organization is in no position to go looking for another signal-caller. The defense is starting two major contracts with Crosby and Jones.
Teams with major contracts on defense can’t start over at quarterback. They went all in on the offensive skill positions as we discussed. And the cap hits only get higher after this season, so they are in no position to add major talent as far as a quarterback, unless they find one at pick 15 or later, which is extremely uncommon.
This season is going to be very revealing about how the next five years of Raiders football will go. If the team doesn’t return to the playoffs, the franchise is stuck in the middle, too committed to start over but not good enough to threaten for a Lombardi. If the Raiders are a 10+ win team this year, the franchise is in great shape. The core pieces are all locked in, and they just need to continue to supplement them. Essentially, the Raiders are committed to the path they are on, and we won’t know fully if that path is a five-year window of potential Super Bowls or five years of NFL purgatory until after this season.
*Top Photo: Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal