In the deadline-driven business that is the NFL, sometimes the deadlines are artificial. The current deadline for Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is completely artificial, with Carr hinging the closing of the window to the opening to training camp.
This means that the Raiders likely will move to their bottom-line position not long before training camp opens, putting on the table an offer that will change Carr’s financial fortunes for the rest of his life — and that will shift the injury risk for 2017 back to the team. The offer surely will be much less than what Carr could get after the season, if/when he finishes his contract both healthy and effective.
So here’s a thought for Carr: Instead of tying the conclusion of talks to the start of training camp, why not just say right now, “I’m not going to consider a new deal until after the season”?
If Carr makes it through the year in mostly one piece, he’ll be in a position to secure a market-level deal or something very close to it. Alternatively, he can embark on the Kirk Cousins year-at-a-time franchise-tag dance, with an important twist.
Given that another team would surely pony up a gigantic offer to get Carr and gladly give up two first-round picks to make it happen (the Chiefs and Texans each gave up two first-round picks this year to get unproven quarterbacks), the Raiders would have to use the exclusive franchise tag to keep Carr off the market.
Based on 2017 cap numbers, the exclusive franchise tag would be at least $23.66 million. Come 2019, the 20-percent raise would kick the amount to $28.39 million. For 2020, the 44-percent mandatory increase would move to $40.89 million. That’s a bare minimum of $92.94 million over three years, if Carr is willing to go year-to-year, starting with this year.
The strategy entails risk, and Carr knows that well after breaking his leg on Christmas Eve. But the reward is likely much more than whatever the team will offer Carr right now.
That’s the comparison he needs to make: The ability to make at least $92.94 million from 2018 through 2020 against whatever the Raiders offer him on a long-term deal that will have only so much truly guaranteed money. If he thinks of it in those terms, Carr could be emboldened to drive a hard bargain, including at a minimum an effort to become the first player to tie his compensation in the out years of the deal to the ongoing increase of the salary cap by ensuring that he receives a predetermined percentage of the total cap each year as his overall compensation.
Before Marshawn Lynch joined the Raiders, I argued that the Raiders need Lynch more than Lynch needs the Raiders. That reality applies with even greater force to Carr, a budding franchise quarterback who will carry the franchise to Nevada, where it’s getting $750 million in free money to build a stadium. Carr should treat this business like the business it is and consider the value of waiting when faced with the lure of grabbing something far less than what he’d get if he opts for the year-to-year approach under the franchise tag, or for a shot at the truly open market.