The Oakland Raiders are flush with the most salary cap space in the NFL as free agency beings in March. With more than 60 million to improve a roster in need to help, the Raiders have the ability to lock up their cornerstone players. That will be the case for defensive end Lamarr Houston, but only if the price is right.
Houston is the Raiders best defensive linemen and led the team with six sacks last season. He has proven his worth on the field with hustle and toughness. He is an absolute priority to re-sign this offseason after left tackle Jared Veldheer. He finished the 2013 season with 69 tackles, six tackles for loss and two forced fumbles to go along with the six sacks. His production fell off towards the end of the season, only recording one sack in the last six games.
According to spotrac.com, the top 10 defensive end contracts range from Julius Peppers at just less than 14 million in base salary to Cameron Wake at 5.8 million in base salary. Houston falls outside of that in terms of production. He ranked tied for 53rd in the NFL in sacks last year. The next 15 top paid defensive ends in base salary earn between 3 and 5 million per season. That is the range the Raiders will use to determine Houston's value. A number in that range would shows Houston his value to the team and still gives the Raiders flexibility to improve their roster further.
Because general manager Reggie McKenzie has been handcuffed by bad contracts in his first two seasons with the Raiders, it is unclear how he will handle the excessive cap space. From what he has shown, McKenzie will be prudent and finically responsible. He locked up both Tyvon Branch and Marcel Reece to cap savvy numbers. Branch agreed to a four year deal worth in the neighborhood of 26 million. Reece got his three year extension for around 11 million.
McKenzie has made it clear that he wants Houston back in the silver and black. Houston deserves to be paid for what he has already given to the organization and what he can provide going forward. The Raiders are trying to find some roster continuity and that begins with bringing both Houston and Veldheer back. If the Raiders let Houston hit the open market some owner or general manager could make him a godfather deal, but that will not be McKenzie. He knows how difficult it was to dig out of the salary cap disaster of the previous years.
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