The Oakland Raiders have rewarded Derek Carr with the next mega-contract for an NFL quarterback. That is significant for Carr and the Raiders as they prepare to challenge the New England Patriots for AFC supremacy during what remains of their time in Oakland.
But it also is significant for the next two quarterbacks in line awaiting big deals, the Washington Redskins’ Kirk Cousins and the Detroit Lions’ Matthew Stafford.
The new standard has been set, as Carr will reportedly make $125 million over five years, making him the highest-paid player in NFL history.
The #Raiders and QB Derek Carr have finalized a 5-year monster extension worth $125M, sources say. Highest paid player in history
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) June 22, 2017
It will be up to Cousins, Stafford and their representatives to exceed Carr’s contract.
The contract, finalized Thursday, surpasses the $24.6 million average annual value of quarterback Andrew Luck’s contract with the Indianapolis Colts, the previous record for a long-term deal. It makes sense that Carr pushed the salary bar for quarterbacks higher. He established himself as one of the league’s most valuable players last season and led the Raiders back to contender status. If Carr hadn’t been hurt for the AFC playoffs, the Raiders might have been a formidable postseason challenger for the Patriots.
Carr and the Raiders resume that chase this coming season. It should be fascinating to watch. The Raiders have sold out their season tickets in Oakland for the 2017 season even with their already ratified move to Las Vegas pending for the 2019 or 2020 season. They have added hometown favorite Marshawn Lynch at running back, and now they will have the sport’s best-paid quarterback as they attempt to become a championship team in a city they have made arrangements to exit.
But Carr’s contract has implications in other NFL cities as well. It will serve as an obvious target for Stafford and his representatives.
Stafford, too, is coming off a highly productive season, having thrown for 4,327 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2016. The Lions managed to reach the NFC playoffs even without retired wide receiver Calvin Johnson. And Stafford, at age 29, should have some very good seasons left. He is entering the final season of a contract that will pay him $16.5 million this year.
“The Stafford contract clearly will take it the next step higher,” said one NFL agent not involved in the Carr, Stafford or Cousins negotiations. “Whatever Carr gets, Stafford will get more. The Cousins thing, that’s a little bit different. Those are negotiations where the numbers are set by the [franchise] tag, more so than [by comparison to] other contracts.”
Cousins, franchise-tagged by the Redskins for a second straight year, is to make $23.94 million this season under his one-year franchise deal. The two sides have until July 17 to craft a long-term deal. Barring that, the Redskins could face the prospect next spring of franchise-tagging Cousins for a third year in a row at a price of $34.47 million if they want to keep him off the unrestricted free agent market. Using their transition-player tag instead on Cousins next year (which would allow them to retain Cousins by matching any contract offer by another team, but would not give them the right to receive draft-pick compensation if he leaves) would cost the Redskins $28.73 million.
So, to some observers, Cousins and his representatives are likely to weigh any long-term contract offer from the Redskins in the coming weeks against the $58.41 million the team would have to pay him over the next two seasons to retain him via franchise tags. That could make it extremely difficult for the Redskins to sign Cousins, and that’s why many within the league are convinced he will be elsewhere for the 2018 season.
“This is a case where the team really boxed itself in with multiple franchise tags,” the agent said. “The numbers are just so big now, and it doesn’t seem like he [Cousins] is willing to take less than his market value to stay. It’s gonna be really difficult and really, really expensive to get him signed at this point.”