Raiders

Raiders hope to execute extension master plan 'in the correct timing'

Raiders hope to execute extension master plan 'in the correct timing'

Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie prefers to draft, develop and eventually reward homegrown players. After dismantling a disjointed roster, getting right with the salary cap and drafting quality, he’s finally able to do that.

McKenzie didn’t wade into new waters. He jumped right in, with a cannonball. McKenzie allocated up to $181 million on two guys in a week’s time, unafraid to spend big on players he knows and trusts. It was the first phase of a master a master plan designed to keep a talented young core together.

McKenzie gave franchise quarterback Derek Carr a five-year, $125 million contract extension, a massive market-value sum for that position. Gabe Jackson signed a five-year deal worth $56 million seven days later.

The Raiders hope to extend Khalil Mack next offseason, and Amari Cooper a year after that. The team wants them appropriately spaced to optimize cash flow and mix elite deals with middle class contracts, a delicate balance required to remain competitive.

The Raiders wanted Carr and Jackson done right away, to prevent valued talent from entering contract years. The Raiders asked Carr to defer some payments to help keep the Raiders on schedule. The 26-year old complied.

“The bottom line is we’re able to continue to move forward with it, keep all the players that we need to keep in the correct timing,” McKenzie said after Carr signed his contract. “This affords us to do that. We’re going to start on that ASAP.”

McKenzie wasn’t kidding. He went right to work on Gabe Jackson, and locked his right guard down posthaste.

The master plan won’t always operate at that pace, even with Mack eligible for an extension despite receiving a fifth-year option that puts his contract two years away from expiration. As McKenzie said, it’s all about “correct timing.”

Carr gave the Raiders financial flexibility to also get Jackson done now. They had $33 million in salary cap space before the Carr deal, and roughly $18 million apple after. It remains uncertain how much of a bite Jackson took, and some will go to yet unsigned draft picks Gareon Conley, Obi Melifonwu and Eddie Vanderdoes.

The Raiders have more financial flexibility next offseason, when Khalil Mack’s massive extension will take center stage. Mario Edwards Jr. might play himself into extension-worth graces if he can produce and stay healthy. Amari Cooper could command big dollars a season later.

Mack would be the third member of the 2014 draft class to get extended. That group helped turn the franchise around after a rough start, a fact that binds the group together.

“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.”

That isn’t all on players and coaches. The front office obviously plays a huge part. They can’t let top homegrown talent walk, and must continue drafting well when tighter budgets prevent McKenzie from keeping everyone.

He will pay big for his own guys, which is a message received by the Raiders locker room.

“I always say that if you live good and live clean outside of football, if you work your butt off and take care of business, people around here appreciate it,” Jackson said. “They may not say it all the time, but people pay attention to how you carry yourself and how you work on the field. That doesn’t go unrecognized.”

Injury report: CB Sean Smith questionable; Washington TE Reed's status uncertain

smith-raiders-injury.jpg

Injury report: CB Sean Smith questionable; Washington TE Reed's status uncertain

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Raiders are remarkably healthy heading into Sunday night’s game against the Washington football club.

The entire 53-man roster practiced fully on Friday, before heading to the nation’s capital.

That includes veteran cornerback Sean Smith, who missed the previous game with a neck injury. A shoulder ailment cropped up during the week, which prompted the Raiders to label him questionable heading into Week 3. Smith’s the only Raider on the injury report, and even he’s in decent shape.

“I mean we put it on there because there’s still a little bit of a question,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “You don’t have probable’s anymore. Given the choices, I just left him that way.”

That means the Raiders are going to have some healthy scratches a week after Smith was the only injured player sitting out.

Washington has some impact players on the mend. That included tight end Jordan Reed, who is questionable with a rib/sternum injury. He stands 6-foot-2, 246 pounds and is the type of receiving tight end that gives the Raiders fits. He has 1,638 yards 17 touchdowns the last two seasons, using good hands and a large frame to create mismatches in the secondary.

It’ll be key for the Raiders to defend him well if he’s active, with Nicholas Morrow as a primary coverage option.

“We’re prepared to face him,” Del Rio said. “We think he’s a good player. We’ll approach it that way and adjust if he doesn’t go.”

Washington also lists starting inside linebacker Mason Foster and running back Rob Kelley as questionable.

Raiders Injury Report
Questionable
CB Sean Smith (neck/shoulder)

Washington Injury Report
Questionable

TE Jordan Reed (rib/sternum), LB Mason Foster (shoulder), RB Rob Kelley (rib), S Monate Nicholson (shoulder), CB Josh Norman (shoulder)

Karl Joseph living up to first-round billing with early impact for Raiders

Karl Joseph living up to first-round billing with early impact for Raiders

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Raiders safety Karl Joseph notched his first career forced fumble in Week 2’s blowout victory over the New York Jets. It came on his first sack, where he bent around a tackle into the pocket and devoured his pray.

Joseph recovered the ball, and the Raiders quickly scored a touchdown. The second-year pro enjoyed that moment, but left the game with regrets.

"I should have definitely had more sacks than I did,” Joseph said. “I feel like I should have had three.”

Joseph had quarterback Josh McCown in the crosshairs three times, and feels like he should’ve finished each one. The game plan provided opportunity. Joseph blitzed six times – fellow safety Reggie Nelson attacked thrice – and pressured the quarterback four times.

It was a relatively new responsibility, considering he blitzed nine times all last year. Joseph will be first to say he was a different player then. He was less explosive, more tentative and a smidge less confident, lingering effects from an ACL tear during his final college season. Joseph was cleared to play as a rookie but wasn’t all the way back, doubly hampered by missing an offseason program where rookies grow quick.

"I wasn’t completely myself,” Joseph said in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports California. “I feel a lot more like myself this year. I obviously feel better physically, and the year of experience in the system has definitely helped. So has adjusting to the NFL life. That’s been an easier transition for me.”

Joseph is playing more like his highlight reel from West Virginia, where he proved a heavy hitter and a solid cover man worthy of last year’s No. 14 overall draft pick. The Jets game isn’t the only evidence of that.

Joseph had an excellent training camp, flashing an aggressive style and solid timing making plays in practice. That translated to the regular-season opener at Tennessee, when he saved a touchdown on consecutive plays. The first came on an open-field tackle. The second was a leaping pass breakup in the end zone, proof positive that Joseph was ready to make a big impact.

"He’s really good close to the line of scrimmage,” defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said. "He’s a really good tackler in the open field. He also plays well on the back end. I think his development is right on time right now.”

The Raiders recognize that, and are using him like a queen on the chessboard. He can move back or forward, as an attacker or the last line of defense. He’s a rover at times, with an ability to create havoc at all levels of the defense.

Joseph is an excellent fit for the defensive scheme, bring a tone-setting physicality to the secondary. He is learning, as part of his development, that the nuclear option isn’t always best. There are times when it is, and Joseph enters those scenarios without fear.

"You can’t play worried about getting hurt. That’s not the way I play,” Joseph said. “It’s about being smart. I had to adjust my game coming into the NFL. Every hit can’t be a big hit. Sometimes you have to be smart and just wrap people up, but you can’t ever play scared.”

He isn’t afraid to take risks or attack when asked, and is already making a major impact on this year’s defense. That isn’t a surprise. It’s expected of first-round picks.

"That’s what he’s supposed to do. He’s supposed to make plays,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “He’s a guy we selected because we thought he’d be a guy that could come in and impact on our defense. In the first two games of this year he’s played well. There are still things, like I tell you all the time, that have cleaning up to do, work to do, things to improve on, but he’s off to a good start and obviously it follows up from a good offseason. Healthy, a lot of good work and confidence that he’s gaining as we go.”