On Friday, the Raiders owe Derek Carr the first money from his new $125 million deal — a check for the first 10 percent ($12.5 million).
Combined with an already earned roster bonus of $7.5 million, due in September, and a $5 million salary, Carr will make $25 million total this season.
All told, Carr is guaranteed $40 million in the first nine months of the deal.
While NFL players always desire upfront, guaranteed money, Carr’s deal presented a unique opportunity to backload the contract, with the Raiders moving from California, the highest income tax state, to Nevada, a state with no income tax, by 2019 at the earliest.
Given the structure of Carr’s deal, the move will save him approximately $8.7 million in taxes assuming a 2019 move, according to Robert Raiola, a certified public accountant and director of sports and entertainment at PKF O’Connor Davies (see breakdown below).
Believe it or not, Carr stands to net more after taxes off a $20 million Nevada salary in 2019 ($11.54 million) than he’ll take home from a $22.5 million California salary in 2018 ($11.15 million).
The $8.7 million total Carr will save in state taxes is no small chunk of change, but he could’ve maximized his haul by heavily backloading the deal. Instead, his contract’s two highest annual payouts come in 2017 and 2018, the first two years of his deal. Why? Well, one important thing to remember is that the Raiders are the NFL’s most cash-poor team as far as ownership goes. So Mark Davis might not have been willing to exchange minimal payouts on the front end for huge cash outlays in 2019 and beyond.
Another wrinkle: A source familiar with the negotiations said the Raiders used the income tax savings to convince Carr that he’s earning more while the team pays out less. In other words, the tax differences between California and Nevada brought down the total value of the deal, while enabling Carr to get more money up front than the team originally wanted to hand out.
Add it all up, and Carr made out pretty well in this deal. No, his $40 million in the first nine months of the contract can’t touch Andrew Luck‘s $60 million over the same span, but comparing Carr and Luck isn’t exactly fair.
That’s because before signing an extension in 2016, Luck, picked No. 1 overall in his draft, was due to make $16.1 million in the final year of his rookie deal. Carr, who was drafted 36th overall in the 2014 draft, had $977,000 left on the last year of his deal.
That makes a big difference at the negotiating table.
So, to be fair, the Carr guarantee must be compared with that of Russell Wilson, who was due $1.54 million in the final year of his rookie deal and whose new deal gave him $31 million in the first nine months.
Seen in that light, and with the benefit of $8.7 million extra in tax savings, Carr’s deal makes plenty of sense.