Hard to imagine Raiders using franchise tag in 2017

Hard to imagine Raiders using franchise tag in 2017

There isn’t much downtime on the NFL calendar. The Super Bowl just exited the rearview and free agency is but a few weeks away, leaving some time to lock up players before they hit the open market.

Teams have a weapon designed to prevent a player from doing so. It’s called the franchise tag, a collectively bargained instrument that helps keep important players in the mix albeit at an expensive rate.

Teams can apply the franchise tag starting Wednesday. Don’t expect the Raiders to use it, or the less forceful transition tag.

The Raiders don’t have worthy candidates among their free agent class. Running back Latavius Murray is the biggest name in that group, but he seems destined to reach the open market.

Virtually securing Murray with the franchise tag – we’ll get into tag descriptions later – should cost $12.7 million for a running back, according to ESPN projections.

The Raiders won’t put themselves in a spot where they’d have to pay that freight. Even the rarely used transition tag would be too rich for their blood.

Most important members of last year’s 12-4 run remain under contract, with but a few key components set for unrestricted free agency. Murray, linebackers Perry Riley and Malcolm Smith and right tackle Menelik Watson are the starters headed for the open market.

Here’s a refresher on tags available to the Raiders and other NFL teams.

Exclusive franchise tag: A player who receives this tag is set to return to his club, and can’t receive an offer sheet from another team. He will get paid an average of the five largest salaries at his position in 2017 or 20 percent more than his 2016 salary, depending on which number is higher.

Non-exclusive franchise tag: This tag is more common than the last. Tagged players can receive offer sheets from other teams, but the courting team must give up two first-round picks for his rights. That’s typically too high a price too pay for a tagged player.

A non-exclusive franchise tag will pay a player the average of the top five salaries at his position from the 2016 season or a 20 percent raise over his 2016 salary, depending on which number is higher.

Transition tag: This tag only allows a team to match an offer sheet a player receives. There’s no compensation if that player is allowed to leave. The player will get paid the average of the top 10 salaries at his position.

Teams can apply tags and rescind them. Also, parties are free to work out a long-term deal instead of paying the 2017 salary required under the tag. Only one tag can be used per season. Tags can be applied until March 1. The Raiders last used a tag in 2012, when the applied the franchise tag to safety Tyvon Branch.

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.