Raiders OC Todd Downing: New weapons will 'make me look good'

Raiders OC Todd Downing: New weapons will 'make me look good'

STANFORD – Todd Downing has long been responsible for intently analyzing college quarterbacks entering the NFL Draft. He certainly did so during two seasons as Raiders quarterbacks coach, adding input to personnel department evaluations on young signal callers.

This offseason, he’s using a wide-angle lens. Downing is the Raiders offensive coordinator now, promoted to the position after Bill Musgrave was allowed to leave on an expired contract.

Coaches enter the draft evaluation process relatively late – they have a season to coach, after all – but Downing prides himself on working hard in evaluating talent. Working with general manager Reggie McKenzie’s staff, coaches feel like their voice is being heard.

That’s important to a coordinator especially, who must make a scheme work with talent around him.

“Reggie and his staff have always done a tremendous job of listening to our vision for the offense or the defense,” Downing said Thursday at Stanford’s pro day. “It’s been a joy to work with those guys over the past three years.

“(Head coach Jack Del Rio) really expects us to be accountable for our position group. Now that I’m the coordinator, there’s more of a broad scope when looking at offensive talent in the draft. When you work that hard (evaluating players), I think the scouts know that your opinion is well grounded, and that validates it a little bit.”

Downing is always on the lookout for weapons, especially while making tweaks to the Raiders offense. The Silver and Black found a few, adding tight end Jared Cook, receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, offensive lineman Marshal Newhouse and quarterback EJ Manuel.

Quarterback Derek Carr helped him get some. The full-time East Bay resident has been active recruiting free agents, trying to improve an already strong Raiders offense.

“You guys know how passionate he is about this game, and about this team and backing up this franchise,” Downing said. “(His involvement in recruiting) didn’t surprise any of us. He’s pretty hands on when it comes to football. He lives in the area, so he hopped in when we needed it and it paid off.”

Cook and Patterson especially could add dimensions to a well-rounded Raiders attack. Cook has made some big plays in the past, and should be a reliable receiving tight end the Raiders have lacked in recent seasons.

“He has a skill set that will be fun to play with (schematically),” Downing said. “We’re excited to see what he can do, and I know Derek is excited to add him. He has a history of making plays in this league, and that’s something we’re excited to have.”

Patterson’s primarily known as a kick returner – he’s a two-time All Pro on special teams – but the Raiders hope he’ll be active on offense.

“With guys like that, you just find a way to get them the rock and let them do the rest of the work,” Downing said. “They make me look good. I can call a simple play and he takes it the distance and it looks like I designed something special.”

Raiders offensive lineman next in line for extension with Carr's deal done

Raiders offensive lineman next in line for extension with Carr's deal done

The Raiders locked up Derek Carr last week, signing their franchise quarterback to a five-year, $125 million contract extension.

He isn’t the only member of the 2014 draft class worthy of a raise. Edge rusher Khalil Mack will get a big one, likely at some point next offseason. The Raiders have some time with Mack after exercising a fifth-year contract option available for first-round picks.

General manager Reggie McKenzie didn’t have that luxury with Carr, and his 2014 second-round pick cashed in before formally entering a contract year.

Right guard Gabe Jackson could do the exact same thing. McKenzie prefers to draft, develop and reward homegrown talent, and the 2014 third-round pick should be next in line to do so.

McKenzie has said back in March that he’d like to extend Jackson’s contract, though there isn’t a deadline to do so.

“There’s no timetable,” general manager Reggie McKenzie said. “But, I alluded to earlier in the offseason that Gabe is one of the guys I want to get locked up.”

That could happen later this offseason, or further into training camp. Despite paying Carr an NFL-record $25 million in 2017, his contract is structured in such a way that there’s room for another offseason extension. That was important for Carr, that the Raiders can sign other members of this young core.

“We figured out a way to do it,” Carr said, “so that we have the opportunity to sign the other guys that I think are important to this organization.”

The Raiders have roughly $18 million in salary cap space after the Carr deal. Some of that is earmarked for the team’s top three draft picks, which remain unsigned to this point. A large sum could go to Jackson as incentive to sign up early, well before he’s eligible to hit the unrestricted free agency.

The offensive guard market is booming, with bigger deals going to a position group generally lower than other spots on the offensive line. The Raiders contributed to that inflation in 2016, signing left guard Kelechi Osemele to a five-year, $58.5 deal with $25.4 million in guarantees.

Osemele is one of eight guards with contracts worth $40 million or more, a list that includes two right guards. Jackson played left guard – the more valued position – until Osemele showed up. He moved to the right without complaint.

Jackson thrived there as well. He didn’t allow a sack in 2016, according to analytics site Pro Football Focus, with 27 quarterback pressures in 735 pass-blocking snaps. Jackson has been a strong run blocker as a pro, where he has started 44 games in three NFL seasons.

Finding proper value to entice Jackson to sign while remaining on budget is McKenzie’s next task, trying to keep a valuable offensive lineman in place for years to come.

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.”