Saunders' knowledge key to Raiders offense

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Saunders' knowledge key to Raiders offense

More than once I've written in this corner that Dennis Allen's first task as the Raiders' new head coach should have been to retain Al Saunders as his offensive coordinator.Almost.So close, in fact, you can now count Saunders' retention as a "senior offensive assistant" next to horseshoes and hand grenades in the streets of Silver and Blackdom.Saunders returning to Oakland might mean that much to not only the offense, but to the direction of the entire team as it rebuilds from within.
Yes, I know that Greg Knapp is returning to be Allen's playcalling O.C. and he figures to bring his brand of West Coast offense and zone-blocking scheme to Oakland. But rather than installing an entirely new system, Knapp can now be, ahem, assisted in the transformation by the staff's elder statesman.Knapp's West Coast offense sensibilities meshed a tad with Saunders' vertical-game acumen and knowledge of the roster?It makes sense. A lot of sense, especially when you throw in the continuity factor.Because remember, it was Saunders who actually devised each and every gameplan last season. Hue Jackson then used it like a menu, picking and choosing from it the actual plays to call on gameday. Plus, Saunders was the de facto quarterback coach. So he knows firsthand how much Carson Palmer could absorb in being flipped, so to speak, from a Darryl Lamonica mad bomber-type into a Rich Gannon accurate dink and dunker-type, and just where Terrelle Pryor is on the developmental scale.And even as the offense underwent makeover after makeover last season with season-ending injuries to Jason Campbell and Darren McFadden, season-altering injuries to Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore and the midseason additions of Palmer and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, the offense was the strength of the 8-8 Raiders, who still finished one stop -- any stop against Buffalo or Detroit -- from going to the playoffs.Consider: Oakland was ninth in the NFL in total offense (379.5 yards per game), seventh in rushing offense (131.9), 11th in passing (247.6) and was tied for fifth in completions of 40 or more yards (14) and tied for seventh in rushing TDs (16).Imagine what Saunders can do with an entire offseason "advising" Knapp and reported new QB coach John DeFilippo and new receivers coach Ted Gilmore on how to best use so many weapons...so many healthy weapons.REPORT: DeFilippo returning to Raiders
This is good news for Raiders fans. Very good news that is actually refreshing in that once Saunders, who was the lone assistant from Jackson's staff still under contract, was allowed to interview with Kansas City for the Chiefs' O.C. position, it seemed he was a goner. And that he would come back to haunt the Raiders.It seemed preordained.Instead, Saunders is able to finish a job he started last season. Or at least, try.

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.”