Raiders Sign Austin Howard, Grading the Move and What It Means for Oakland

The much-anticipated start to free agency for the Oakland Raiders ended with a thud on the first day, as the team signed former New York Jets right tackle Austin Howard. The Raiders spent the majority of Tuesday focused on offensive linemen.

The second day was a nightmare, but they rebounded on the third day by signing pass-rushers Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley.

As first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Raiders gave Howard a five-year, $30 million contract with $15 million guaranteed. As is often the case with the first report, the amounts are inflated—even the guaranteed money.

It’s a big chunk of change for a low-profile right tackle and the move prompted widespread scorn from Raider Nation and the national media. The problem is no one waited to see the structure of the deal before freaking out.

According to Over the Cap, Howard’s 2015 base salary and $5 million roster bonus are guaranteed for injury only. That means the Raiders can get out of the deal after one year and $8 million or choose to pay Howard $7 million in 2015.

Howard would be cheaper thereafter, with cap numbers of $5 million at most and no guarantees from 2016 to 2018. It’s front-loaded to take advantage of the Raiders’ salary-cap space, but it isn’t a salary-cap monstrosity we’re used to seeing the team give to unproven players.

While it’s easy to bash general manager Reggie McKenzie, the deal makes a lot of sense for the rebuilding Raiders. The cliche is that good teams build from the inside out and the Raiders are doing just that so far.

The media and fans aren’t always privy to what other teams are willing to spend or how teams set values on free agents. Whether the Raiders overpaid or not is impossible to determine at this moment.

Now that we know the details of Howard’s contract, the structure of the deal is g...

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