NAPA -- The script has been flipped and the roles reversed. Somewhat.Because a decade ago -- in a stadium the Raiders used to call home -- Carson Palmer was the mentor and Matt Leinart the student. Now, while Palmer remains the unquestioned starter, as he was entering his senior season at USC, it is Leinart who he has had to lean on while learning a new offense.Same offense Leinart played in the past two years at Houston under his quarterbacks coach, Greg Knaap, the former Raiders offensive coordinator who is now returning to Oakland in the same capacity under first-year head coach Dennis Allen.Ironic, no?"It's an interesting turn of events," Leinart said Tuesday. "To be with Carson again, it's crazy. It's 10 years removed since he left USC. It's 10 years, we're back together, which is fun. It's interesting because Carson's been around the game a long time, (but) for me, being part of this offense a few years, I'm still competing my butt off, but this is the first year I've really felt like that veteran leader to help the young guys."Because we're a young football team, so this is the first year I've really felt like I'm helping the young guys."Except Palmer is not that young. Not in regular years -- he's going to be 33 years old on Dec. 27 -- or football years -- he's entering his 10th NFL season after being the No. 1 overall pick of the 2003 draft as the reigning Heisman Trophy winner."He's the same guy," Leinart said with a knowing grin. "Three kids now, married, but he's got the same personality. That's why we get along so good, both being from Orange County and kind of the same personality, lifestyle type thing. He's no different, though, than he was when he was 21."Leinart, though, grew up rooting for the Raiders, even as he succeeded Palmer at USC and won his own Heisman two years later, in 2004. Palmer was simply a football fan. And now, Palmer is getting coached up by Leinart in Knapp's version of the West Coast offense with a zone-blocking scheme.Yet while Palmer does not see the irony in it all, he is appreciative of Leinart's, ahem, coaching."No disrespect to my quarterback coach, Coach Flip (John DeFilippo) and Coach Knapp, but its different when you hear it from a player, for whatever reason," Palmer said. "Your coach can tell you the same thing over and over again and every once in a while Matt will chime in and say, You know, I hit this on this play against this team or whatever. Its nice to get a coaching point from a player some times. Not all the time, but sometimes."Hes got experience in it because hes done it and if he hasnt done it, hes seen it done by another quarterback in (Matt) Schaub or T.J. Yates or whoever it was. Its really nice to get kind of the same coaching points, but its a little more believable when you get it from a player sometimes."Leinart, though, was not about to take the credit. Not when he's been around Palmer most of his adult life."I know he's getting coached better then he's ever been coached," Leinart said. "And that's nothing against the other former coaches. But just the way Coach Knapp coaches, and this offense, I think it's different for Carson but it's something that I think he can thrive in."This is an offense that is very similar to what we ran at USC with Coach (Norm) Chow and (Steve) Sarkesian and all those guys, Coach (Lane) Kiffin, and it's funny, I know myself and Carson both like getting out of the pocket and throwing on the run. Some offenses you don't do that a whole lot. But in this offense, with all the misdirection stuff we do and the running game we have, that bootleg stuff, that's why Houston is so good at it."And why the Raiders believe they can do it toowith Leinart acting as a conduit for his old college teammate.
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.
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.