ALAMEDA -- There has not been a bigger game for the Raiders since the 2002 Super Bowl season.So of course it comes down to the Raiders and San Diego.Still, the Raiders not only need to sweep the Chargers for the second straight season after dropping 13 in a row to their SoCal rivals; Oakland needs to win and hope for help.To win the AFC West, the Raiders need to win and have Kansas City beat Denverin Denver.To win a wild card spot, the Raiders need to win and have Cincinnati lose at home to Baltimore and have Tennessee lose or tie Houston or have the New York Jets win at Miami.Sounds as simple as having Mike Mitchell shut down Antonio Gates, right?A look, then, at some key on-field matchups to watch Sunday afternoon from the O.co Coliseum:Raiders running back Michael Bush (29) vs. Chargers outside linebacker Shaun Phillips (95).TALE OF THE TAPEPalmer: 6-5, 235, USC, ninth seasonPhillips: 6-3, 250, Purdue, eighth seasonPalmer has absolutely owned the Chargers in his career.Phillips has 11 12 sacks against the Raiders in his career.Something has to give, no?"It's interesting, because last year they were the No. 1 team in the league in defenseand they've got the same players, for the most part, and we have a great deal of respect for what they can do," said Raiders offensive coordinator Al Saunders. "They're 10th in the league against the pass, 212 yards a game against the pass, and those are pretty strong numbers. And they can be pretty physical up front as a defensive unit."They're a very, very good defense when they're in sync andwe're going to have our work cut out for us."The same could be said for Phillips, who is officially listed as probable with a balky back, and the entire Chargers defense, which will be without linebacker Travis LaBoy and his injured knee, against Palmer.Consider: in four career starts against the Chargers, Palmer has a 129.5 passer rating in completing 88 of 123 passes (71.5 percent) for 1,322 yards with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions.Earlier in the week, coach Hue Jackson said Palmer was acquired for precisely this type of game. No pressure, right?"Pressure is part of the position," Palmer said. "I've been playing it for a long time and understand and know that that doesn't need to be said to me by the coach, and I understand that."If anything, it's always fun to play against your hometown team, you know? For whatever reason, we've matched up well and made plays. But this is a team that can make quarterbacks look bad."On Nov. 10, Palmer threw for 299 yards on 14 of 20 passing with two TDs and an interception in the Raiders' 24-17 victory at Qualcomm Stadium.Phillips, though, did not play in that game."He's definitely a difference maker," Palmer saidOther matchups worth watching: Raiders running back Michael Bush (29) vs. Chargers inside linebacker Takeo Spikes (51) -- While Spikes' playoff-less streak has reached 14 seasons, Bush is closing in on a personal milestone -- he needs 89 rushing yards to reach 1,000 for the season. Not a shabby accomplishment considering he did not become the Raiders' starting running back until Week 9, after Darren McFadden went down.The 6-feet-2, 242-pound Spikes leads the Chargers with 111 tackles and with the 6-1, 245-pound Bush a more straight-ahead runner, they are sure to collide.Especially since Bush rumbled for 242 all-purpose yards (157 yards rushing, 85 yards receiving) the last time the two teams met, the most for a Raiders player since 1963.And Spikes missed the second half with a concussion.Raiders linebacker Kamerion Wimbley (96) vs. Chargers left tackle Jared Gaither (78) -- Wimbley had a career-high four sacks against the Chargers back on Nov. 10. Gaither was not with the Chargers at the time.In fact, Gaither was thisclose to signing with the Raiders in training camp.The 6-9, 340-pounder signed with Kansas City instead, was waived by the Chiefs on Nov. 29 and was picked up by the banged-up Chargers a day later."I don't know what we would have done had he not become available," Chargers coach Norv Turner said in a conference call with Bay Area reporters this week. "He really solidified our offensive line and we responded."Indeed. Gaither has yielded only two pressures in four games.Said the 6-4, 255-pound Wimbley: "He has all the told you need to be a successful offensive tackle and he's done well. He has played well since he's been there, and he'll continue to do so."
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.