Derek Carr deserves his new deal, but he's not the only reason the Raiders are elite
General manager Reggie McKenzie has built one heck of a roster in Oakland
The deal has the highest average annual salary for any NFL player ever. Ever!
Peyton Manning never topped $20 million in his average annual salary on any of the deals he signed. Tom Brady signed a two-year, $41 million extension with the Pats last offseason that still falls a few million short of the Carr deal. Andrew Luck, a better comp for Carr considering his age, signed a deal last offseason for "just" $122 million over five years. The Raiders quarterback has even topped that.
Considering how much he's getting paid, would it be fair to say that Carr is the premier talent in the NFL? I don't think anyone would claim that. However, it's also hard to say he doesn't deserve every penny.
While he might not be considered the best quarterback in the league, now or ever, he has accomplished something no other player has managed over his first three seasons:
It's also extremely hard to win in the NFL without an elite quarterback. Brady has Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks is littered with other top-tier QBs: Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson, Eli Manning. Sure, you occasionally get a Joe Flacco thrown in there, but for the most part, you need a top-tier signal caller to have a shot at a Super Bowl, and Carr certainly seems on his way to being just that.but the list of recent
However, having an elite quarterback doesn't necessarily guarantee that you'll have an elite team. Take Luck's Colts, a team that has won just two division titles and reached the AFC title game just once since making him the No. 1 pick in 2012. He has been dinged up at times, but the lesson has been clear: No one should expect a quarterback to win a championship on his talent alone.
Carr is getting paid like an elite quarterback, but we shouldn't expect the Raiders, a team that flashed its immense upside for the first time last season en route to a 12-4 record, to be elite over the next five years just because they have Carr. We should expect the Raiders to be elite thanks to the organization's true MVP: general manager Reggie McKenzie.
Former agent Joel Corryearlier this month. McKenzie arrived in Oakland in 2012 facing a roster filled with overpriced talent and having no first- or second-round draft picks his first year to restock the cupboard. He didn't find any lasting talent in that draft, and his 2013 draft class was filled with plenty of misses and not many hits.
But things changed in 2014. That year, before taking Carr in the second round, McKenzie snapped up pass rusher Khalil Mack. All he did was become the first player named first-team All-Pro at two different positions in the same year and win the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2016. Suddenly, the Raiders had a leader for their offense and one for their defense in the span of about 24 hours on an early May weekend. In the shadow of those two picks, it's easy to forget that they also landed guard Gabe Jackson in the third round with their next pick, and he has graded out positively in each of his first three season, starting all 16 games in each of the past two years.
McKenzie wasn't finished adding young talent, continuing to pick up complementary talent in the draft over the next few years and hitting another home run with his 2015 first-round pick, Amari Cooper. Cooper has only topped the 1,000-yard mark in each of his first two seasons, improved in his second season and gave Carr a bona fide No. 1 weapon to grow with.
He has also done an excellent job in free agency. He signed Michael Crabtree to a one-year "prove it" deal in 2015 and then re-upped the talented receiver for four years when he did just that. He added Kelechi Osemele and Rodney Hudson to fortify the line, and that focus up front has given the Raiders one of the top units in all of football.
Where is Carr without Cooper, Crabtree and a stellar offensive line? He isn't accomplishing things that no other quarterback has ever done, such as throw for at least 80 touchdowns and no more than 40 interceptions in his first three seasons.
McKenzie has also done a great job building the defense, pairing Bruce Irvin with Mack to lead the pass rush and making smart pickups at each level to make this a team with plenty of upside on that side of the ball as well. More important, the general manager didn't clog up his cap space with too many big free-agent deals, leaving him room to negotiate a Mack extension and keep his defensive superstar from reaching free agency.
All the work that has been done over the past five years gutting an overpaid, untalented roster and finding the right pieces to complement stars like Mack and Carr has high importance to the Raiders being on the verge of gaining elite status for the foreseeable future.
Carr is getting his big deal, and he's worth it. But if the Raiders were just a top-heavy team featuring a franchise quarterback and little else, you could more than likely write them off as title contenders. Credit their talent up and down the roster as well as the work McKenzie has done to make them the NFL team with the brightest future of all.
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