Raiders head to NFL Combine looking for defense, RBs, depth

Raiders head to NFL Combine looking for defense, RBs, depth

The Raiders are headed for this week’s NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis looking to refine and strengthen opinions on NFL draft prospects they’ve been studying all year.

General manager Reggie McKenzie has eight selections in this year’s NFL draft, starting with the 24th overall pick. That marks his latest start since 2012, when he didn’t have a first or second round pick.

Those selections were traded away. The No. 24 overall pick was earned with a 12-4 record in 2016 and the team’s first playoff berth since 2002.

When selecting that late, it’s hard to target a specific position. McKenzie would say he’ll take the best player available over a specific need every year, but that’s often required after the draft crop has been picked over. That’s also easier given the Raiders currently under contract. The 2017 roster is already strong, though there are areas to fortify this offseason.

McKenzie made it clear last month the Raiders defense must improve at every level. The Raiders need help on the interior defensive line, especially rushing the passer. They need assistance in the secondary, with immediate needs at cornerback and long-term assistance at safety. They need one interior linebacker solid in tackling and coverage, possibly two.

There are options possibly available at No. 24 who could help the Raiders in those areas.

Most mock drafts have the Raiders targeting defense in the first round with cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey (Alabama) and Tre’Davious White (LSU) getting regular mentions. Though it also must be mentioned nobody had the Raiders taking safety Karl Joseph No. 14 overall last year, and they pulled the trigger without hesitation.

Cornerback still could and likely should be a focus for the Raiders at this scouting combine.

“Then as far as a corner situation is concerned, this is a great corner class,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said Monday in a conference call. “If you don't get one in the first round, you can come back in the second or third round and really help yourself.”

The Raiders spent big on Sean Smith and extended David Amerson, but adding young depth can increase options moving forward and strengthen a pass defense that wasn’t good enough. There’s playing time available in the slot next season, with DJ Hayden set to hit free agency.

Latavius Murray is also on course to hit the open market, which comes as no surprise. McKenzie prefers to use the market as a tool, and let it decide whether a player meets his valuation. That will be the case with Murray, who could price himself out of Oakland.

This is known as a deep draft class for running backs. Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey is an intriguing prospect head coach Jack Del Rio knows well – McCaffrey and Del Rio’s son Luke played prep football together – and might be a good fit.

The Raiders have proven adept plucking rushers from late rounds. Murray was taken in the sixth round. DeAndre Washington was a fifth-rounder and Jalen Richard was an undrafted diamond. The Raiders could use a bigger back to round out 2017’s run game, and there are options late.

Roster strength should also allow the Raiders to draft for depth that can become starters in time. They might need help at offensive tackle, free safety and receiver, positions with at least one older veteran.

While combine coverage will focus on top prospects, the scouting combine is a great resource to collect medical information and meet with a maximum of 60 college prospects. The tangible data collected at the combine is valuable, but is just one piece of a larger evaluation process. Game tape is of great value, and the combine helps cement opinions gather during a long scouting process.

The Raiders have proven to be solid talent evaluators, and will use this part of the pre-draft process to round out opinions of some players and figure out which options best suit their franchise heading into the future.

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.