The Oakland Raiders made the first major cut of the 2016 NFL offseason, releasing safety Nate Allen on Tuesday. After making the move, the Raiders have even more cap flexibility when looking to improve their team for the upcoming season.
Prior to last season, Allen signed a four-year contract worth $23 million, $11.8 million of which was guaranteed. Allen’s $4.9 million salary for the 2016 season would have been guaranteed had the team not released him, and the move saves Oakland $5 million in salary cap space.
The decision to give Allen such a lucrative deal was a perplexing one at the time, and the safety barely contributed anything during his one season in Oakland. A year after starting for a Philadelphia Eagles defense that ranked 31st against the pass, the 28-year-old tore his MCL and played only five games in 2015.
With Allen gone, the Raiders have more money to spend in free agency than any other NFL team. According to Spotrac, Oakland has more than $79 million in salary cap space, putting them nearly $4 million ahead of the Jacksonville Jaguars. No other NFL team is more than $57 million under the cap.
Oakland was much improved last season with a 7-9 record, but they still have to spend money to get better in a few areas of need. The Raiders’ pass defense was probably their biggest weakness, and the retirement of Rod Woodson gives them even more reason to sign a top safety in free agency. With the ability to hand out a few lucrative contracts, a free agent safety like Eric Weddle could be a potential get for the Raiders.
The Raiders have been one of the NFL’s worst franchises since they last reached the Super Bowl in 2002, but they will likely be an attractive destination to free agents for the first time in a few years. The team has a bright future with one of the league’s best young quarterbacks in Derek Carr and young offensive playmakers. By adding the right pieces, they could be headed for their first winning season in 14 years after having a four-win improvement last season. General manager Reggie McKenzie enters the 2016 NFL Draft with eight picks.
Only 44 players are signed to Oakland’s roster for next season. Defensive tackle Dan Williams and center Rodney Hudson have the largest base salaries at $7.35 million.
Playing in the AFC West with the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos, the Raiders won’t have an easy time making the playoffs next season. Oakland also has to contend with the Kansas City Chiefs, who went 11-5 with a postseason win.