The Oakland Raiders have made two big roster moves over the past two weeks. First, they re-signed starting strong safety Tyvon Branch to a long term seal. Then, this week, they traded wide receiver Louis Murphy to the Carolina Panthers for a draft pick. At first glance, these two moves do not appear to have much in common. They are on different sides of the ball and one player's career with Oakland got longer while another was cut short. But when you begin to question why the Raiders made these moves, a similarity suddenly starts to emerge, and that similarity is the impact that both moves had on the Raiders cap situation.
The Louis Murphy trade cleared approximately $1.26 million and the Branch extension cleared around $4 million and the two moves combined leave the Raiders with somewhere around $5 million dollars under the salary cap for the 2012 season. With the Raiders still in need of depth and quality players to challenge for starting positions, the big question is whether or not general manager Reggie McKenzie is making these moves with another big move in mind.
The first name that will come to everyone's mind is Cedric Benson. In a piece written earlier this off season, I noted that the Raiders did not have the cap room to sign Benson, even if he agreed to the veteran minimum. That fact is no longer true, as the Raiders now have enough money to sign Benson and another player if they so choose. However, just because they have the money does not mean that Benson will be wearing the Silver and Black anytime soon.
While both moves cleared cap room, they were also moves that needed to be made. Branch has led the team in tackles the last couple of seasons and has proven that he can be the Raiders starting strong safety for years to come. If the Raiders did not sign him to a long term deal, they could have lost him in free agency next off season. As for Murphy, with the glut of young receivers that the Raiders have, there was a good chance that Murphy would not even make the 53 man roster, so it was better to get something for him and not have to pay his salary.
Reggie McKenzie is likely not done working on the Raiders roster, but he is also not likely to make a move immediately. With training camp starting on the 29th, it is much more likely that McKenzie will take the time to really evaluate what he has on his roster. After trading for Mike Goodson, there is a good chance that McKenzie wants to see what his two back up running backs look like in camp before deciding whether to spend the extra cap money on Benson. If the running back situation looks strong, do not be surprised if Benson does not become a Raider and McKenzie chooses to sign a corner back or linebacker, the two defensive positions that strongly need some more quality players.