Del Rio: Raiders built to last, 'nobody wants to take one swing'

Del Rio: Raiders built to last, 'nobody wants to take one swing'

General manager Reggie McKenzie has said several times the Raiders are set up to be competitive for a long time.

“This thing is built to last,” he said last month.

He wasn’t lying. The Raiders have significant talent under contract, with the ability to pay those nearing extensions without handicapping the rest of the roster.

Head coach Jack Del Rio has firm command of the club, and has become an attraction for potential free agents.

The Raiders went 12-4 in 2016, a five win improvement over the year before. A steady ascent, however, can’t be guaranteed. Freak things happen in the NFL, as anyone at Oakland Coliseum on Christmas Eve can attest, that derail a season.

While adversity will come, there’s no doubt a competitive window is open that shouldn’t be shuttered any time soon.

“That’s part of our responsibility, to build it the right way and build it so that it can last,” Del Rio said. “Nobody wants to take one swing and hope that you have a magical year one time. I think you want to build your roster strong, build your team strong and build the culture strong so that what you’re able to put in and put together is a roster that can go out and compete at a championship level year after year. That’s what the goal is.

“That’s where we are in terms of the football team is raising the expectations, creating the culture of ‘can do,’ a lot of sacrifice, a lot of adhering to the process that we talk about all the time of how we recover, prepare, compete and continue to build the roster strong and then go out and compete the way we’ve learned to.”

Rome wasn’t built in a day. The Raiders were far more talented this season over the last, but still had glaring holes that can be fixed with proper use of draft picks and free agent spending.

Players believe this franchise is on the rise, with room to improve as a young core grows together.

“I think (the future’s) really bright,” Raiders running back Latavius Murray said. “This year we were able to do some good things. We made it to the postseason and obviously when you do that, you give yourselves a chance to play for a championship. We were one of 12 teams to be able to do that. I think we just need to continue to do the things that we did since Jack has been here. He’s done a great job and everyone has just been buying in. I think just continue to trust and embrace the process that he has. That will be just fine.”

The Raiders have 13 unrestricted free agents on their way to the open market. Some will return. Others won’t, and a few under contract could find themselves looking for another employer as the team continues to strengthen the roster into one that could compete for a Super Bowl.

“Whatever pieces Reggie (McKenzie) and them come up with it’s going to be a tremendous help to this team,” safety Reggie Nelson said. “It could help get us over the next step, get us to that next step and over that hump that we’ve been wanting to get over.”

The Raiders will have high expectations next season, in search of their first AFC West title since 2002 and a long playoff run. Del Rio and McKenzie will lead and organizational evaluation in an attempt to be better than before.

“You evaluate who you are, what you are,” Del Rio said. “Look at the things you can do better and areas where you feel like you can strengthen. You don’t always get your wish list. You try to strengthen the best you can. You don’t always get your wish list, but to me it’s a never ending process about building yourself as strong as possible and preparing for the next opportunity.”

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.”