New Raiders coach Josh McDaniels told reporters at the scouting combine Wednesday that Las Vegas hasn't begun talks with quarterback Derek Carr regarding a contract extension. But the veteran signal-caller is entering the final year of a deal he signed back in 2017. More importantly, McDaniels was clear when asked if Carr will be his Week 1 starter in 2022, telling NFL Media "there's no doubt about it." In other words, a resolution to Carr's contract status will be coming.
It's possible the former Pro Bowler will agree to play under his current deal, with the hope of securing a big payday in 2023, either with the Raiders or elsewhere. It's also possible Vegas could simply rework the last year of his contract to increase his salary. But unless McDaniels reverses course and fields trade offers for Carr, the most likely scenario is an extension, which would give the QB security beyond 2022 and potentially save the Raiders money up front.
The question is, what exactly would an extension for Derek Carr look like? What's a fair expectation for a new deal?
The best point of reference is probably the Vikings' Kirk Cousins. While Cousins is a polarizing figure in Minnesota, mostly because of his steep salary, he's a comparable QB in terms of career production. Both veterans, despite minimal postseason experience or success, have regularly been borderline top-10 passers. Carr is approaching 31, and Cousins inked his latest deal -- a two-year, $66 million extension -- at the same age.
Carr has a more established place within the Raiders franchise, and Vegas is in a better salary-cap situation than Minnesota, so he'll almost assuredly look to eclipse Cousins' average annual value ($33M). But Cousins' deal is a solid starting point if you're looking for a potential template. Carr's last extension -- a then-record five-year, $125M pact -- currently makes him the NFL's 14th-highest-paid QB in terms of annual pay. Any new deal he signs will almost certainly clear the annual averages of several QBs ahead of him, including the Titans' Ryan Tannehill ($29.5M), Falcons' Matt Ryan ($30M), the Colts' Carson Wentz ($32M) and the Lions' Jared Goff ($33.5M).
Several of Carr's QB counterparts, namely the Packers' Aaron Rodgers ($33.5M) and Rams' Matthew Stafford ($27M), are poised to see major upticks in annual pay thanks to potential extensions. The Ravens' Lamar Jackson, who is entering the final year of his rookie deal, could also be approaching a deal near the top of the market. But eclipsing $40M per year -- a total currently held by only the Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes ($45M), the Bills' Josh Allen ($40M) and Cowboys' Dak Prescott ($40M) -- figures to be a challenge for Carr, especially on a deal that stretches beyond two or three seasons. Prescott was almost four years younger than Carr at the time of his extension, while Mahomes and Allen were just 24 and 25, respectively.
In the end, we'd project Carr and the Raiders to strike something in the ballpark of a two-year, $70M extension that ties the QB to Las Vegas through 2024, paying an average of $35M per year. This would represent a $10M annual increase for Carr, with perhaps some tweaks to his 2021 cap figure to accommodate an immediate raise. Assuming both Rodgers and Stafford land lucrative deals that pay at least $40M per year, Carr's projected extension would make him the NFL's sixth-highest-paid QB, excluding the Texans' Deshaun Watson. A two-year pact would also give both Carr and McDaniels/the new Raiders regime flexibility to reassess their partnership in 2023, much like Cousins and the Vikings.