The Oakland Raiders have plenty of cap space to spend this offseason, but general manager Reggie McKenzie has said multiple times that he will not overspend on anyone. That includes guys who played major roles on the team last season and who are scheduled to hit free agency. But despite that claim, there is a report from Tone Pauline that the Raiders may overpay for defensive lineman Lamarr Houston.
For one year, that is.
In their notes from the NFL combine, Draft Insider noted that the expectations are that the Raiders will use a tag on the defensive end who was easily their best defensive player in 2013. Which tag they will use, has yet to be seen but Draft Insider speculates that the transition tag would make more sense.
Using a tag on Houston could cost upwards of $12-13 million dollars. As good as Houston has been, he is not a pass rushing specialist and typically one has to be in order to secure that kind of contract. But if the Raiders use the much less popular transition tag, they could lower that price tag a little bit.
Unlike the franchise tag, which pays the average of the top five salaries at the position, the transition tag uses the top ten salaries, bringing the average down a little bit. Also unlike the franchise tag, a player who has been assessed the transition tag is allowed to negotiate with other teams, but the team that tagged him has the right of first refusal.
Using the transition tag would lower the price of Houston but also increase the chances that he is signed by another team. The Raiders may be willing to overpay for one season by using one of the tag designations, but they’d be unlikely to match a long-term contract that McKenzie deems too costly. If the Raiders use the transition tag rather than the franchise tag, they are hoping that Houston will find that the market is not ready to be as generous as he would like.
While the transition tag makes sense from a cost standpoint, it very well could change nothing. Houston is not a pass rusher, but he has shown himself to be one of the better run stopping defensive lineman in the league. If the Raiders are ok with overpaying Houston for one year, something I suggested in a piece earlier this month, it may be wiser to just lock him up with the franchise tag. It would be more expensive but would also be a certainty and allow McKenzie to focus on the rest of the many other issues facing the team.