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How Derek Carr’s first three seasons stack up against the league’s elite quarterbacks

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The Raiders standout just got paid. Has he earned it?

Derek Carr was awarded the richest per season contract in NFL history yesterday when the Raiders extended his deal to the tune of $125 million over five seasons. Silver & Black Pride’s Levi Damien outlined the contract details here.

The massive increase in salary means Carr will be expected to perform amongst the leagues premiere quarterbacks from here on out. Anything less will be considered unacceptable.

In order to predict Carr’s future success, lets compare his first three seasons as a starter with some of the league’s current elite.

Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers is a Super Bowl champion, two time league MVP and arguably the best quarterback in all of football. But as of Thursday, he’s likely jealous of Carr’s contract situation.

Before the Super Bowl and the accolades however, Rodgers was just a young quarterback teetering on the edge between good and great. In fact, Rodgers’ first three years as starter were eerily similar to Carr’s.

Here are Carr’s numbers over his first three years, per ESPN:

Here are Rodgers’ stats in the first three years of the post-Favre era, also per ESPN:

In the exact same number of games (47), the two quarterbacks statistical output was remarkably similar. Rodgers threw for 86 touchdowns compared to 81 for Carr and also narrowly edged him in the yardage category, putting up 12,394 yards versus 11,194. In terms of interceptions, both players threw for 31; not a bad future indicator for Carr as Rodgers now holds the greatest TD-INT ratio (4.12) in NFL history.

There was one major difference outside of the numbers, however.

Rodgers underwent three seasons of grooming behind Hall-of-Fame quarterback Brett Favre, while Carr was thrown right into the fire on a team that had been subpar for a decade.

Tom Brady

Brady, like Rodgers, has multiple MVP’s (2) and has long been a top-three quarterback in the league. He has amassed a downright extravagant five Super Bowl rings and is considered the greatest quarterback of all-time by many. Still, because of the NFL’s contract structure, Brady’s cap hit won’t equal Carr’s this season.

In 2001, Drew Bledsoe suffered a hemothorax, Brady took the reins of the Patriots and never let go. Over the ensuing three seasons, Brady started 31 games and won a Super Bowl. In terms of numbers during the regular season however, he wasn’t any more impressive than Rodgers or Carr. In fact, he was slightly worse.

Here are Brady’s first three years in the post-Bledsoe era, per ESPN:

As you can see, Carr threw for more touchdown passes (81-69) and yards (11,194-10,227), while throwing for seven less interceptions (31-38).

Brady also had a year to learn behind Bledsoe, not to mention the Supreme Being watching over him on the sidelines. That’s a Bill Belichick reference in case you were wondering.

Andrew Luck

Since Luck is still talked about as the greatest prospect to join the NFL since Peyton Manning, it’s only fitting to compare him to the NFL’s top earner in Carr.

Unlike everyone else on this list, Luck was the number one overall pick in his draft class and many GM’s would likely pick him to build a franchise around if they had the choice. But is he really the best quarterback in the league under 30?

He has unquestionably suffered from abysmal line play in his career thus far, but he’s also shown a tendency to hold onto the football for far too long in the pocket, resulting in a staggering interception total.

Luck averages the second most attempts-per-game in NFL history, while Carr is fifth on that list, so the comparison between these two should hold some weight.

Here are Luck’s first three seasons in the NFL, per ESPN:

Luck has threw for an extremely impressive 12,957 yards his first three seasons against Carr’s 11,194, while throwing for five more touchdowns (86-81). However, in a sport where limiting turnovers is king, Carr’s 31 interceptions look fantastic when compared with Luck’s 43.

Over the past two seasons, Luck has chucked up another 25 interceptions in only 22 games, while leading the Indianapolis Colts to a pedestrian 10-12 record.

If an expansion draft took place tomorrow, GM’s may still take the former Stanford Cardinal first overall due to ‘intangibles.’ However, when given the choice between Luck and Carr, the numbers suggest that may be the wrong decision.


Anyone who decries Carr’s contract as over-the-top simply doesn’t understand the quarterback driven NFL of today. His contract doesn’t proclaim him the top quarterback in the league at this moment, but simply the most recent to be paid. The trajectory he’s on right now could find him mentioned in the same breath as Rodgers or Brady sooner rather than later.

He won’t have five Super Bowl trophies anytime soon, but an MVP or first Lombardi trophy isn’t out of the question in the near future for the talented 26-year-old signal caller.

His numbers through three seasons are on par with some of the greatest quarterbacks in football. Contracts are largely about the future, not the past, and there’s no reason to believe that Carr’s game won’t continue to evolve for the Silver and Black going forward.