Las Vegas Raiders’ salary cap situation heading into 2021

After a somewhat promising season in 2020, what is the Las Vegas Raiders’ salary cap situation entering the 2021 NFL season? Let’s take a look at the Raiders’ salary cap situation, as well as which players they could release, restructure, or extend to create additional salary cap space in 2021.

The Raiders project to be around $16 million under the salary cap in 2021

As of March 5, the 2021 NFL salary cap projects to be around $185 million. The Raiders will carry over $3.6 million in cap space to the 2021 season, as well as having a $4.2 million adjustment applied to their cap per Spotrac. Therefore, the Raiders’ current salary cap projects to be $192.7 million.

As it stands, the Raiders have around $175.8 million in commitments to their top 51 highest-paid players, with an additional $1.2 million in dead money. As such, the Raiders are currently around $15.7 million under the salary cap heading into 2021.

To view the most up-to-date numbers for the Las Vegas Raiders’ salary cap space, check out our team by team 2021 salary cap space article, which is updated daily.

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Las Vegas has a handful of potential options for releasing players

With somewhat limited salary cap space heading into the 2021 NFL season, general manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden have some tough decisions to make to be big players in free agency. Which players could be surplus to requirements in Las Vegas in 2021?

Could Marcus Mariota be on his way out of Las Vegas?

Quarterback Marcus Mariota was brought in to provide competition for Derek Carr. Mariota did not start for the Raiders in 2020, however, and was only featured in one game when Carr was injured.

Heading into the second year of his contract, Mariota schedules to count $11.4 million against the Raiders’ salary cap in 2021. However, rumors surfaced that the Raiders were actively shopping him for a trade this offseason.

As a trade appears to have not yet materialized, all eyes now turn to whether Mariota will be released. With Carr seemingly entrenched as the starter in Las Vegas, $11.4 million is a lot for a backup QB. Mariota has no guaranteed money on his deal. Therefore, the Raiders could save all $11.4 million if they were to release him this offseason.

Trent Brown could be on his way out of Las Vegas

The Las Vegas Raiders signed OT Trent Brown to a four-year, $66 million contract in 2019. However, the structure of the deal makes it possible for the Raiders to move on from Brown this offseason. The deal contained no signing bonus, and the guarantees only ran for the first two years. Therefore, with Brown about to count $14 million against the Raiders’ salary cap for 2021, they have multiple options.

Rumors have swirled around a potential trade. This would be ideal for the Raiders. They would be left with no dead money while also receiving some compensation for Brown and saving $14 million in salary cap space in 2021.

Alternatively, the Raiders could release Brown, saving the $14 million, but receive no draft capital compensation. A third option would be to ask Brown to take a pay cut. However, this would require him to agree to do so, and he may prefer to take his chance on the open market this offseason.

Will Lamarcus Joyner be released after just two seasons?

The Raiders brought Joyner in on a four-year deal. However, the guarantees on that deal have now passed, meaning the Raiders have an option to move on from the deal.

The returns from Joyner have been fine in the past two seasons. However, he has played less than 70 percent of the Raiders’ defensive snaps in both seasons. Joyner is due to count $11.2 million against the Raiders’ salary cap in 2021. Releasing him would see the Raiders save $8.7 million, but there are limited options in terms of experienced replacements on the roster if they do.

Who else could the Raiders look to release in 2021?

The Raiders have some other options for releasing players in 2021. Let’s take a look at who they could release to save more than $2 million in cap space.

  • Arden Key, EDGE – Cap savings: $2.2 million; Dead money: $206,594
  • Brandon Parker, OT – Cap savings: $2.2 million; Dead money: $265,606
  • Jeff Heath, S – Cap savings: $3.2 million; Dead money: $0
  • Maurice Hurst, IDL – Cap savings: $2.2 million; Dead money: $79,761

The Raiders have players they can extend or restructure to create cap space in 2021

The Raiders have a handful of names to consider for both extensions and restructures this offseason.

The offensive line will be a big focus for the Raiders

With uncertainty swirling around Trent Brown’s future, the Raiders may look to secure the future of the rest of their offensive line. Richie Incognito missed all but two games last season and was set to enter 2021 aged 38. Ian Rapoport reported on March 5 that the Raiders intend to release Incognito. His release saves the Raiders $5.5 million in salary cap space in 2021.

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The bigger decision will revolve around Kolton Miller. Miller improved significantly in 2020. Per Sports Info Solutions, Miller was credited as allowing just 2 sacks and 19 blown blocks in 2020. Those numbers are significantly lower than his first two years in the league.

With a decision to make surrounding his fifth-year option for 2022, the Raiders may decide to get ahead of it and extend him. As of now, Miller will count $4.3 million against the Raiders’ salary cap for 2021. However, the Raiders could lock him up long-term while also saving a potential $1.1 million this season.

The Raiders have a number of options for potential contract restructures

Derek Carr is set to count $22.1 million against the Raiders’ salary cap in 2021. That number dips to $19.9 million in 2022. Therefore, the Raiders could look to move some of that money in 2021 into 2022.

This could be either with a signing bonus or by guaranteeing the money next season. The Raiders could also look to add void years to Carr’s deal to further reduce his cap number in 2021, spreading the cost into 2022. While not impossible, it seems unlikely the Raiders would commit to an extension for Carr in the 2021 offseason.

Related | Top Las Vegas Raiders’ pending free agents in 2021

Some other names that the Raiders could consider for restructures as they look to challenge the Kansas City Chiefs in 2021 include:

  • Carl Nassib, EDGE – potential cap savings: $4.3 million
  • Cory Littleton, LB – potential cap savings: $7.7 million
  • Darren Waller, TE – potential cap savings: $3.6 million
  • Nick Kwiatkoski, LB – potential cap savings: $3.3 million
  • Rodney Hudson, C – potential cap savings: $6.6 million

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Ben Rolfe is a Senior Managing Editor at Pro Football Network and is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can find him on Twitter @BenRolfePFN.

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