ALAMEDA — Despite the most salary cap room in the NFL, the Raiders declined to use the franchise tag Monday on either left tackle Jared Veldheer or defensive end Lamarr Houston.
When the 1 p.m. deadline came and went, Veldheer and Houston were five days away from being able to negotiate with other teams for their services.
The Raiders have more than $66 million available under a cap projected at just over $133 million. A one-year tag on Veldheer would have cost the Raiders $11.6 million, while keeping Houston as a franchise player would have cost $13.1 million.
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said following the season he would use the franchise tag if necessary but preferred to work out long-term deals with players the club wanted in its future.
Although the free agency period begins March 11, agents for players can begin soliciting offers from other teams on Saturday, potentially driving up the price. Players cannot sign during that three-day window, which was instituted by the NFL this season to try and limit tampering.