Before the Raiders get into considering what they would like to do in this year’s free agent market, they have their own free agents to think about. They have quite a few who are set to hit the market, though few who present a dire need to bring back.
With the team figuring to have around $50 million prior to any cuts they make, which should be plenty to allow the team to extend the players they would like to extend.
Topping that list are fellow 2014 draft classmates, Khalil Mack and Derek Carr — not necessarily in that order.
McKenzie spoke with local media over conference call Thursday, where he said his top priority is to retain both players long term.
“The good thing is we do have time, but I’m not the type to wait until the last minute,” said McKenzie. “Those two guys are not only great players but they are great men. They are true Raiders and I want to make sure we do the best that we can to make sure that they stay Raiders.”
Carr has one more year left on his rookie contract, making him eligible for an extension right now, making him the top priority.
Should the team opt to pick up Mack’s 5th year option this offseason — which they absolutely should do — he will have two years left on his rookie deal. This would allow the Raiders to wait until next offseason, should they choose to do so, and still extend him a year ahead of the end of his rookie contract.
“Hopefully it won’t beat up the roster that much,” McKenzie said of re-signing Carr and Mack. “You try to do the best that you can to work the contracts so you can keep as many good players as possible. But, we all know that you cannot have a roster of a lot of multi-million dollar players. That’s just not the way this system works. So, we’re just going to have to continue to strive to get good players for the lesser amount. I mean, it’s just the way it is. Our quarterback is going to command a high dollar. Khalil’s going to command a high dollar. So, we’ll work around it. But we don’t feel, at this point, threatened by it.”
Spacing out extending Carr and Mack between this offseason and next offseason would help considerably in the team’s ability to add free agents.
Carr’s contract numbers figure to approach or surpass the deal Andrew Luck received last offseason. That would put him around $25 million per season. If that’s what his cap number ended up being, that would essentially cut the amount of money the Raiders have to spend in half.
McKenzie has signed at least two players to big contracts each of the past two offseasons. He also prefers not to use prorated signing bonuses that make for dead money down the road. In order to do that, he will need to ensure he has the cap money available to give incoming free agents their guaranteed money upfront, usually split between the first two years of their contract.