What will it take to keep the 2022 rushing title champion with the Las Vegas Raiders? Josh Jacobs can command $15 million or more on the open market, but what are the Raiders willing to pay in order to retain him? General manager Dave Ziegler can approach negotiations in a few ways.
On Monday, Jacobs made it clear that he wants to suit up for the Silver and Black. He also added a caveat:
Jacobs didn’t say what would make sense for him, but as a running back, he’s unlikely to get another opportunity to strike big in free agency. Name the number of tailbacks who have hit the open market twice and signed big-money deals each time. It doesn’t happen.
Even at the young age of 24 years old, Jacobs will want long-term security—a multiyear deal. He leads the 2019 draft class in carries (1,072), rushing yards (4,740) and touchdowns on the ground (40). With two Pro Bowl seasons (maybe an Associated Press All-Pro nod on the way) and a rushing title, Jacobs is more than worthy of a top-dollar salary at his position.
Cost of the Las Vegas Raiders franchise-tagging Josh Jacobs
Nonetheless, the Raiders have some negotiating leverage. They can franchise-tag him for a year. Early this offseason, many projected the franchise tag for running backs would reach nearly $12 million, but CBS Sports’ NFL contract and salary cap expert Joel Corry suggests that number will be $10.1 million.
Ziegler chose not to exercise the fifth-year option on Jacobs’ rookie deal, which would’ve been worth a little more than $8 million. So, the franchise tag is only $2 million more against the cap. Though let’s be honest, Jacobs may have pushed for a new deal after his career year anyway. Remember, Ziegler extended wideout Hunter Renfrow with one year left on his contract and gave tight end Darren Waller a new deal with two terms left on his contract.
If the Las Vegas Raiders feel confident that they can work out a new deal with Jacobs, but they want to take their time with negotiations, expect them to use the franchise tag between February 21 and March 7. Then, the team would have until July 15 to agree with his camp on a long-term deal. Essentially, Ziegler would have about five months to hammer out an extension.
Cost of extending Josh Jacobs on a multi-year deal
Ideally, the Raiders and Jacobs would come to a middle ground on a multi-year contract, but what would that cost?
Well, eight running backs make at least $12 million per year, and they all signed extensions with the teams that drafted them. Here are their annual salaries (AAV):
- Christian McCaffrey: $16 million
- Ezekiel Elliott: $15 million
- Alvin Kamara: $15 million
- Dalvin Cook: $12.6 million
- Derrick Henry: $12.5 million
- Nick Chubb: $12.2 million
- Joe Mixon: $12 million
- Aaron Jones: $12 million
If the Raiders want to re-sign Jacobs and avoid resetting the running back market, they’ll probably try to negotiate for the gap between Cook and Kamara, which means that $13-14 million range (with $32-33 million guaranteed). That may be the sweet spot to satisfy both sides. Vegas avoids a market-setting deal, and Jacobs becomes one of the four highest-paid running backs.
Other running back options for the Las Vegas Raiders
However, in the event that Jacobs wants a top-three salary at his position, his contract talks with the team could stall, and the Raiders may take a peek at other options. Let’s look at the top impending free-agent running backs:
- Saquon Barkley
- Miles Sanders
- David Montgomery
- Tony Pollard
- Kareem Hunt
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the New York Giants will try to extend Barkley’s contract. While Sanders and Pollard seem like the top two options, Ziegler can save money at the position and look toward the 2023 draft. Why spend $10-plus million on Sanders or Pollard when you could add a ball-carrier on a rookie deal if Jacobs isn’t in future plans because of financial differences?
Head coach Josh McDaniels can use a draft pick on a running back between the second and fourth rounds and pair that player with Zamir White, who didn’t see a lot of action this season, registering just 17 carries for 70 yards.
Importance of retaining Josh Jacobs
Going into the offseason, the Raiders have $34.6 million in cap space, and they can clear another $29.3 million if they’re able to deal quarterback Derek Carr, who has a no-trade clause. Ziegler can recoup the money on Carr’s deal if he opts to cut him. Either way, Vegas will have about $63.9 million in space (assuming the team moves on from Carr) before the franchise tag window opens late February.
Even if the Las Vegas Raiders pursue quarterback Tom Brady, they may feel comfortable working with Jacobs on an extension in the meantime. After all, Brady didn’t have a run game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who finished last in rush attempts and yards for the 2022 season. He may be attracted by the idea of playing with the reigning rushing champion in a familiar offense.
Lastly, the players’ decision to make Jacobs a team captain spoke volumes about the respect he’s earned in the locker room. If the Raiders want a rookie quarterback, keeping leaders on the roster such as Jacobs would only help the rebuild and growth of the offense.
Jacobs said he wants to be a Raider if the situation makes sense. Well, Ziegler should do his best to make it make sense for both sides.
Maurice Moton covers the Raiders for Sportsnaut. You can follow him on Twitter at @MoeMoton.