Barring something insanely unforeseen, the Raiders are moving to Vegas

Barring something insanely unforeseen, the Raiders are moving to Vegas

The danger in assuming that Mark Davis has finally won Las Vegas for himself and his creditors is that a lot of people assumed that he had won Los Angeles for himself and his erstwhile partner Dean Spanos a year ago, and we saw what happened there.

Namely, that Davis had to hustle up a new deal a year later.

But the danger in assuming that one piece of treachery aimed at Davis in 2016 automatically means the likelihood of a second is far greater, because there is now something that trumps all other considerations and voting blocs.

There is simply no good reason for any owner to vote no, save a personal or financial animus toward Davis by the league establishment that will never be eradicated. In short, all the ducks have been aligned, all the money has been pronounced clean, Interstates 5 and 15 have been cleared for a 2019 takeoff, and the internal shouting is over.

Allowing for what is about a one percent chance of last-second failure (Davis/market size/sunspots), the Raiders will belong to Las Vegas in three years.

Raider fans may now commence their outrage – if they have enough left to give after such a protracted process and in the face of an owner so determined to go that he’s been working the angle for a minimum of three years. At some point, righteous anger can no longer withstand the might of inevitability.

And amazingly, Mark Davis doing a deal that would pass the muster of 31 much richer men who hold him in barely tolerable esteem is some feat.

There were always lots of reasons to think Vegas couldn’t happen, starting with Davis’ richly merited reputation for amiable inertia, then proceeding through his relatively low regard among his fellow owners, minimal wealth by NFL standards, Las Vegas’ principal industry, not to mention Oakland’s tradition and superior market size.

Well, to his credit (or blame, depending on your point of view), he has ticked off all those boxes. Having been slapped down so aggressively by the league when he wanted to split Los Angeles with Spanos and the Chargers, he was told to make a better deal, and did. Every time he erected an obstacle to his own success, he somehow cleared it, or knew the right people to remove it for him. He even managed to cut off his own avenue of retreat with the help of the City of Oakland, and he can now present to the owners the following proposal.

- I got the money to move.
- I got the right kind of money to satisfy you all, as in no obvious traceable casino money.
- I can’t stay in Oakland because you repeatedly told Oakland its deal was dead on the ground.
- In short, I have to leave because I can’t stay, and I have answered every one of your objections to leaving.

And because of all that, there is no longer a forseeably viable way to get nine votes to stop him.

Oh, there is still a case to be made that the Raiders will be giving up half of the sixth-largest television market for the 40th, but that’s a microscopic rebuttal to $1.4 billion in state and bank money for a stadium that quite possibly will cost less that the sticker of $1.9 billion.

And whether you believe that Davis orchestrated this brilliant slalom from failure in Los Angeles through the landmine of Sheldon Adelson’s involvement and Nevada state politics, the noisy but necessary divorce from Adelson and the reassembly of the deal through the graces of Bank of America, or whether partners, friends and fortune just smiled on him throughout, it must still be acknowledged that he took the humiliation of a year ago and turned it into what seems to be for him a triumph in slightly more than a year.

But to be thorough, let’s line up the help he got.

- Oakland’s decision not to present a stadium plan to the league that the league could use to hammer the city in perpetuity. Dealing with the NFL is typically a perilous move for cities, and Oakland’s unwillingness to knuckle under to its demands is a statement about fiscal prudence most cities cannot make.
- Adelson’s work in helping drive the process by which the $750 million hotel tax passed through the Nevada state house in Carson City.
- Bank of America, which stepped forward, almost certainly with some league prodding, to replace Adelson, who was a deal-breaker in the minds of the owners who did not want him as a part of the league.
- The NFL’s horrendous misplay of the Los Angeles market by picking the Rams as the only franchise and then being forced to accept the Chargers a year later even as the softness of the market was being exposed.
- The NFL ownership finance committee, which saw no obvious holes in the financing as well as an avenue toward making their own shares of the perceived Vegas windfall.
- Las Vegas’ ability to recast itself to the owners as a lucrative financial center as well as a gateway to foreign money that few other open cities can claim.

All those factors aligned to make the Raiders and Vegas make sense to the 31 men who decide what cities get to have pro football and what cities do not. Barring something genuinely and insanely unforeseen between now and the day of the vote, Mark Davis has won the approval of those who have always viewed him with the greatest skepticism.

And Oakland loses the Raiders for a second time, a year after they seemed they would be Oakland’s for decades to come.

Raiders finalize five-year contract extension with Derek Carr

Raiders finalize five-year contract extension with Derek Carr

Derek Carr is now the NFL's highest paid player. The Raiders quarterback agreed on terms of a five-year, $125 million contract extension a source confirmed on Thursday morning, keeping the franchise's public face in silver and black through the 2022 season. 

Carr confirmed the agreement on Twitter early Thursday. 

"Now it's done!" Carr wrote. "From the jump I've wanted to be a Raider 4 life. One step closer to that! Blessed!!! Business done! Let's just play now!!!"

Carr was set to make a $977,515 base salary in 2017, the final year of his rookie contract. Carr's raise is significant, and underscores his value to the franchise. Carr's $125 million extension includes $70 million in guaranteed money and $40 million fully guaranteed at signing -- the portion not fully guaranteed is guaranteed for injury -- a source said. The deal features $25 million in the first year -- there's a $12.5 million signing bonus -- with $67.5 million over the first three years, according to ESPN's Dan Graziano.  

Carr's deal resets the quarterback market -- Matthew Stafford may do so again soon -- with an annual value above Andrew Luck's previous record extension. The Colts quarterback signed a five-year, $122.9 million extension last year, which Carr has now exceeded. 

The complete contract structure is not yet known, but a somewhat delayed payout plan is expected due to two key factors. The largest is Carr's desire to see other star Raiders receive extensions, and his deal gives the team some flexibility to keep important players in house. The Raiders will also move to Las Vegas by 2020 at the latest, where there is no state tax. California residents max out at a 13.3-percent tax rate, meaning his money will be worth more later in the deal.  

The 26-year old's ultimate goal was to maximize earnings without handcuffing the organization, and that's setting up well. His deal will help the Raiders that regard, though the team has also budgeted to extend several members of their young core. They have financial flexibility in future seasons and upfront salary cap space, though productive drafts are required to remain competitive as the cash gets gobbled by Carr and others in coming years.

The Raiders were always confident the Carr extension would get done this offseason, and the deal was finalized well before the quarterback's self-imposed training camp deadline. Carr's camp had discussed parameters of an extension months ago, but talks heated up in the last few weeks and ended up with an agreement that locks Carr down. 

The Raiders also hope to extend two more members of a star-studded 2014 draft class. Right guard Gabe Jackson is next in line, and could get a new deal this offseason and edge rusher Khalil Mack will get a massive contract at some point in the near future. Jackson's entering a contract year, but the team exercised a fifth-year option that creates more time to get a Mack deal done. Amari Cooper has some time under his rookie deal -- it could last through the 2019 season -- but the Raiders want to pair him with Carr for several seasons. 

Carr, Raiders both win with soon-to-be mega-deal done at right time

Carr, Raiders both win with soon-to-be mega-deal done at right time

If Derek Carr gets his $25 million deal from the Oakland Raiders and becomes the richest quarterback in National Football League history, the Raiders will have gotten a bargain.
 
Unless he gets hurt.
 
Or unless he turns lousy.
 
Or unless the NFL’s defensive coordinators decipher a way to strip him of his powers and render him McCown-tastic.
 
Or unless football happens in a hundred other ways, because of all the sports ever devised by wealthy man to amuse sedentary man, football taught cruelty to the landmine discus.
 
But the same can be said for any football player at any salary. Carr, on the other hand, is a qualified practitioner at a sport that has very few of them – maybe 10 if you’re looking at football, 119 if you’re trying to tot up all the quarterbacks who got contracts so Colin Kaepernick couldn’t.
 
That means he is a rare commodity, and the Raiders did the right thing by tying him up. The alternative, you see, is Kirk Cousins and the Washington Supreme Court-Mandated Native-American Heads.
 
Cousins was not signed when the Washingtons could have gotten him at a high but still reasonable rate, and now he is one year away from being franchised a third time at the hilarious figure of $34.47 million per year.
 
The lesson is clear. Nothing pays like procrastination, and by waiting to give Cousins what they knew they’d have to give him eventually for choosing him over Robert Griffin III, the Battling Snyders will pay through both nostrils, ears, eye sockets and mouth to keep him.
 
By signing Carr now, the Raiders have as much cost certainty as they can have at the position, and all they have to do now is (a) keep him stocked with supporting players and (b) keep him safe from opposing ones.
 
This isn’t easy, of course; most quarterbacks eventually end up in a fiery crash in Turn Two, and their ability to escape the mangled wreckage is the only thing keeping them from becoming part of the mangled wreckage.
 
So yeah, luck. Lots of luck.
 
On the other hand, the Raiders could have guaranteed that they would have had to overpay by a factor of 1.5 or maybe more by not signing him now, or they could have saved millions more by losing him entirely, which would have been just the gift for the discerning Las Vegas ticket holder who wanted an excuse not to buy tickets.
 
Essentially, Carr played the system brilliantly, and good for him since under most circumstances the system plays the players. Football players have a short enough career, and a shorter than average quality of life, so the rule of thumb should always be getting everything available and as much guaranteed as possible.
 
In fact, were I Derek Carr, I’d ask for ALL the money to be guaranteed just to set a standard for those who come behind me.
 
But if he’s happy – and let’s wait to see how much of this deal is actually guaranteed and how much is placed on a rug that will be pulled out from beneath him – and the Raiders are happy – and why wouldn’t they be? – then there’s nobody to complain, now, is there?
 
Now the Raiders of old would have screwed this up, and somehow Carr would have done so as well. But this team hasn’t done anything regally boneheaded since . . . well, trying to go to Los Angeles . . . or maybe hiring Dennis Allen . . . or . . . 
 
Oh, never mind. The point is, Carr was done at the right time, at the right number, for the right reasons, and both sides should be delighted.
 
And in nine or twelve or seventeen days when Matthew Stafford gets a deal that makes him a dollar more than Derek Carr . . . well, we’ll let the amateur accountants who think NFL contracts define players sort out that level of idiocy.