Fresh off being named Pro Football Writers of America Executive of the Year, Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie had to confront an uncomfortable reality about this offseason: There's a lot of work to do, and some of the franchise's best players need new deals.
Both Khalil Mack and Derek Carr are coming to decision points in their rookie contracts. While Mack has the club option in 2018, Carr's pact expires after the 2017 season. A lot of teams opt to bundle that last season before free agency into a new extension. Like a coach's contract, allowing a star player to enter the final year of their deal without an extension often can be viewed as bad for business.
At this point, McKenzie doesn't seem concerned with the relatively high price tag for the star duo.
"You try to do the best you can to work the contracts where you can keep as many good players as possible," McKenzie said. "But we all know that you cannot have a roster of multi-million dollar players. That's not the way the system works. So we're just going to have to continue to strive to get good players for a lesser amount. A quarterback is going to command a high dollar. Khalil is going to command a high dollar. We'll work around it, but we don't feel at this point threatened by it."
Despite all the public arm wrestling that happens between team and player when these deals are getting done, McKenzie likely knows exactly how much he can and will spend on Carr and Mack. NFL general managers don't get to where they are without a team of salary-cap specialists and analysts who can forecast the market and create a realistic range. McKenzie will start at the low end of that range and eventually end up somewhere higher during the negotiation process.
The interesting part is that these are the sorts of deals which will, at least theoretically, span the Raiders' final years in Oakland and potential future in Las Vegas. While a five-year deal is never really a five-year deal for a player, Carr and Mack could be locked up on paper through 2022 or 2023 depending on the length of their next extension. Talk about planning ahead.