After Raiders quarterback Derek Carr signed a contract that made him the highest-paid player in league history, he claimed that he did the deal to allow the Raiders to sign other key players, a contention that didn’t really make a whole lot of sense at the time because Carr is, you know, the highest-paid player in league history.
Appearing Monday on The Dan Patrick Show, Carr reiterated his claim, pivoting to the topic after Dan asked whether the deal was backloaded for tax reasons, since there’s no state income tax in Nevada.
“I mean in a very small sense of it, yes,” Carr said. “I didn’t really care about getting all the cash in my hands right now. I trust [G.M.] Reggie [McKenzie] and when he told me . . . they love me and they want me here forever, so I said if that’s the case . . . let’s try and push some of that back, obviously, you know, for tax reasons and those things but also, more importantly, the No. 1 reason why I wanted to do that is because we have guys coming up that we needed to get signed, and I wanted to help the team do that. So getting guys like Gabe Jackson, getting guys like Khalil [Mack], you know, Amari [Cooper is] gonna come up at some point. I wanted to make sure we could keep our team together. And that’s the No. 1 reason we did it is I did not want to hurt my team and have some of my best friends leave and go play somewhere else.”
It continues to sound very good and honorable on the surface, but it continues to not make a whole lot of sense when scrutinized. Again, he’ll be making more per year in “new money” than anyone who has ever played football before. Unless Carr is suggesting that he could have or should have gotten $27 million or $30 million or $35 million per year and voluntary chose not to pursue those amounts, he’s hardly giving the Raiders a hometown discount.
More importantly, the deal isn’t really backloaded at all, as the full contractual breakdown published recently by PFT makes clear. From a cash flow standpoint, Carr gets an average of $23.75 million over the first two years, when the team definitely will be in California. After that, the per-year average drops by more than $4 million, to $19.625 million annually.
Also, the structure didn’t create maximum cap space in 2017, which reportedly is the reason for Mack not getting a new contract until next year at the earliest. Carr could have easily left at least $10 million in cap space behind on the exact same deal, giving the Raiders the space they would have needed to sign Mack now.
Finally, as to the notion that the Raiders “love me and they want me here forever,” we know by now how the game works, don’t we? In the non-guaranteed out years of the deal (Carr has three of them, if we overlook the mere $2.9 million that is guaranteed for injury and, eventually, in full for 2020), the team has the year-to-year option to decide whether to keep paying the money promised in the contract, whether to squeeze the player to take less, or whether to simply move on.
So it’s more accurate to say the Raiders love him and want him there until they no longer love him, and that this contract delays the Raiders from falling out of love with him until 2020 at the earliest. While it’s entirely possible that Carr will continue to earn the team’s affection deep into the next decade, his contract is the latest example of how, after the first two or three years, NFL contracts are a one-way street.