What will it cost to keep Derek Carr from going the Kirk Cousins route?

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Of all the players who could have decided to let their rookie contracts expire and play year-to-year since the NFL and NFL Players Association made it considerably more expensive to franchise-tag for a third time in 2006, Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins would have been low on the list of candidates.

But Cousins has become the year-to-year guinea pig (that swine is currently dining on filet mignon), primarily because Washington bungled its shot at getting Cousins under contract at a much more affordable rate before he cashed the last game check under his rookie deal, and the franchise-tag dance began. Two years later, Cousins has made $19.95 million, triggered another $23.94 million, and sits 16 games away from the doomsday scenario for D.C.: a cost of $34.47 million to apply the franchise tag a third time.

Others will now benefit from Washington’s mistake. In Oakland, the Raiders see what can (will) happen if they don’t break the bank now for quarterback Derek Carr, who wants a new deal before training camp opens or not at all this year. The unmistakable message: Oakland’s chance to avoid the Kirk Cousins scenario expires in a matter of weeks.

The situation also gives the Raiders a clear example of what’s behind Door No. 2 if they don’t sign Carr now before assuming the risk of a year-to-year scenario that could see Oakland (and eventually Las Vegas) shelling out far more millions later if they don’t marry Carr now.

Ultimately, the question becomes what will it take to get Carr signed? Given that the market for quarterbacks hasn’t grown at the same rate as the salary cap has mushroomed in recent years (it’s up 35 percent from 2013 to 2017), the Raiders can justify making Carr the highest paid player in year history at $25 million per year because, frankly, someone already should be making $30 million per year.

The deeper question is how hard of a bargain will Carr drive? Between Tom Brady’s notoriously team-friendly approach (if Mike Glennon is worth $16 million per year, how much could Brady get, if he wanted to push for every last penny?) and Peyton Manning’s f–k-you-pay-me strategy lies a balance where the player is more-than-handsomely compensated and the team is more than capable of putting a quality lineup around him, given the constraints of the salary cap.

At $25 million per year, Carr would be consuming only 14.9 percent of the current cap. In 2004, Manning signed a deal worth $14.17 million per year, the cap was $80.582 million, and the burden was 17.59 percent. (Two years later, he hoisted a Lombardi Trophy in a driving South Florida rainstorm.)

Any team that has found a young franchise quarterback, has no viable options for replacing him, and has no interest in hoping to get lucky with another roll of the dice on draft day needs to keep the player at any cost. Or, more accurately, at a cost much lower than the $78 million Washington could be paying Cousins from 2016 through 2018, with no rights to him for 2019 or beyond.

For the player, the zeal to squeeze a billionaire must be tempered by the risk of serious injury or ineffectiveness. But how many great young quarterbacks suddenly lose their ability to play great — and how many quarterback injuries are truly career ending? Other than Robert Griffin III, who had one great year, tore an ACL, and never saw his career recover, budding franchise quarterbacks tend to become (and remain) full-fledged franchise quarterbacks.

So Carr’s risk of not meriting the year-to-year franchise tag is small, Oakland’s eventual financial responsibility is significant, and if Carr will take $25 million per year the Raiders should print the contract and sign it now — before Carr realizes that he also should insist that he still will be paid 14.9 percent of the cap in 2019 and beyond.

14 responses to “What will it cost to keep Derek Carr from going the Kirk Cousins route?

  1. You failed to bring up another QB’s fate from that same 2014 draft class: Teddy Bridgewater. He blew up his leg in practice and so the Vikes are not going to pay him (for now anyway). You think that MIGHT be on Carr’s mind, if not his agent’s?

  2. Kirk Zcousins shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath as Derek Carr. Mike Glennon maybe.

  3. Derek Carr is the future and nobody should make more than him, even the great Tom Brady, who’s best days are behind him.

  4. This is the exact reason why everyone attacked the Dolphins when they “had” to sign Tannehill for $18M. He is not Elite and never will be (although Carr has more upside). The problem is teams have to either start over or agree to current $24M+ deals when they are not completely sold on the QB. 2 facts you all need to get over… Franchise QBs are very tough to find and everyone of them will be overpaid!

  5. Start at 23M, goes up 1 mil per year …total 6 year deal with average payout 25.5 M… when its done his last year is 28M… the salary cap will be going up and so should his salary.

  6. Keep in mind that its a zero sum game.
    If you think a QB is being cheated and should make 30MM, then thats coming out of other players contracts, not the owners.
    There is a hard cap, so pay Carr or Cousins or whoever 30MM, and then make do with scrub line backers and no name running backs.
    Its one thing to pay a QB 25MM, but 30MM? For Brady in his prime, yeah, but not for a decent but not great QB.

  7. Silliness! Carr will make hundreds of millions as the face of the Raiders in Las Vegas; why fight over a far smaller amount of money?

  8. The QB market (ignore Cousins for the moment) has flattened out. 20+ million a year is enough. I want to be the highest paid, so we give you a .1M more per year than the last guy. To them it is noise. To us normal folk 100K/year is serious money, at a certain number it ceases to be money and becomes a status war. Brady makes enough. He can win the status war: “I have a super model for a wife. When I married her she was the hottest woman on the planet. ”
    Assuming Carr does not hook up with a super model, he wants the “respect” of being the top paid QB for a day. That’s all it is at this point

  9. The only reason Cousins hasn’t gotten paid is that the Redskins don’t believe he is a franchise qb yet, and for good reason.

    Carr is clearly a franchise qb, and will get an Andrew Luck offer (or better) from the Las Vegas team.

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