Aldon the human is worth salvation; Aldon the football player is not

Aldon the human is worth salvation; Aldon the football player is not

Many hopes have been spent on Aldon Smith finding his way clear of the demons that pour themselves out to him. A fair amount of money, too, if you’re one of those human being monetizers.

But the former 49er and soon-to-be former Raider has foiled it all. Whatever haunts him is more than football can fix, and the assumption that there is something to salvage in him will have to be made by professionals outside the professional sports cocoon.

Aldon Smith the human being is worth salvation. Aldon Smith the football player is not.

Oh, somewhere out there a team looking for the illusion of a linebacker whose best days (all 59 of them) are now three years’ past will rationalize a way to giving him some money in hopes of rekindling the sparks that once flew from him, but those sparks died out pretty much when Justin Smith retired, give or take a few days. Aldon Smith became a rumor of a spectre of an old idea of an illusion, and whether losing his namesake’s protection, getting into the deep end of the bottle, or crossing the law until the law won is the explanation for his talent’s end, end it has.

It is trite to say he ruined a great opportunity, because it assumes he had more game in him than those 2½ years in San Francisco, and there is no evidence to support that – only the misplaced conjectures of the angry.

Maybe this was the only fate he could have expected to have because the disease that undermines his resolve is the essence of true ferocity.  Maybe his ghosts are the double-team he cannot split. Maybe Aldon Smith lives a despair we can only guess at.

And maybe not.

But at this point, the only assumption that seems safe to make is that football is not the cure for what ails him. It does not inspire him to stop drinking, it does not give him a focus or a reward for sobriety, and it does not steel his spine in those moments of weakness.

For that reason, and really that reason alone, he should be done with football, and football with him. The sport and the business may not be bad for him as it regards his alcoholism, but it certainly isn’t good.

And there should be the “punishment” for his last act(s) of wagon ejection. Not that he should be taught the no-more-games-for-you lesson for his bad behavior by people who are clearly not good parental substitutes, but that he should simplify his life down to its very studs and framing in hopes of finding the foundation for an alcohol-free life.

Ultimately, Aldon Smith really wasn’t that special a player based on his resume and the number of other players who had two great years and then faded from view. That, though, is irrelevant now. His job now is not to chase quarterbacks but to build his life, if for no better reason to save himself from the hideous end he seemed to be marching toward with a frighteningly purposeful stride.

In short, he doesn’t belong to our disapproving clucks and wagging fingers any longer. He belongs to whomever can guide him toward his better self – that is, if that person can be found and brought to him at the moment when he chooses the help he needs over the hell he has constructed.

Raiders offensive lineman next in line for extension with Carr's deal done

Raiders offensive lineman next in line for extension with Carr's deal done

The Raiders locked up Derek Carr last week, signing their franchise quarterback to a five-year, $125 million contract extension.

He isn’t the only member of the 2014 draft class worthy of a raise. Edge rusher Khalil Mack will get a big one, likely at some point next offseason. The Raiders have some time with Mack after exercising a fifth-year contract option available for first-round picks.

General manager Reggie McKenzie didn’t have that luxury with Carr, and his 2014 second-round pick cashed in before formally entering a contract year.

Right guard Gabe Jackson could do the exact same thing. McKenzie prefers to draft, develop and reward homegrown talent, and the 2014 third-round pick should be next in line to do so.

McKenzie has said back in March that he’d like to extend Jackson’s contract, though there isn’t a deadline to do so.

“There’s no timetable,” general manager Reggie McKenzie said. “But, I alluded to earlier in the offseason that Gabe is one of the guys I want to get locked up.”

That could happen later this offseason, or further into training camp. Despite paying Carr an NFL-record $25 million in 2017, his contract is structured in such a way that there’s room for another offseason extension. That was important for Carr, that the Raiders can sign other members of this young core.

“We figured out a way to do it,” Carr said, “so that we have the opportunity to sign the other guys that I think are important to this organization.”

The Raiders have roughly $18 million in salary cap space after the Carr deal. Some of that is earmarked for the team’s top three draft picks, which remain unsigned to this point. A large sum could go to Jackson as incentive to sign up early, well before he’s eligible to hit the unrestricted free agency.

The offensive guard market is booming, with bigger deals going to a position group generally lower than other spots on the offensive line. The Raiders contributed to that inflation in 2016, signing left guard Kelechi Osemele to a five-year, $58.5 deal with $25.4 million in guarantees.

Osemele is one of eight guards with contracts worth $40 million or more, a list that includes two right guards. Jackson played left guard – the more valued position – until Osemele showed up. He moved to the right without complaint.

Jackson thrived there as well. He didn’t allow a sack in 2016, according to analytics site Pro Football Focus, with 27 quarterback pressures in 735 pass-blocking snaps. Jackson has been a strong run blocker as a pro, where he has started 44 games in three NFL seasons.

Finding proper value to entice Jackson to sign while remaining on budget is McKenzie’s next task, trying to keep a valuable offensive lineman in place for years to come.

Carr plans to spread new wealth after Raiders contract extension

Carr plans to spread new wealth after Raiders contract extension

ALAMEDA – Derek Carr isn’t one for extravagance. The low-key Raiders quarterback already has some nice cars, a house and some luxury items to his name, but signing a $125 million contract extension Friday morning won't prompt a spending spree.

Cornerback Sean Smith suggested he get a Bugatti. That’s a $1 million car.

“Yeah,” Carr said with a smirk. “That’s not going to happen.”

That isn’t the 26-year old’s style. Carr had a his own plan after signing on the dotted line.

“I’ve been eating clean,” Carr said. “I’ll probably get Chick-fil-A.”

That makes sense. This is a guy who celebrated his first NFL victory with a trip through a Carl’s Jr. drive-in.

There will be other purchases. His wife Heather will get something nice in the near future. His family, especially Heather and sons Dallas and Deker, will be taken care of for life.

After all that, Carr plans to spread the wealth.

“The exciting thing for me moneywise, honestly, is this money is going to help a lot of people,” Carr said. “I’m very thankful to have it, that it’s in our hands because it’s going to help people. Not only in this country, but in a lot of countries around the world. That’s what’s exciting to me.”

Carr and former Raiders running back Latavius Murray took a missionary trip to Haiti, an impoverished nation had a profound impact on the star quarterback.

“I’ve been down to Haiti and I’ve seen some of those struggles that they have and the kids there, and my heart just… I cry sometimes thinking about it,” Carr said. “So, just knowing that we can go down there and make a difference and help, those are the kind of things that the money makes me kind of like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ Because now we can really do some things to help a lot of people.”

He plans to support those in that area, in addition to global and domestic charities he has been involved with over the years. Don’t expect a press release accompanying every donation. Carr would rather keep those decisions private.

“I’m going to do my best to make sure no one knows what we do with it,” Carr said. “I’ll just say this, I can assure you that it’s going to help a lot of people. I’m not stingy. My business manager will probably be on me saying, ‘Hey man, that’s enough.’ I won’t get into when, how or why. It’s not all about that for me. It’s about making a difference. That’s what’s exciting for me is that we’ll be able to do that.”