Oakland Raiders salary cap outlook: Lamarr Houston is a key free agent in 2014

Brian McIntyre
Shutdown Corner

The "Shutdown Countdown" is underway. In addition to previewing each team, "Shutdown Corner" will be taking a brief look at each team's salary cap situation heading into the 2013 season and beyond. We begin the series with the Oakland Raiders.

2013 Adjusted Cap Number: $126.683 million (16th-highest adjusted cap figure in the NFL)

2013 Cap Room Remaining: $7.628 million (16th-most available cap space, as of July 4). The Raiders have yet to sign first-round cornerback D.J. Hayden, second-round offensive tackle Menelik Watson and fourth-round quarterback Tyler Wilson. Those three draft choices will have first-year cap numbers totaling $3,266,552 and will have cap numbers large enough to crack the "Top 51" contracts that count against the salary cap prior to the start of the regular season. Those deals will replace contracts totaling $1.44 million in cap space, therefore, the Raiders will have $5.8 million in cap space once those three rookie contracts have been signed.

[Related: Will short-term pain lead to long-term gains for Raiders?]

Biggest Bargain: Stefen Wisniewski is one of the more underrated centers in the league. The 2011 second-round pick out of Penn State has been durable, playing in 100 percent of the Raiders' snaps as a rookie and 93.3 percent of the snaps last season. Wisniewski had just four accepted penalties in 2012 (three holding calls, one false start) and is exceptional in pass protection. Wisniewski will earn $750,946 in base salary this season with a $1.128 million cap figure, which is about 30 percent of what Samson Satele (the player Wisniewski replaced at center in Oakland) will cost the Indianapolis Colts in both cash and cap space this season.

Potential Camp Casualty: The Raiders have over $50 million in "dead" money on their 2013 salary cap as most of the cuts and restructures took place earlier this offseason. Only two players —running back Darren McFadden and kicker Sebastien Janikowski — have base salaries exceeding $2 million. Janikowski is safe, but the same cannot be said for McFadden. The No. 4 pick of the 2008 NFL draft has had durability issues, failing to play more than 13 games in a single season and missing an average of 4.6 games per year. McFadden is coming off a 2012 season where he averaged just 3.3 yards per carry, scored two touchdowns and was dead last among qualifying running backs in Football Outsiders' DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) metric, with his -155 DYAR being the lowest figure among regular running backs since Marcel Shipp's -168 DYAR during the 2005 season. McFadden is arguably the Raiders' most talented player and the team does not have much depth at the running back position, two factors that will likely keep him in Silver & Black this season. However, there are few could successfully argue that McFadden's production has or will match his $5.856 million base salary (which ranks fourth among NFL running backs and will become fully guaranteed in Week 1) or his $9.685 million cap figure (third-highest among NFL running backs), two figures that could make him vulnerable when the team is finalizing its opening week roster.

Looming Contract Issue: Many of the projected starters on the Raiders are not signed for the 2014 season. McFadden, Janikowski, Jared Veldheer, Marcel Reece, Jacoby Ford, Pat Sims, Vance Walker and Mike Jenkins will be unrestricted free agents, but no issue looms larger than defensive end Lamarr Houston, who is entering the fourth and final season of his rookie contract. Houston had five sacks as a rookie and tied for the team lead with four sacks during a 2012 season that saw him lead the Raiders with 12 tackles for a loss and 13 quarterback hits. If Houston can build off of his performance last season, he will earn a considerable raise over the $660,000 ($630,000 base salary plus a $30,000 workout bonus) he is slated to make in 2013.

Long-Term Cash/Cap Outlook: Around half of the Raiders' 90-man roster is unsigned for the 2014 season, including many key starters, so it comes as no surprise that the team has a league-low $58.3 million in salary cap commitments for next season. Some of that ($6.2 million) is comprised of "dead" money from the "post-June 1" designated release of safety Michael Huff that allowed the team to split his cap hit over the 2013 and 2014 seasons. In terms of cash, the Raiders have only $41.5 million committed to 2014, which is also a league-low.

Related coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
Former Raven Ray Lewis climbing Mount Kilimanjaro
Giants' Justin Tuck hoping for big comeback
Vigilante driving up price on Aaron Hernandez jerseys, not paying