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Las Vegas Raiders: Examining Derek Carr’s market value and why he commands it

Moe Moton

Derek Carr has gone through tough times with the Las Vegas Raiders and just helped lead the team to the playoffs in a season of disarray. Now, the new administration seems primed to reward him at a price that coincides with the market value for quarterbacks.

Some fans thought Carr would take a lot less to leave more cap space and money behind for the front office to build around him, but the Raiders can find a middle ground that satisfies both sides. Unlike the debates on social media, everything doesn’t have to come down to one or the other.

Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal tweeted about Carr’s potential extension after a rumor from Jordan Schultz caused a palpable buzz.

While some people gasped at Bonsignore’s reported number, Michael Ginnitti of Spotrac had the same ballpark figure when he discussed the market value for Carr and Kirk Cousins on Monday’s episode of The Spotrac Podcast.

“They’re both $40 million quarterbacks though,” Michael Ginnitti said. “That’s just how it works.”

Michael Ginnitti on value of Derek Carr

Ginnitti believes Carr and Cousins will both sign extensions and make $38-$40 million per year because that’s what the market dictates going into the offseason, which is a point many Raiders fans overlook when estimating new deals.

Last week in a column about the Raiders’ biggest offseason questions, we took a look at three quarterbacks averaging $32-33.5 million in Carson Wentz, Kirk Cousins and Jared Goff. Most general managers and analysts would rank Carr above all three—so why would he accept less than them?

As pointed out in last week’s column, Carr’s agent will likely walk away from the negotiating table with his client averaging around $34 million—that’s the final year of his contract along with whatever is added on in the extension.

Bonsignore provided a salary breakdown if Carr signs a two-year deal.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport suggested that the Raiders would offer Derek Carr a two-year extension, which lines up with Bonsignore’s tweet.

With that said, as proposed in last week’s column, the Raiders could give Carr a longer deal with an early out after two or three years that allows both sides to part ways and leave a manageable amount of dead money in case the Dave Ziegler-Josh McDaniels regime has a rocky start.

Regardless, it seems as though Carr will have an extension in the coming weeks. Though some Raiders fans may feel uncomfortable with the reported and rumored dollar figures, keep in mind, he’s massively underpaid right now on an expiring $19.9 million non-guaranteed contract for 2021. The new money could boost the annual average value of his deal into the $33-$34 million range, but in order to do that, the front office would have to pay the market rate for its quarterback.

If Carr goes into the $40 million range in 2023, he’d likely join the ranks with Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow, who all likely sign new deals in the near future (within the next 18 months). If you include Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Dak Prescott and possibly Cousins (as Ginnitti suggested in his podcast), about a third of the league’s starting quarterbacks could average $40-plus million on their contracts by end of the 2023 offseason.

Derek Carr is the best option right now

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Las Vegas Raiders
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

While some fans want to win a lot of games in 2022, they don’t want to pay the fair market value for Derek Carr. Well, what’s the contingency plan if he’s traded? Is it Wentz, who couldn’t lead his team to the playoffs in the final week against the Jacksonville Jaguars? Is it Jimmy Garoppolo, who’s frequently hurt and has bouts of inconsistency with his ball placement? Are you pulling Ben Roethlisberger or Philip Rivers out of retirement? How about Jameis Winston, who’s coming off a torn ACL with damage to his MCL?

Let’s be honest, none of those options compare to Carr.

Meanwhile, the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks don’t have plans to trade their Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks. According to Rapoport, the Packers are prepared to make Rodgers the league’s highest-paid quarterback. Per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, Wilson has opened the line of communication with head coach Pete Carroll and “expects” to be in Seattle next season.

By the way, no quarterback in the 2022 draft seems prepared to start Week 1 and lead a team to the playoffs. At this point, moving on from Carr would mean taking a step back after a 10-7 campaign, which resulted in the team’s second playoff appearance since 2016.

For the detractors who think Carr’s contract will prevent the Raiders from building a complete team—that’s only true with an incompetent front office. Sure, in previous years, the team has blown first-round picks and whiffed on big-money free agents, but this regime deserves a chance to prove it’s better than the last.

Secondly, we just watched the Los Angeles Rams hoist the Lombardi Trophy, and they’ve been in the playoffs and over the cap threshold in the past few years. By the way, seven of the 14 playoff teams from this past campaign are currently over the cap limit.

Do you know what keeps a team from building a solid roster? Poor draft picks, overpaid free agents and subpar coaching hires. If Ziegler spends and drafts wisely while McDaniels’ staff develops young talent and puts the players in a position to produce, Carr’s contract shouldn’t be a problem.

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Finally, ask yourself, if the Raiders chose the alternative option, then what? Are you prepared to go back to 4-13 with a top-five draft pick until the team finds an answer at quarterback? Probably not. Though Carr isn’t elite, how many of those quarterbacks are in the league and available? With him, the Raiders remain in the playoff mix—and that’s potentially the starting point to something greater.

As previously mentioned, when it’s all said and done, a contract that averages $33-$34 million isn’t a bad deal when you consider the salary cap will likely steadily increase in the years to come.

Lastly, with any of these contracts, the total number draws the most attention, but the real focus boils down to the guaranteed money, which should surpass $110 million on Carr’s extension—above Wentz ($108 million) and Goff ($110 million). Remember, most starting quarterbacks don’t even go through the length of a deal because they’re released, traded or sign a new contract to keep up with the market before it expires.

To the average person, Derek Carr’s projected deal seems astronomical, but when you break it down in terms of guaranteed money, market value and his worth to the team, the Raiders, with a solid draft class and free-agent additions, have the resources to stay in the playoff picture.

Maurice Moton covers the Raiders for Sportsnaut. You can follow him on Twitter at @MoeMoton.