Raiders Cut or Keep: Austin Howard might not be done with the Raiders

TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 30: The Raiders linemen wait at the huddle during an NFL football game between the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers on October 30, 2016, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL . (Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire)

The Oakland Raiders have a need at right tackle. As the season progressed, it became more and more clear that the hard work of offensive line coach was making up for a rather lackluster play by Austin Howard and at times, Menelik Watson. But despite right tackle being one of the biggest needs on the team and easily the biggest need on offense, Austin Howard is likely to be with the team again next season.

That doesn’t mean the Raiders won’t try to upgrade over Howard, and there’s at least a decent chance that they find someone who will beat Howard out for the starting right tackle job. The problem is, Howard’s contract is not yet at the point where they can cut him without any pain.

Howard’s cap number is over $6 million so Oakland would clearly prefer not to pay that. Howard has been serviceable at best but not a guy worth that much money. But Howard’s contract makes it so that the Raiders would only be able to save $3.6 million by cutting Howard. Sure, that’s still a savings, but let’s not forget that creating a hole on the roster requires filling a hole on the roster.

Menelik Watson is a free agent and likely destined to be signed by another team. While the Raiders will need to sign some new talent at tackle, whether it be through free agency or the draft, they will also need capable backups. Cutting Howard saves $3.6 million, but unless Oakland is able to sign someone for significantly cheaper who is still a capable backup, that won’t be the actual savings from cutting him.

Howard may not be a very good starting right tackle, but he would make for very good depth. He has a ton of starting experience and is also familiar with both the Raiders playbook and his offensive line teammates. Let’s just say for argument’s sake, the Raiders are able to find a tackle for $1 million. That would save $2.6 million, but the chances of finding a backup with Howard’s talent and experience for that money is slim. More than likely, the Raiders will downgrade the position in order to save what amounts to a rather small portion of the cap.

BUT, and this is a big but. If the Raiders decide to cut Howard after June 1 of this year, the Raiders would only be on the hook for $1.4 million and would save $5 million cutting Howard. The problem is, come June 1, the Raiders may no longer want to cut Howard. If they could cut him now and save that money, it would make sense. Come June 1, the Raiders will likely have already re-signed or extended major players like Derek Carr. Free agency and the draft will be over and only scraps would be available to be signed. At that point, unless the Raiders are in cap trouble (which I doubt they would be), there just isn’t as much incentive to cut a guy like Howard, who can still provide value to this team

Howard is not destined to be with the Silver and Black for a whole lot longer, but he could be destined for at least one more season.

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