Over the first two offseasons the Raiders new regime came in, they were hard up for cash. Both offseasons the team sent a lot of big money players out the door while being as frugal as possible in adding players. In the three offseasons since then, it has been the opposite experience.
Of all their big investments, the Raiders have consistently put the most value in the offensive line. In 2015 they made center Rodney Hudson the league’s highest paid center, in 2016 they made left guard Kelechi Osemele the league’s highest paid guard.
“My reaction was, I knew both Rodney and K.O. prior . . . worked their butts off, and they were good players,” Jackson said Monday via conference call, “so I was like, ‘well, I have a shot.’ Nothing is promised. Nothing is guaranteed, but I just kept doing the little things right, and kept getting better as a player, and just worked my butt off.”
Osmele’s addition came with a potential drawback, though. It meant Jackson had to switch positions. Naturally Jackson was uneasy about the transition.
“I was a little nervous about it because I didn’t know exactly how it was going to turn out,” said Jackson, “so just in my mind, I had it like, can’t get beat. This is what the situation is, so you have to adjust to it, and life is about adjustment.”
Jackson made the transition and shortly into his first season at right guard, he was back to playing as well as he had at left guard over his first two seasons. He had cemented himself as a key part of the Raiders rebuilt offensive line.
Investing heavily in the offensive line is smart. But Osemele and Hudson were both free agent additions. The team had yet to come upon an original drafted player on whom they wanted to plunk down big money until this offseason.
The first to get his payday was Derek Carr, receiving an extension that made him the highest paid player in NFL history.
Combine the investment into the offensive line and the first big reward for an original Raider (Carr) and Gabe Jackson had every reason to believe the team was going to reward him in a big way for his work as a full time starting guard over the past three seasons.
The team did that, re-signing him to a 5-year extension that would make him the third highest paid guard in the league ($11.2 million per season), just behind teammate Kelechi Osemele ($11.7 million per season) and will keep him with the team until 2022.
Jackson added, “I always say that if you live clean, and you live good outside of football, and you come in, and you take care of business, you work your butt off, you might not see it all the time, but people appreciate that. They might not tell you every day or every week, ‘hey, you’re doing a good job,’ this and that, but people pay attention to how you carry yourself, and how you work on the field, and off the field also.”
The always humble and soft-spoken Jackson was beside himself when he got the call with the details on his new contract. As it happens, he was at teammate Rodney Hudson’s bachelor party in Las Vegas when he got the call. With the linemate who will be next to him for several more years in the place he will eventually play. That had to be a surreal moment.
“I can’t explain it,” said Jackson. “It was just really crazy, like, wow. Just crazy. If you would have asked me that like two, three years ago, I would never even have imagined something like that . . . I just feel honored.”
“Even though it’s here, it’s not that I can relax, but I don’t have to worry about another deal, I just worry about playing football, and winning a championship.”