Each week, The Washington Post’s Mark Maske provides in-depth NFL analysis with “First and 10,” a dissection of the league’s most important developments.
FIRST . . .
Season tickets are sold out for this coming season. The team is coming off a playoff season and has legitimate Super Bowl aspirations. The quarterback has a new $25 million-a-year contract. The running back had the league’s top-selling jersey in May.
Sounds like a thriving franchise, huh?
Say hello to the 2017 Raiders.
The 2017 Oakland Raiders.
The Raiders are headed to Las Vegas for the 2019 or 2020 season, a relocation that was ratified by the NFL owners in March. When Raiders owner Mark Davis said at the annual league meeting in March in Phoenix – at which the vote on the Vegas move was taken – that he thought the franchise would be well-supported by fans during its remaining time in Oakland, it sounded unrealistic.
Weren’t the Raiders, after all, the definition of a lame-duck team? Wouldn’t fans revolt and take out their anger not only on Davis, as he implored them to do while asking that his coaches and players be spared, but also on Davis’s team?
There is much that remains to play out. But it appears there is at least a chance that Davis’s prediction will end up being on target.
Quarterback Derek Carr became one of the league’s most productive passers and among its most valuable players last season as the Raiders returned to the postseason. If Carr hadn’t been hurt for the AFC playoffs, the Raiders might have been an honest-to-goodness threat to the New England Patriots. With Carr back in the lineup, the Raiders should be a top AFC contender this coming season. His status as an elite quarterback was affirmed by the Raiders with last week’s five-year, $125 million deal.
Carr could have more help on offense this season with the return from retirement of hometown favorite Marshawn Lynch, the bruising runner most recently with the Seattle Seahawks. Perhaps the Raiders’ primary motivation for adding Lynch was to placate disgruntled Bay Area fans. Perhaps football considerations factored in significantly. Whatever the case, the fans do seem placated, at least for now, given their consumption of the available season tickets.
None of this is to say that Davis and the Raiders could have made things work long-term in Oakland. The league office and Davis’s fellow owners are abandoning the Oakland market for the Vegas market reluctantly. They would have preferred for the Raiders to have remained in the larger market. But league officials have said they did all they could and there was not a viable new-stadium deal made available in Oakland. It can be debated whether, by the end, those attempting to keep the team in Oakland had made an offer that, with further work, could have led to a deal. But it cannot be debated that the Raiders and the NFL put considerable time and effort into the deliberations.
This will be a fascinating season in Oakland, with a once-proud team highly competitive again. A Super Bowl push is not out of the question, even with the Patriots as imposing as ever. Raiders fans must figure out how to deal with their conflicting emotions. It could be a story line as compelling as any leaguewide in 2017.
. . . AND TEN
1. Stafford and Carr . . . Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has played down the connection of his contract negotiations to those of Carr and the Washington Redskins’ franchise-tagged quarterback, Kirk Cousins. But the completion of the Carr deal makes things relatively easy for Stafford, who has one season remaining on his current deal, and his representatives. The Stafford contract will top the Carr contract by a little bit, inching the salary bar higher for elite quarterbacks.
2. Cousins and Carr . . . The Carr deal does relatively little to aid the Cousins negotiations, however. Those deliberations are complicated by the fact that the Redskins have used the franchise tag twice on Cousins and would have to pay Cousins a massive amount of money to tag him a third time next year. Those numbers set the framework for the negotiations on a long-term deal, with the July 17 deadline for such an agreement looming.
3. Redskins and Fritz Pollard Alliance . . . The Redskins haven’t always had a smooth relationship with the Fritz Pollard Alliance, the diversity group that works closely with the league on minority hiring. The group has pushed for the team to change its name, and worked unsuccessfully to arrange a meeting on the topic between the Redskins’ top decision-makers and leaders of Native-American groups.
But the Fritz Pollard Alliance was delighted when the Redskins elevated Doug Williams to senior vice president of player personnel. The group had endorsed Williams for the general manager job after the Redskins fired Scot McCloughan earlier this offseason. And while Williams did not get the title, he was given a well deserved promotion.
4. First-round signings . . . Remember when a team signing its first-round draft pick qualified as news by football-watching standards?
That is a fading memory.
Say this much about the rookie pay system that was put in place by the 2011 labor deal between the league and the NFL Players Association: It has done what it was designed to do: curb the escalation of rookies’ salaries and streamline the negotiating process for rookie contracts.
It now takes an extremely unusual set of circumstances, such as those with Joey Bosa and the Chargers last summer, for a prized draft pick to remain unsigned long enough that missing any of training camp is even a threat.
5. Training camps . . . It is the down-est of down time on the NFL calendar. Fret not. Training camps are not too far off. Rookies begin reporting to some teams’ camps July 19. The earliest reporting date for any team’s veteran players is July 21 (that by the Arizona Cardinals). All teams will have their veterans in camps by July 29.
6. Harris and the Jets . . . It’s one thing for the New York Jets to purge their roster. It’s another thing entirely for the Patriots to benefit from it.
But that’s what happened, at least potentially, when the Patriots signed linebacker David Harris following his release by the Jets. Harris, at age 33, still could have something left. He was credited with 95 tackles last season, and he further bolsters a New England defense that added cornerback Stephon Gilmore as a high-priced free agent earlier this offseason. The Patriots seem to have improved themselves considerably this offseason, even coming off a Super Bowl triumph.
7. Jets and Browns . . . Some have accused the Jets of tanking the upcoming season in hopes of securing a top draft choice for next year’s coveted quarterback class.
It has been argued here that the Jets did the right thing with their overhaul of an aging and unpromising roster.
Either way, the Jets are bad. Unspeakably bad. Possibly Browns-like bad. There are some within the league who are even beginning to wonder if the Jets’ current roster is worse than last season’s Cleveland roster, which produced a 1-15 season.
8. Johnson’s ambassadorship . . . If the Jets are that dreadful, owner Woody Johnson at least won’t have to deal with it on a day-to-day basis. The White House announced Johnson’s long-expected nomination as U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, pending Senate confirmation. The daily operations of the team are being turned over to Johnson’s brother Christopher, and little is expected to change dramatically even in what could be a pivotal third season of the football stewardship of General Manager Mike Maccagnan and Coach Todd Bowles.
9. CBA negotiations . . . There is talk from both sides, the league and the players, about beginning to get serious about negotiations of an extension of the collective bargaining agreement, which runs through 2020. But, in truth, there is little to suggest that those deliberations will be serious any time soon, given the lack of urgency dictated by the amount of time remaining on the current deal.
10. Reid and Dorsey . . . Some within the league were surprised by the Kansas City Chiefs’ ouster of John Dorsey as their GM, which came in conjunction with the team extending the contract of Coach Andy Reid. The Chiefs announced the move as a mutual parting but others within the sport have said that Dorsey had intended to stay. There had been no suggestion of dysfunction between the two. And the Chiefs did well in their four seasons under Dorsey and Reid, with a record of 43-21.
Dorsey had a year remaining on his contract. Some within the league believe it is possible that negotiations on an extension were unproductive. Whatever the case, the Chiefs are in the market for a replacement while Dorsey becomes another possible candidate to succeed Ted Thompson in Green Bay whenever Thompson opts to step aside as the Packers’ general manager.