ALAMEDA, Calif. — The Raiders plan a significant roster overhaul this offseason.
A few players recently learned they won’t be affected.
Wide receiver Jordy Nelson, linebacker Tahir Whitehead, tight end Lee Smith and linebacker Kyle Wilber all received an assurance this week that they’re part of the team’s plans. All four were scheduled to make a roster bonus of varying amounts in March. Each received that amount here in December to provide the Raiders about $5 million in additional salary cap space for 2019.
ESPN first reported the maneuvering. The 2019 roster bonuses were restructured into 2018 signing bonuses, people familiar with the terms said.
That means, for cap purposes, the bonus’s impact becomes prorated across each year of the player’s contract rather than the entire hit coming next year.
For example, Nelson was due a $3.6 million bonus if still on the roster by a stipulated date in March. Had the Raiders allowed that date to pass with Nelson on the roster, the $3.6 million would have counted against the salary cap next year.
By the Raiders fully guaranteeing the amount now, $1.8 million will impact the 2018 salary cap, and $1.8 million will affect the 2019 cap.
Nelson’s contract is set to expire after the 2019 season.
“Normally when you hand out a bonus for next year’s season,” coach Jon Gruden said Friday, “there’s a pretty good chance those guys are coming back. If you watched Jordy play carefully the last four weeks when he’s been healthy, you see what he’s capable of doing.
“As we continue to improve this football team around some of the core guys that are here, I think you can even see better and better days ahead. So yeah, he’ll be back.”
Whitehead, previously due a $3.325 million roster bonus, is under contract through the 2020 season. His bonus now counts $1,108,833 this year, next year and in 2020.
Smith, under contract through 2020, had a $1.1 million bonus. It counts roughly $366,667 this year, next year and in 2020.
Wilber had a $500,000 bonus. That’s $250,000 in 2018 and $250,000 next year before he’s scheduled to become a free agent in 2020.
The Raiders cleared a total of $4,999,500 in 2019 cap space while committing $1,475,500 in 2020 cap room. Effectively, they’ve further positioned themselves to be serious spenders in free agency next March. They possess about $80 million in projected cap space.
— Cornerback Gareon Conley (concussion) and defensive tackle Mo Hurst Jr. (ankle) were listed questionable to play Sunday at the Kansas City Chiefs. Defensive back Montrel Meander (quad) was ruled out.
— This week’s bonus restructures did not diffuse one offseason storyline. Backup quarterback A.J. McCarron is due a $3 million bonus if he remains on the roster come March 15. Barring a restructure, $1.1 million of his $1.8 million salary for next year will become fully guaranteed, too, if still a Raider on March 17. McCarron is not considered a lock to be awarded these guarantees.