Oakland Raiders cornerback Sean Smith has the fourth highest cap hit on the Raiders’ roster in 2017, yet he is obviously not the fourth best player on the team and comes nowhere close to cracking the top 10.
Smith’s $9.5 million cap hit, per Spotrac, lands him in dangerous waters. He is due No. 1 cornerback money, but will probably be the No. 3 or No. 4 cornerback on the team this fall. Moreover, Oakland ranked just No. 24 against the pass in 2016, so being third or fourth on the depth chart is nothing to get excited about.
The Raiders will be moving on from Smith at some point. Whether it is this year or next year, we do not know.
If Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie wants to see Smith in a new uniform in 2017, here are McKenzie’s options.
Cut Raiders CB Sean Smith
Many of Raider Nation might clamor for Smith to be cut, however, that would make zero sense for the football team.
If McKenzie chooses to cut him, he would only save the franchise $250,000 since $9.25 million would still count against the cap as dead money, via Spotrac. Therefore, there is absolutely no benefit to seeing Smith cut this season.
Oakland would also not be able to find an equally talented replacement for $250,000. In addition, Smith has performed poorly, for his price tag, but is still a decent starting cornerback in the NFL as long as the team plays around his weaknesses.
If no cap space is to be gained from his departure, it is safe to say he will be on the roster come Week 1 of the NFL regular season unless McKenzie surprises the NFL by making a trade.
Lastly, the Raiders can cut Smith in 2018 without penalty since there would be no dead money by releasing him then.
Trade Raiders CB Sean Smith
A trade scenario is extremely unlikely since McKenzie has never been eager to make trades and no team would want to take on Smith’s contract without getting something in return.
Regardless, here is a hypothetical trade scenario that would help out two teams and send Smith out of Oakland.
First and foremost, the Raiders must find a team that is not expecting to win this season and has cap space to spare.
Luckily, the three teams with the most cap space, the San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars, are not expected to be a winning team in 2017.
Proposed trade: Raiders’ Sean Smith and 2018 6th round pick to San Francisco
Currently, the 49ers’ two starting cornerbacks, Dontae Johnson and Rashard Robinson, have Pro Football Focus player grades of 65.8 and 50.4 respectively.
If Smith came in, he would immediately become a starter Day 1 and could give valuable leadership to the young pieces in San Francisco. After Smith’s one year with the Niners, the organization could release him without any penalty and would have accrued an extra sixth round selection to help build the team for the future.
In regards to Oakland, McKenzie would be extremely hesitant to part ways with a sixth round draft pick, but he would save the team $5.25 million, via Spotrac.
With Carr and Jackson’s recent contracts and Mack’s future contract, $5.25 million could go a long way in helping keep the Raiders’ young core together. In essence, the $5.25 million could be more valuable than having one sixth round pick in 2018.
Maybe, that $5.25 million will help bring Raiders tackle Donald Penn to training camp.
What McKenzie should do
Personally, parting ways with any assets is not the smartest move for the Raiders.
Oakland should keep Smith on the 53 man roster and cut him the following season. Then, they can have his services for 2017, not lose any draft picks and move on from him in 2018 when they can do so without hurting the team’s cap space.