ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Go ahead, mark another item off Reggie McKenzie’s to-do list.
In successive weeks, the Oakland Raiders general manager has locked up the face of the franchise in quarterback Derek Carr and a cornerstone of the offensive line in right guard Gabe Jackson with big contract extensions.
Carr got a record $125 million deal over five years; Jackson’s five-year deal is worth up to $56 million, with $26 million in guaranteed money.
Surprised at how quickly Jackson’s deal came to fruition in the wake of Carr’s megabucks contract?
You should not be, not with McKenzie, the reigning NFL executive of the year, essentially saying at Carr’s news conference last Friday that Jackson was on deck.
“There’s no timetable,” McKenzie said at the time. “But I alluded to earlier in the offseason, that Gabe is one of the guys I want to get locked up. So, absolutely.”
So what’s next? First off, some crunching of the salary-cap numbers.
As things stand, it's impossible for the Raiders to lock up star edge rusher Khalil Mack anytime soon. Then again, that was never really the plan, not with the Raiders exercising their fifth-year option on Mack earlier this offseason with eyes on extensions for Carr and Jackson.
Consider: Before Carr’s extension, the Raiders had more than $33.3 million in salary-cap space, and with Carr’s cap number for 2017 now expected to be $15 million, that would bring Oakland’s cap space down to about $18 million.
Jackson’s cap number is not yet known, and the Raiders still have to sign their top three draft picks in cornerback Gareon Conley, who's still awaiting word on whether he will be charged with sexual assault; safety Obi Melifonwu, who saw some first-team reps in OTAs and minicamp; and defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes, who missed OTAs and minicamp due to academic obligations at UCLA. Of course, all that will eat into Oakland’s aforementioned salary-cap space.
Then there’s this: Unless the Raiders are truly set at middle linebacker with the likes of Tyrell Adams, Cory James and Ben Heeney, they still need to sign a veteran ... someone like, oh, Perry Riley Jr. or Rey Maualuga. And that will cost some coin as well.
In Jackson, though, McKenzie showed a commitment to his transcendent draft class of 2014 in general and the foundation of the franchise in particular. Particularly if you subscribe to the theory games are won and lost in the trenches.
Mack went fifth overall in that draft, while Carr was Oakland’s second-rounder and Jackson, who came out of Mississippi State with a reputation as a road-grader, was selected in the third round.
Jackson lived up to that reputation as he played his first two NFL seasons at left guard and was a mauler in the interior, turning in a physical performance against then-San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith that raised both eyebrows and his profile.
His overall Pro Football Focus grades rose from 77.9 (27th among guards) as a rookie to 84.2 (12th) in 2015, with his run-blocking grade improving from 47.8 (59th) to 78.2 (33rd).
After moving to right guard last season following the arrival of free agent Kelechi Osemele (who rewarded the Raiders with an All-Pro campaign), Jackson had some growing pains early. His overall PFF grade dropped to 81.1 but remained 12th among guards. And while his run-blocking grade dropped a few ticks to 77.8, his ranking rose, from 33rd to 26th.
Plus, for the first time in his young career, Jackson did not allow a sack, on 25 pressures. He'd given up one sack in each of the previous two seasons, on 19 and 23 total pressures, respectively.
As a unit, the Raiders' offensive line -- a top-five group in the NFL per PFF, and, at nearly $37 million, the line with the league's highest cap value -- allowed a league-low 18 sacks, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Carr responded to the reports of Jackson being re-upped with a tweet featuring just four smiley-face emojis, and why not? Carr figures to be the biggest benefactor of Jackson’s return.
Indeed, Carr said last week he wanted to make sure his contract made it possible for McKenzie to lock up his teammates.
“All along the way, I was like, ‘How do we keep my teammates?’” Carr said at the time. “I don’t know if it’s weird how it sounds but ... I was like, ‘OK, that’s cool. Yeah, that’s awesome, wow, cool. Is this good for Gabe? Is this good for Khalil? Is this good for Amari [Cooper]?’
“I didn’t want to hurt our team; that’s the last thing I would ever want to do.”
As McKenzie might say (and do): Check.