Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay and quarterback Andrew Luck are certainly ecstatic over the Pro Bowler’s new five-year, $140 million contract, the richest in NFL history. And certainly the Colts fan base is happy they won’t have to hear story after story about Luck’s lack of an extension throughout the upcoming training camp and the 2016 season, especially after all the drama surrounding head coach Chuck Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson last year.
Luck’s now the highest paid player in the NFL, and his high-tide contract will raise every other quarterback’s ship in the league, while the Colts try to get back to the Super Bowl.
But for an emerging team like the Oakland Raiders, who haven’t whiffed the playoffs for 14 years, Luck’s new deal could lead to difficulties extending budding quarterback Derek Carr, which could cascade into All-Pro linebacker and defensive end Khalil Mack and second-year stud receiver Amari Cooper.
Carr, as well as Mack, were the key prizes during Oakland’s 2014 draft process and while neither is up for a new deal until 2018, Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie will have to look that far down the road and even further in order to keep a promising core together.
Specifically, Carr has grown tremendously after two seasons in Oakland and should he take another leap in 2016 the Raiders will have to seriously consider extending his deal well before 2018.
That isn’t to say Carr will command the same amount as Luck, who’s led the Colts as far as the AFC Championship game and has posted four-straight 11-win seasons. Still, Luck was trounced 45-7 by the New England Patriots for that AFC title, and he managed to secure $87 million in guaranteed money. That’s $20 million more than Seattle’s Russell Wilson (1-1 record in Super Bowls) and Carolina’s Cam Newton (reached one Super Bowl).
Thus, Indianapolis has set a new precedent for young quarterbacks: Consistently make the postseason and guaranteed millions await. All Carr needs to do is lead Oakland back to the postseason and Raider Nation will immediately clamor for McKenzie and owner Mark Davis to lock him down for the foreseeable future.
Carr, 25, displayed excellent growth last season and there’s reason to believe he’ll only get better in 2016. He upped his completion percentage to 61.1, threw for 3,987 yards, and tossed 32 touchdowns compared to 21 in his rookie season. With ferocious pass rusher Mack on the other side of the ball, Carr was able to lift Oakland to a 7-9 record, the franchise’s best run since 2011. It’s important to note, five of those losses were by a touchdown or less, something head coach Jack Del Rio will undoubtedly work on this coming year.
And similar to Wilson, should Carr develop as Oakland hopes, he will look for some pay back from his rookie deal. Carr will make roughly $3.1 million in salary in 2016 and 2017 combined since he was taken in the second and not the first round of the draft.
Of course, Oakland’s salary cap will play a significant role in how much it can offer Carr. Before this season, the Raiders have a mere $3.4 million in cap space, which could be rolled over to pad 2017’s space of $30.6 million, and then there’s $61 million free in 2018 with key players like left tackle Donald Penn and free safety Reggie Nelson scheduled to be unrestricted free agents, according to Spotrac.
Oakland will have enough over time to offer Carr and Mack huge deals, with the latter more than likely to demand guarantees similar to what Buffalo gave to Marcell Dareus ($60 million) and even Miami handed down to Ndamukong Suh ($59.9 million).
However, thanks to Luck’s new deal, Oakland’s protracted rebuild could face some murky waters.