Raiders minicamp observations: QBs Cook, Manuel battling for backup job

Raiders minicamp observations: QBs Cook, Manuel battling for backup job

ALAMEDA – Derek Carr took his helmet off after stretching and individual drills. The Raiders quarterback didn’t put it back on again.

The offseason program’s final practice was for the backups. Starters were spectators during team periods, as reps went to those needing it most.

Connor Cook and EJ Manuel assumed quarterback duties among the two active units, and continued a competition to be Carr’s primary backup.

It didn’t conclude Thursday, and should extend well into the preseason.

Cook has primarily run the second unit with Manuel orchestrating the third, though the pair have switched at times.

Cook’s more familiar with the system after a year in it. Manuel’s picking up since signing as a free agent in March.

“I think he’s come in and he and Connor are battling for the backup spot,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “They’ve alternated days, who’s working with the second group, who’s with the third group. They’ve alternated all throughout the offseason. We’ll continue that through training camp until we feel like someone’s earned that designation.”

The Raiders know too well the backup spot is vital. Carr went down in Week 16 last season and the Silver and Black never recovered. Cook and former reserve Matt McGloin struggled under difficult circumstances, and the Raiders never won a game without their starter.

Both quarterbacks had good moments and bad during offseason practices open to the media. Cook would seem to be a frontrunner, considering the Raiders traded up slightly to draft him in the fourth round last year. Manuel signed a contract with no guaranteed money this offseason, hoping for a fresh start after the 2013 first-round pick fell out of favor in Buffalo. He’s reunited with offensive coordinator Todd Downing – a former Bills quarterbacks coach – and enters a quarterback room that has had two and three guys on the 53-man roster under Del Rio.

The head coach likes his backup options, though there isn’t a clear hierarchy at this point.

“I think that room is strong right now, the quarterback room,” Del Rio said. “It’s a really healthy environment.”

Here are more notes and observations from Thursday’s minicamp practice:

-- Fourth-round offensive lineman David Sharpe received tons of work this offseason, with veteran right tackles Austin Howard and Marshall Newhouse missing time with injury. While pads are necessary when evaluating linemen, Del Rio was happy with Sharpe’s early work.

“He’s been bright. Has come in and joined a group. Fit right in,” Del Rio said. “He’s been very purposeful and working at learning the system and understanding how we do things. I think he’s growing from a technique standpoint with (offensive line coach Mike Tice). We think he has a bright future.”

-- Offensive guard/center Jon Feliciano went down hard and looked to suffer an apparent knee injury last week during OTAs. He was attended to by trainers for an extended stretch, but was able to leave the field under his own power. Del Rio said he didn’t expect Feliciano’s injury to be a long-term issue.

-- Cornerback Gareon Conley missed the last two days of minicamp, with an undisclosed ailment. Defensive linemen Jihad Ward, Fadol Brown and Darius Latham missed minicamp with injury. Howard, Newhouse and Feliciano also missed recent sessions, as previously mentioned in other notes.

-- Khalil Mack was given the professional 2016 Butkus Award on Wednesday by Dick Butkus himself in a private ceremony.

-- Receiver Seth Roberts, working on the punt teams this offseason, blocked a Marquette King offering during a special teams period. He could play more special teams this year, especially with Andre Holmes moved on to Buffalo. 

-- King took lots of reps Thursday, and sent several punts booming into the opposing 20-yard line.

-- Cornerback Kenneth Durden intercepted quarterback Connor Cook, collecting a ball originally well deflected by Dexter McDonald.

Carr plans to spread new wealth after Raiders contract extension

Carr plans to spread new wealth after Raiders contract extension

ALAMEDA – Derek Carr isn’t one for extravagance. The low-key Raiders quarterback already has some nice cars, a house and some luxury items to his name, but signing a $125 million contract extension Friday morning won't prompt a spending spree.

Cornerback Sean Smith suggested he get a Bugatti. That’s a $1 million car.

“Yeah,” Carr said with a smirk. “That’s not going to happen.”

That isn’t the 26-year old’s style. Carr had a his own plan after signing on the dotted line.

“I’ve been eating clean,” Carr said. “I’ll probably get Chick-fil-A.”

That makes sense. This is a guy who celebrated his first NFL victory with a trip through a Carl’s Jr. drive-in.

There will be other purchases. His wife Heather will get something nice in the near future. His family, especially Heather and sons Dallas and Deker, will be taken care of for life.

After all that, Carr plans to spread the wealth.

“The exciting thing for me moneywise, honestly, is this money is going to help a lot of people,” Carr said. “I’m very thankful to have it, that it’s in our hands because it’s going to help people. Not only in this country, but in a lot of countries around the world. That’s what’s exciting to me.”

Carr and former Raiders running back Latavius Murray took a missionary trip to Haiti, an impoverished nation had a profound impact on the star quarterback.

“I’ve been down to Haiti and I’ve seen some of those struggles that they have and the kids there, and my heart just… I cry sometimes thinking about it,” Carr said. “So, just knowing that we can go down there and make a difference and help, those are the kind of things that the money makes me kind of like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ Because now we can really do some things to help a lot of people.”

He plans to support those in that area, in addition to global and domestic charities he has been involved with over the years. Don’t expect a press release accompanying every donation. Carr would rather keep those decisions private.

“I’m going to do my best to make sure no one knows what we do with it,” Carr said. “I’ll just say this, I can assure you that it’s going to help a lot of people. I’m not stingy. My business manager will probably be on me saying, ‘Hey man, that’s enough.’ I won’t get into when, how or why. It’s not all about that for me. It’s about making a difference. That’s what’s exciting for me is that we’ll be able to do that.”

Carr didn't want to 'take every single dime,' handcuff Raiders long-term

Carr didn't want to 'take every single dime,' handcuff Raiders long-term

ALAMEDA – Raiders quarterback Derek Carr signed a five-year contract extension Friday morning that will pay him $25 million in 2017 and $125 million over the life of the deal.

That’s a lot of scratch. Could’ve been more.

Carr received life-changing money. He didn’t want to handcuff the Raiders front office in the process.

“I just wanted to be a Raider,” Carr said Friday in a press conference. “It’s more than just a team to me. It’s family. The way it went down, it was easy. Both sides wanted it to get done, and it was about family members figuring out to get along. We figured out a way to do it so that we have the opportunity to sign other guys who are important to this organization. That was really important to me, not to just take every single dime that we could”

That list is long but it starts with homegrown talents Gabe Jackson and Khalil Mack. Jackson is up next, and could get locked up before the regular season starts. The Raiders have some time on Mack – his contract doesn’t expire until after 2018 – and Amari Cooper should be a keeper on down the road.

“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,” Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said. “This affords us to do that. We’re going to start on that ASAP.”

Carr got the deal he wanted. The 26-year old found market value and upped the ante for NFL quarterbacks a smidge while deferring some cash payouts – his big-time bonuses are broken up over two years -- to create windows of financial flexibility to sign other players. Carr’s percentage of the salary cap should decrease over time and won’t become an insurmountable burden to his employers. His deal won’t prevent the Raiders from keeping Jackson, Mack, Amari Cooper in time, or other vital veterans in house.

With Carr locked up, the McKenzie can work deals and the timing of them around his centerpiece.

Carr understands the NFL business and his role in the market, but he wants to maintain a competitive window as best he can and understands other guys will draw huge paychecks in the near future.

He’s scheduled to draw the NFL’s largest sum next season. A record $25 million is headed his way, though that total will decrease a bit in time and will certainly he surpassed by Matthew Stafford and possibly Kirk Cousins in the near future.

“I don’t care if they all do. We got our contract done, that’s all that matters to me,” Carr said. “The other thing that was important to me is that we didn’t worry about what other people were going to do or doing. I just wanted to get mine done and make sure that the team had, again like we talked about, flexibility to make sure my friends stay around.”

Carr was intimately involved in the negotiation process. Both sides said it was easy, wrapped up well before Carr’s training-camp contract deadline. Common ground was found in short shrift once talks warmed up – preliminary talks started months ago -- and a deal was ironed out that produced smiles on both sides once the deal was formally done.

Even after taking a relatively soft-line stance on dollars and the timing of payments – Carr could’ve been difficult all year and eventually forced a franchise tag – he’s still the league’s highest-paid player. His salary will now be compared with his stats. He was a second-round draft steal before. Now he’s a big-money player. In short, expectations will rise.

Carr insists it won’t add pressure to next year’s proceedings.

“You could give me a dollar, you could give me $25 million, it doesn’t matter,” Carr said. “To me, my No. 1 goal is to make sure that I give everything that I have to this organization. There’s no pressure. There’s no we’ll be on the 1-yard line and I won’t give it to Marshawn (Lynch), I’ll throw it. None of that stuff. I don’t care about the stats. That’s not my No. 1 objective. I don’t care if I throw 10 touchdowns next year. If we win every game, that’s all I care about.”