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 (PST) 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 after 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 Saturday, potentially driving up the price. Players cannot sign during that three-day window, which was instituted by the NFL this season in an attempt to limit tampering.
Veldheer missed the first 11 games of the 2013 season after surgery to repair a torn left triceps. He has stated on numerous occasions he wants to remain with the Raiders and be part of the building process.
Houston, considered a leader by example and a versatile lineman who can play inside and outside, said after the season he thought it might be time to move on, but coach Dennis Allen and McKenzie have both said they would like to keep him.
Despite just six sacks last season, Houston's market value was enhanced when two coveted defensive ends -- Greg Hardy of Carolina and Brian Orakpo of Washington -- were given franchise tags by their teams.
Veldheer was a third-round draft pick out of Division II Hillsdale in 2010, and Houston arrived in the second round out of Texas that same season.
Other Raiders who are free to negotiate with other teams Saturday if they have not been re-signed are running backs Rashad Jennings and Darren McFadden, defensive tackles Vance Walker and Daniel Muir, safeties Charles Woodson and Usama Young, cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter, wide receiver Jacoby Ford, defensive end Jason Hunter, cornerback Phillip Adams, tight end Jeron Mastrud, guard-center Andre Gurode and tackle Tony Pashos.
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