Coming towards the end of his contract, could we have seen Derek Carr play his final game for the Las Vegas Raiders? Let’s take a look at Carr’s contract structure, his impact on the Raiders’ salary cap in 2021, and what options the Raiders have with Carr this NFL season.
Derek Carr’s contract details and bonuses
Derek Carr signed a five-year contract extension worth $125.025 million in 2017, according to Dan Graziano. As part of the extension, Carr received $40 million in full guarantees. That included a $12.5 million signing bonus and a $7.5 million roster bonus in 2017. The remaining $20 million consisted of his $5 million salary in 2017 and a $15 million roster bonus in 2018.
A further $30.2 million was guaranteed for injury, including a portion of his salary in 2018, 2019, and 2020. All of those partial guarantees became fully guaranteed at the start of each season. Those amounts were $7.4 million in 2018, $19.9 million in 2019, and $2.9 million in 2020.
Carr’s contract length is for another two years
When Derek Carr signed his contract extension in 2017, he still had one year remaining on his previous deal. Therefore, Carr committed himself to six years with the Raiders following the signing of the extension. Entering the 2021 season, Carr has two years remaining on the deal. However, 2020 saw the end of any remaining guarantees in his contract.
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What impact does Derek Carr’s contract have on the Raiders’ salary cap?
Derek Carr is set to have a $22.125 million cap hit in 2021. Of that amount, $19.525 million is his base salary, $100,000 is a workout bonus, and $2.5 million is the prorated salary cap charge from his signing bonus. As of February 3rd, Carr is set to have the highest cap number of any player on the Raiders’ books.
The 2021 salary cap is projected to be around $175 million, according to both Spotrac and Over The Cap. The Raiders have $3.6 million in cap rollover available from 2020, leaving them with $178.6 million in cap space.
However, as of February 3rd, they are projected to be around $20 million over the cap in 2021. Therefore, the Raiders will need to make some tough decisions in the build-up to the new league year in March. Could Derek Carr’s contract be one that the franchise decides to move on from?
Can the Raiders move on from Carr’s contract this offseason?
With cap space a premium in the 2021 season, the Raiders will have to move on from some players this offseason. Derek Carr’s contract structure means that he could be a player in danger of looking for a new home next season.
Releasing or trading Derek Carr are both viable options for the Raiders
The structure of Derek Carr’s contract has worked out well for the Raiders. With none of Carr’s remaining salary guaranteed, the Raiders have an easy option if they want to release Carr. Additionally, the structure of the early years of Carr’s contract was smart.
The Raiders gave Carr $22.5 million in roster bonuses in the first two years of the deal when his salary was reasonably low. Therefore, they were able to give him just $12.5 million in signing bonus. That signing bonus prorated across the next five years of the deal at just $2.5 million per year. Had the Raiders given Carr a $35 million signing bonus, the prorated bonuses would have been $7 million per year.
Therefore, if the Raiders were to release or trade Carr in 2021, they would be left with just $2.5 million in dead cap. Meanwhile, a team trading for Carr would be committing to just $20.525 million in 2021 and $20.8 million in 2022.
Taking on two years of a serviceable QB at an average of $20.7 million per year would make for an interesting trade. Additionally, the acquiring team would have no financial penalty if they moved on from Carr next offseason.
Could the Raiders restructure Derek Carr’s contract?
If the Raiders want to stick with Carr in 2021, then a restructure is their best option. Due to there being no guaranteed money in the deal, the team and Carr can be as flexible as they wish.
The most traditional option would be to convert around $18 million in salary into a signing bonus for Carr. That signing bonus would then count against the cap at around $9 million per year in the next two seasons.
The less traditional option would be to shift the money owed to Carr this year into next year. The only way Carr would agree to it would be with a large portion of the money next year being guaranteed. This would potentially make it tough for the Raiders to move on from Carr next offseason. Therefore, a contract extension for Derek Carr might be a better option if they are willing to commit beyond this year.
Would an extension help the Raiders when it comes to Derek Carr’s contract?
The beauty of an extension is that, to some extent, it can look however the team and the player want. The Raiders could pay Carr the base veteran minimum of around $1 million this year and have him count just $3.5 million against the cap. However, they would have to put a lot of guaranteed money into the later years of the deal to make Carr agree to that. It seems unlikely that the Raiders will extend Carr at this stage.
The Raiders could extend Carr’s contract up to three years with void years. He would still be a free agent following the 2022 season, but they could spread the cap hit over five years.
Let’s take a look at how that changes the “traditional” restructure discussed above. By converting $18 million of salary into a signing bonus, the Raiders could spread the prorated bonus over five years. Therefore, Carr would count just $3.6 million per year in prorated bonus instead of $9 million over two years.
The issue with that option is that the Raiders would hamstring themselves from moving on from Carr in 2022. Even with the void years, releasing Carr would still accelerate the cap hit in those years onto the 2022 cap.
In this example, Carr would, therefore, count $14.4 million in dead money as opposed to the current figure of zero. The Raiders will need to balance all of that if they want to keep Carr in the building in 2021 but still be able to release him next offseason.
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