Gabe Jackson logged just one season's NFL service when Rodney Hudson came to town. The veteran center joined the Raiders offensive line after signing a massive contract worth $44.5 million.
Kelechi Osemele donned silver and black the following year after signing a $58.5 million deal.
Those two deals made one message clear: The Raiders value interior offensive linemen.
The young guard took note. Jackson believed hard work, clean living and steady production could glean a deal like that.
“I knew both Rodney and KO prior to them signing with us, mostly from watching them on film,” Jackson said Monday. “Those guys worked their butts off and were for being good players, so I figured I had a shot. There were no promises and nothing was guaranteed, but if I kept doing little things right and improving as a player, I believed I could find a long-term home here.”
Jackson has done exactly that. An excellent start to his NFL career was rewarded with a five-year, $56 million contract extension heading into the final season of his rookie deal.
The new pact was expected, part of a long-term plan to keep homegrown talent in house. Quarterback Derek Carr came first, with a five-year $125 million deal structured to allow Jackson’s deal to get done right away.
The Raiders are prepared to pay a few more guys. Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper should get extended in future years and form the backbone of this Raiders era.
All save Cooper were part of a tide-turning 2014 draft class that brought top talents in each of the first three rounds.
“Sometimes during the season we’ll reflect on our rookie year, when we were 0-10 and really struggling,” Jackson said. “There’s a real appreciation for where we are. We know what it’s like to lose, and now we know how good it feels to win. It’s great, and we want to keep this good thing going.”
Jackson has been excellent in three seasons, including a 2016 campaign where he moved from left guard to right for Osemele. His production never waned in a new position, and didn’t allow a sack in 735 pass-blocking snaps.
Jackson remains an efficient run blocker and pulling guard in open space. The Raiders were confident in his ability to sustain production and help lead the offense, easily dispensing a large sum to a still ascending talent.
Jackson said the deal came together in a week and a half, completed exactly one week after Carr’s deal got done. Jackson was in Las Vegas – where he’ll play the second half of this deal -- for Hudson’s bachelor party when an agreement was made. He was surrounded by friends and teammates when life-changing money was given in a moment he considers surreal.
“It was crazy, and I was just like, ‘Wow.’ I never could’ve imagined something like that going down,” the Mississippi State alum said. “I was excited, but at the same time I feel honored and blessed. All the hard work over the years lead to this opportunity. It’s finally here, but I still can’t relax. I don’t have to worry about another deal. I just worry about football and winning a championship.”
Jackson didn’t have grand plans for his big paychecks, though there’s a long-term vision that involves him going back home
“Nothing big,” Jackson said. “I’m just going to find some land in Mississippi and build a house. Eventually.”