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Raiders’ signings won’t hurt 2015 salary cap

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ALAMEDA, Calif. — In assembling the veteran talent that has played a role in the Oakland Raiders 0-9 record, general manager Reggie McKenzie at least structured the deals so the franchise won’t be affected under the salary cap in 2015.

Besides bringing in young talent in the draft, the philosophy was to sign players who maybe had one or two good years left on the field who could also serve as mentors to those selected in the draft.

There were 11 notable veteran free-agent signings with a potential payout of over $85 million, but McKenzie essentially structured them as “pay-as-you-go” deals with the exception of right guard Austin Howard.

Howard, who had been a right tackle for the Jets, was the lone big-ticket item in terms of prorated money. With a six-year, $30 million deal, Howard would create $5.5 million in dead money in 2015 should the Raiders determine he wasn’t worth it

It hasn’t been a particularly good year for Howard in his shift to guard, and it remains to be seen whether a new coaching staff would want him to stay there or move back to tackle. The contract means it is likely he will stay.

As for the rest of the veteran free agents, cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers and defensive end C.J. Wilson were all on one-year contracts, while the others could be released with minimal impact on the 2015 salary cap.

As it stands, McKenzie may or may not be back as the general manager, but at least he left himself or the next regime in good stead for another shot at a rebuild.

Defensive linemen under contract next season include end Justin Tuck, tackle Antonio Smith and end LaMarr Woodley. Tuck has battled knee issues, Smith awaits his first sack as a three-technique tackle and Woodley is on injured reserve with a torn biceps.

Left tackle Donald Penn has been solid in pass protection, doing his best to keep quarterback Derek Carr clean, but the Raiders have not been able to run the ball. Kevin Boothe, signed for depth at center and guard, has yet to play a snap.

Wide receiver James Jones leads the Raiders with 47 receptions for 463 yards and three touchdowns and has played more snaps than any other wideout. Averaging just 9.9 yards per reception, Jones gained only 20 yards on eight catches in a 41-17 loss to the Denver Broncos.

Yards have also been tough to come by for running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who has 29 rushes for 64 yards (2.2 yards per carry).

Interim head coach Tony Sparano believes the veteran players have held up their end in terms of being good examples for rookie players such as Carr, linebacker Khalil Mack, guard Gabe Jackson and others in a strong rookie class.

“They’re really an unselfish group of guys,” Sparano said. “Kevin Boothe, here’s a veteran player who hasn’t played a snap and is side by side with Stefen Wisniewski brainstorming and being a positive influence in that room.

“The mettle of that group is tested now in the second half of the season. We are where we are — where we put ourselves. That group has to continue to stay strong and keep the young players focused.”

Tuck, who deflected a Peyton Manning pass and intercepted it against Denver but has been playing with a bad knee, doesn’t think that will be a problem.

“Even though it seems like we’re down right now, we’ll come back ready to play,” Tuck said. “That’s the only thing we can do. Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us and we damned sure aren’t going to feel sorry for ourselves. We’ve got a job to do and we’ll come in here and do it like every other week.”

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