A few years ago, the Oakland Raiders were the current New York Jets: perennial also-rans who rebooted by gutting their roster. They created a ton of cap space, spent money in free agency, and drafted two cornerstone players, QB Derek Carr and DE Khalil Mack. They suffered through another three losing seasons and a coaching change, but it finally clicked last season with a playoff appearance.
On Thursday, the Raiders took another big step, locking up their franchise quarterback with a reported five-year extension for $125 million.
The Raiders' ascent shows there is hope for the Jets, but it will take time, patience, smart decision-making and, yes, a little bit of luck. Carr lasted until the 36th pick of the 2014 draft, proof that not all elite quarterbacks are found at the top of the draft. Imagine how the Cleveland Browns feel; they passed on Carr three times, once for Johnny Manziel.
In case you're wondering, the Jets took safety Calvin Pryor with the 18th pick of that draft, and now he plays for the Browns. That's called the circle of life for downtrodden franchises.
Right now, the Jets and Raiders are at opposite ends of the team-building spectrum. The Raiders just committed an obscene amount of money to a 26-year-old quarterback, giving them long-term stability at the most important position. The Jets? Well, they're living in a different world. They will have their fourth different opening-day QB starter in six years, and there's a very good chance it'll be five in seven years in 2018.
There's also the money.
Consider this mind-blowing comparison: Carr's $25 million average per year, reportedly the highest in NFL history, is the same as the combined APY of the 17 highest-paid skill-position players on the Jets' current roster.
We're talking about three quarterbacks, four running backs, two tight ends and eight wide receivers.
Is that crazy or what?
By dumping Eric Decker, Brandon Marshall and Nick Mangold, the Jets eliminated three large salaries from their books. Their new highest-paid player on offense is left tackle Kelvin Beachum ($8 million per year).
A look at each skill position and the top salary (based on APY):
Quarterback: Josh McCown ($6.5 million)
Running back: Matt Forte ($4 million)
Wide receiver: ArDarius Stewart ($844,000)
Tight end: Austin Seferian-Jenkins ($1.3 million)
Except for McCown, Forte and Bilal Powell ($3.75 million), every Jets player in the skill category is making the minimum salary or slightly above it. Someday, maybe, the Jets will have a quarterback worthy of a megadeal. In the meantime, they should follow the Raiders' blueprint.
Just grin (and bear it), baby.