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Derek Carr contract talks: There’s no other viable option

Looming QB extension is Raiders’ best move

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas Raiders
Derek Carr remains the best option for the Las Vegas Raiders at the all-important quarterback position. Hence why extending him would be the most viable choice.
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Derek Carr is going to get a handsome pay day from the Silver & Black — again. A report surfaced two weeks ago that the Las Vegas Raiders are prepared to commit to their quarterback with an extension.

“Sources say the Raiders are moving forward with Carr at QB and prepared to discuss a contract extension that would keep him in Las Vegas for the foreseeable future. Carr has one year left on his contract, making nearly $20 million,” NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport wrote.

Now let’s not get it twisted: Rap goes on to prognosticate a “strong a short-term deal” is likely imminent and the new Vegas brain trust of general manager Dave Ziegler and head coach Josh McDaniels aren’t set to anchor themselves with Carr long-term. And that’s the proper approach.

Whether you agree with the impending contract extension or not — and all you have to do is peruse my timeline on Twitter to see my own reservations with DC4 — keeping Carr in place is the best move for the Las Vegas Raiders.

And here’s why: There’s no other viable option. Carr presents the best option moving forward. And unless a quarterback the ilk of Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson come walking in the doors at Raiders HQ in Henderson, Nevada (via trade, no less), an alternative to DC4 is likely to flounder in the desert.

Carr is a known quantity. And for NFL teams, that’s a tremendous thing. New Raiders general manager Dave Ziegler and head coach Josh McDaniels know what they’re going to get in him as their quarterback. Rapoport even notes that McDaniels was the choice for new Raiders head honcho, and the New England transplants both favored DC4. So the feelings are mutual. We can argue about Carr’s record as a starting quarterback (57-70), his comeback wins, completion percentages, touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio, penchant for fumbling the ball, all we want. We can explore and discuss the various mitigating circumstances that resulted in every single statistic. But if the new brain trust in Vegas is comfortable with Carr, then so be it.

There’s one intriguing unknown that’ll be answered when Ziegler and McDaniels tie their Raider career on DC4: The Raiders know what Carr gives them, but what they don’t know is if McDaniels can get him to another plateau. Is there untapped potential for Carr and is McDaniels the coach that brings it out?

“But there’s no question that we have the capacity and capability of winning with Derek here. We all know that. I look forward to the challenge of trying to grow not only Derek but everybody on the roster to try to reach our potential,” McDaniels said at his introductory press conference. “I never feel like a player is a finished product, and our job as coaches is to try to continue to identify places where we might be able to get better and work hard to try to improve, and I know he’s completely on board with that.”

Improvement to reach another level. Sounds right up the Raiders owner’s alley. And likely something that made McDaniels the coach for him.

“It’s not a rebuild, it’s not a reload. It’s just taking this to the next level and getting to the Super Bowl and winning some championships,” Raiders owner Mark Davis told the media during Ziegler’s and McDaniels’ introductory presser back on Jan. 31.

Looking at the continuity and familiarity aspect when it comes to Raiders personnel, Carr already has the all-important, already-built synergy with the various components of the Vegas’ offense. There’s not getting-to-know phase with teammates as the integral pieces — tailback Josh Jacobs, wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, tight end Darren Waller, center Andre James and left tackle Kolton Miller — have considerable snaps with Carr.

NFL: OCT 27 Raiders at Texans
Center Andre James, bottom, quarterback Derek Carr, top, and running back Josh Jacobs (28) are all accustomed to one another.
Photo by Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Based on his past success in New England — most recently McDaniels orchestrated an offense that maximized rookie quarterback Mac Jones’ strengths and mitigated his areas of opportunities — there’s optimism regarding the Raiders new play caller. If McDaniels can make it work well with a neophyte signal caller, what can he do with a veteran that’s equal parts smart and accurate?

And this is where a short-term extension plays well. If the McDaniels-Carr combo doesn’t prove to be a fortuitous turn of events for the Raiders, the team isn’t locked in for an inordinate amount of time and a new course can be charted. Sure, there will be dead money involved as a short-term deal will likely come with a significant amount of guaranteed coin, however, after a season or two, Vegas will definitely know whether or not McDaniels could get Carr to ascend to another level or not.

Oh, and does an extension preclude the Raiders from exploring options at QB? Hell. No. Zielger and his personnel group are going to properly look at improving every area of Vegas’ roster — established starters or not. That’s the way organizations combat the roster churn that eventually arrives — due to age or contract of players. Just because Carr will be entrenched at QB1 doesn’t mean the team shouldn’t look at bringing prospects or veteran talent into the quarterback room. Especially since it’s likely backup Marcus Mariota hits the market and sign elsewhere when free agency opens up later this month.

If the Raiders were to acquire a veteran signal caller — whether that’s Rodgers, Wilson, Jimmy Garoppolo or DeShaun Watson — the acquisition would entail trading draft picks and perhaps even a player or two. That would be quite the compelling choice for a new GM like Ziegler. Would it be wiser to hang on to and making picks with draft capital to build around your in-house quarterback in Carr? Or do you swing for the fences and acquire a signal caller like Rodgers, Wilson, or Watson to lead the new era?

While the aforementioned names may raise an inquisitive eyebrow, smart money is Ziegler and McDaniels backing Carr, a quarterback the duo were interested in getting when they were New England Patriots.

“For McDaniels, he now inherits a quarterback in Derek Carr that he has always liked,” Rapoport said during an appearance on NFL Network. “In fact, the Patriots considered trying to trade for Carr before the season. Now, McDaniels and Ziegler get him.”

How long will they have Carr? We’ll find out once the contract extension happens.