Derek Carr’s extension was right move given Raiders’ competitive posture

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 12: Derek Carr #4 of the Las Vegas Raiders throws a pass during the third quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on December 12, 2021 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 12: Derek Carr #4 of the Las Vegas Raiders throws a pass during the third quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on December 12, 2021 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images) /

From the moment news leaked that the Las Vegas Raiders had reached an agreement with quarterback Derek Carr on a new extension, the jokes started flying—at least outside of Sin City. For the first time in years, however, the punchlines were without any real substance.

Carr has become synonymous with losing as an NFL quarterback, so it makes sense on the surface that the Raiders’ decision to retain Carr as the franchise face and the team’s most important player would be seen as laughable at first glance.

In a division where Justin Herbert and Patrick Mahomes are positioned for a long rivalry atop the division, for the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs respectively, it feels like a poor decision for the division’s other teams not to shoot for the moon with a new quarterback. The Broncos went the veteran route, but a trade for a former MVP and Super Bowl winner in Russell Wilson was an understandable one—even admirable.

The Raiders maintaining the status quo can instinctively feel like the Raiders are just doing their normal thing. Except this offseason has turned the page.

Competency in Las Vegas?

No one knows yet what the results will be from the Raiders’ spending spree, but Carr has never been the primary cause for the team’s losing ways. For most of Carr’s career, the Raiders’ organizational decision-making has been disastrous. From a head coaching carousel of Dennis Allen and Tony Sparano to Jack Del Rio and Jon Gruden, the leadership pyramid has never impressed and front-office decisions haven’t been any better.

Consider that the Raiders have had multiple years of drafting that look like the Chiefs’ class of 2018 (the Breeland Speaks class) in which no real meaningful contributions were found. A single off-year in a draft can halt a team’s progress, but the Raiders have been mired in the bottom half of the divisional standings because of their inability to put together a complete roster.

Even when the Raiders get some things right—a Maxx Crosby or Khalil Mack—they are a dumpster fire elsewhere on the roster. When the offense has looked good—such as when the Raiders did a victory lap around Arrowhead in 2020—their defense is atrocious. They can have superstars at some positions and replacement-level players at others on the same unit. First-round picks flame out. Free agent signings fail to move the meter.

Maybe that will happen again, but the 2022 offseason feels different. First, it’s hard to argue that Davante Adams, widely regarded as the best wideout in football, won’t move the meter for an offense that has lacked a top-tier option for years. Chandler Jones should look great across from Maxx Crosby, who was also given an extension, and Rock Ya-Sin gives the team a dynamic young corner. Bilal Nichols and Anthony Averett should also bolster the defense.

All this to say, for the first time in years, the Raiders look like they might have competent leaders at the helm, both on the sidelines and in the front office.

Gauging Carr accurately

Carr’s detractors will point to his body of work, and specifically to a 57-70 regular-season record, and say he’s been given enough time. It’s also possible to say that truly great quarterbacks elevate the play of their team and help them rise above their circumstances to compete. That’s both true and not true (with examples of each scattered throughout NFL history), but it doesn’t even matter for Carr.

For Chiefs fans or anyone else who wants to laugh at Carr’s new extension, the punchline is a little unfair. It’s laughing at the Raiders because they lack Patrick Mahomes, but the truth is that you can make the same joke of nearly every other team in the NFL. The list of bright young quarterbacks in the NFL is not a long list, and the teams that employ such greats are fortunate to do so.

For those teams who lack a Herbert or Mahomes, a Josh Allen or Joe Burrow, they’re often stuck in a loop of recycled attempts to get such a quarterback. A few teams are lucky enough to have a savvy veteran (e.g. Tom Brady in Tampa Bay or Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay or Matthew Stafford in L.A.), but for the most part, every other franchise is either desperately hoping in an unproven product or hoping their productive QB can turn into a proven winner.

It’s that last category that Carr fits into, and that’s the level upon which he should be judged. No, he’s not a Mahomes, but Carr certainly deserves consideration as a potential top 10-12 quarterback in the NFL. Is he worse than Russell Wilson at this point? What about Ryan Tannehill? What about Kirk Cousins? How good is Kyler Murray looking these days? And how far into the postseason has Dak Prescott led his teams?

It’s basically this general cloud of contenders that make up the next tier of quarterbacks, each with their own questions and concerns. When it comes to Carr, you have to look at the leaders he’s played under and the overall talent of the rosters he’s been tasked to lead. What if Carr had Prescott’s offensive line? What if Carr was given the pass catchers that Murray enjoys in the desert? Could Carr have taken the big leap like Stafford did if he played for a loaded contender like the Rams?

The truth is that the Raiders made the right move to extend Derek Carr if they wanted to go all-in. You don’t trade for Davante Adams and then pull the slot machine lever at quarterback. You don’t pay an aging veteran like Chandler Jones big money if you are going to tax the defense with carrying the team.

Instead, you surround a three-time Pro Bowler with more talent than you’ve ever before. You provide him with some stability and competence on the sidelines. You give him a chance to win more in his thirties than he ever could in his twenties due to a dumpster fire of organizational history. That’s what the Raiders have done here, for better or worse.

The Raiders might surprise the AFC after a flurry of offseason activity. They might also finish fourth in the AFC West once again. But if fighting for a playoff spot is the goal, then extending Derek Carr was the right path to take. Regardless of the jokes you hear, it was a sound decision given the circumstances.

Next. Eight players worth trading up for in the draft. dark