When the Oakland Raiders gave Derek Carr the infamous $125 million dollar contract extension, the Raider Nation had some very realistic expectations. Firstly, Carr would need to take the next step, becoming an elite NFL quarterback. Secondly, he’d need to help Oakland build on last year’s success, leading the team to the post-season and beyond. Well, it’s November, the Raiders are 4-6, and Carr has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns over the last three games. Now fans are saying it was a mistake to give Carr the contract extension. Are they right?
The Honest Truth About Derek Carr’s Contract
Should they have given Derek Carr the contract extension? Yes. Unequivocally yes. Why? There are three really obvious answers to this silly question. Firstly, is Derek Carr a franchise quarterback? Secondly, would someone else have paid him? And finally, is the contract actually as devastating as everyone seems to think? Let’s take a closer look.
Is Derek Carr a Franchise Quarterback?
Before Carr, who was the last bonafide franchise quarterback the Raiders had? Matt McGloin? No. Andrew Walter? Nope. Terrelle Pryor? Yeah, he plays receiver now, so probably not. The last real franchise quarterback the Oakland Raiders had before Derek was Rich Gannon. With the Raiders, Gannon made the Pro Bowl four times, was a two-time All-Pro, and won the coveted Most Valuable Player award in 2002.
The last time the Oakland Raiders won a playoff game, or appeared in a Super Bowl, it was Rich Gannon that was under center. Injuries cut his time in Oakland short, but during the four years where he was a full time starter, Gannon was the unquestioned franchise quarterback.
Well, during that time, he averaged 3,947 yards, 26 passing touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. He did that with a quality defense, hall of fame receivers in Tim Brown and Jerry Rice, and a top five rushing attack. Let’s compare those numbers to Carr’s.
Over the last 17 years, the game has changed dramatically in favor of offense. You can’t touch a receiver after five yards, and if you as much as smell the quarterback, it’s an automatic 15 yard penalty. In 2002, the average season for a top five quarterback included 4,134 passing yards, 26 passing touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. In 2016, the top five quarterbacks averaged 4,641 yards, 36 passing touchdowns, and 13 interceptions.
However, all this really does in highlight how important a franchise quarterback is in 2017. You need a bonafide franchise quarterback to be a Super Bowl competitor. Carr has been in the top ten in passing touchdowns and quarterback rating in each of the past two seasons, even if he’s had a rough 2017 so far. And if you still feel the need to compare numbers, Carr crushes Gannon.
During Carr’s first three seasons, he’s averaged 3,731 yards, 27 touchdowns, and only 10 interceptions. That includes three years where his teams have led the NFL in drops, and one year where his rushing attack was historically bad. When you just average the 2015 and 2016 seasons, Carr’s numbers absolutely demolish Gannon’s.
The Other Guys
Here’s the real killer though. Because it’s not just Gannon’s numbers that Carr crushes, it’s every other quarterback the Raiders have had over the last decade. If you think Carr is expendable, perhaps you’d rather have the likes of Connor Cook, Matt McGloin, EJ Manuel, Terrelle Pryor, Matt Flynn, Carson Palmer, Jason Campbell, Kyle Boller, Bruce Gradkowski, Charlie Frye, Andrew Walter, Josh McCown, Daunte Culpepper, or even JaMarcus Russell? Because the best quarterback on that list is Carson Palmer, and even Carr’s rookie numbers are better than Palmer’s best year in Oakland, which was inflated by plenty of garbage time.
But don’t just take my word for it. After all, it’s obvious that I’m a fan of Mr. Carr, since I want the Oakland Raiders to be competitive. What about an objective expert? What about the general manager or coach of another team? If the Raiders shared the ignorant opinion that the Raiders should’ve let Carr go, would other teams have picked him up?
And before anyone tries to dispute it, those are the options. A franchise tag would’ve actually been more expensive, and then the Raiders would have had to try and sign Khalil Mack and Derek Carr at the same time, which would’ve been almost impossible financially.
Would Someone Else Have Paid Carr?
This is another obvious yes, and it doesn’t take more than a five second google search to prove it. Just look at the $18.5 million contract that the Chicago Bears gave Mike Glennon. Rewind a year and look at the the $72 million contract that the Houston Texans gave Brock Osweiler. The Washington Redskins don’t even think they have a franchise quarterback in Kirk Cousins, but they’ve given him $43,896,600 over the last two seasons via the franchise tag.
If Derek Carr were to hit the open market, do you really think teams would send modest offers? The New York Jets are set to have over $60 million in cap space, do you really think they’d hesitate to give Carr half of that? What about other rich quarterback-needy teams like the Cleveland Browns or Jacksonville Jaguars? It would be an all-out bidding war and Carr would be able to name his price.
And if you really think Carr owes it to Oakland to take a discount and stick around, you’re crazy. If your boss asked you to take more responsibility for less money, would you do it? Absolutely not. The NFL is a cutthroat business, and they’ll discard you the minute they can find someone else to do your job at a cheaper rate. You’ve got to take every penny you can get.
If the Raiders hadn’t re-signed Carr, that would mean someone else would. After a decade of decadence at the quarterback position, the Silver and Black found a diehard fan in the second round with a cannon for an arm. Derek Carr on a bad day is still better than anything else the Raiders would have. He’s worth every penny, and believe it or not, that penny isn’t as pretty as you’d think.
How Bad is Carr’s Contract?
First of all, as flashy as a $125 million contract sounds, that’s not really what Carr’s contract is worth. Of that 125 million, only $40 million is actually guaranteed. While $40 million is a life-changing amount of money for 99% of the people on planet earth, it’s not even the most guaranteed money a franchise quarterback has received. Matt Stafford, Cam Newton, Joe Flacco, Andrew Luck, Aaron Rodgers, and Matt Ryan were all guaranteed more money at the time of signing than Carr.
In fact, Derek Carr is never going to be the NFL’s highest paid quarterback. Here’s the breakdown.
“Biggest Contract in Blah Blah Blah”
In 2017, nearly half of the league will start a quarterback making more money than Carr. This year, Carr’s only making $15,731,691. 15 quarterbacks, lead by Joe Flacco, are set to make more money this year.
In 2018, Carr will receive the rumored $25 million for the season, which is second to Matt Stafford’s $26,500,00. But to be fair, the next seven quarterbacks on the list of highest paid quarterbacks are making less than $2.1 than Carr.
In 2019, Carr takes a bit of a paycut, only making $22,500,000, which is only the ninth most in the NFL. Considering Derek Carr is easily a top ten quarterback, it’s not crazy to think he deserves at least the ninth biggest contract, yes?
In 2020, Carr breaks back into the top five with his $21,500,000 pay for the season, but just barely. And this is where things get a little funky because only 19 quarterbacks are under contract until 2020, and nine of them are rookie in 2017. And honestly, that’s the real secret of this deal.
The magic of Derek Carr’s contract? Is that he was never really “the highest paid player in NFL history” as the media claimed, and Matt Stafford’s contract snuffed that narrative out two months later. The likes of Matt Ryan, Dak Prescott, Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, Drew Brees, and Kirk Cousins are all going to be due for new contracts over the next couple of years, and will likely receive big contracts that will surpass Carr’s.
And for everyone that says the Raiders made a mistake, because now the Nation is stuck with Carr? A closer look at his contract says otherwise. After next season, if the Raiders are done with Carr, it would be relatively inexpensive to let him go. In 2019, it would only cost $7.5 million to cut the quarterback, and that’s only if there were no interested trade partners. Though, considering the Philadelphia Eagles got a first round pick for Sam Bradford, it’s highly unlikely that they wouldn’t be able to get a trade partner for a 28 year old Carr.
The Oakland Raiders believe they have a franchise quarterback, and they’re correct. Franchise quarterbacks are expensive, but worth the money. The Raiders were very bad for a very long time, and the biggest reason was that they didn’t have a franchise quarterback. The likes of Nnamdi Asomugha came and went, but they weren’t able to change Oakland’s fortunes like Derek Carr has.
The 2017 season has been a massive disappointment for the Silver and Black, and there’s a ton of blame to go around. Blame Reggie McKenzie for failing to build a deep, talented team. You can blame the coaching staff for holding back the talent that the team does have. And it’s fine to be disappointed in Carr, because he hasn’t experienced the same success as he has in previous seasons.
But don’t act like Carr isn’t a franchise quarterback. And don’t act like it was a bad idea to give him the contract out of spite. The contract was well done, and it’s not the reason the Raiders are bad this year. If the rumbles are correct and Derek Carr is an overrated bust, then the team can get out of this mess scot-free in two years. But in the meantime, try and enjoy the highs, and look forward to next year.