Yesterday the Oakland Raiders moved a sixth round pick to the Houston Texans to acquire the rights to QB Matt Schaub. Schaub had come under great scrutiny since the Texans signed him to an ill-advised extension worth $15.5 million a year, a number that, at the time, made him one of the two highest paid “non-Super Bowl” winners in the NFL. Schaub was coming off injury and had just one year remaining on his contract in 2012 when the Texans made the move. By the end of 2012, when team expectations were high and Schaub’s physical limitations began to be scrutinized more due to those expectations and his contract, he began to falter.
After an exit in the 2012 playoffs there were questions as to whether or not Schaub should be back in 2013, technically just the first year of his new contract. The large guarantees in his contract made that an impossibility but the talk of it seemed to rattle his confidence. Schaub had a meltdown under the pressure and went through a series of injuries and benchings during the course of the 2013 season. It was clear he needed a new home to try to resurrect his career.
For the Raiders the move is a no-brainer. They had no quarterback of note on the roster and need to turn the fortunes of the team around. Before Schaub began to get rattled in 2012 he was having a very good season and had always been careful with the football. As long as his confidence returns at worst the Raiders get a professional behind center.
The contract itself is one that the Raiders should not touch to give him added “job security” or anything else they feel may help him with his confidence. The Raiders have a high draft pick and should not look at the addition of Schaub as a reason to not use it on a prospect, so keeping outs in his contract would be a smart decision. Schaub will be 33 this season and while that is young enough to get two years out of him I would not call it likely to expect much more than that, at least at a relatively high level of football. The Raiders also need to plan for the fact that Schaub could also be finished.
Because no prorated money enters the equation in a trade the contract itself works out perfect for the Raiders current contract format of no signing bonus money and instead the use of base salaries and incentivized roster bonuses. Schaub will only cost the Raiders a maximum of $11 million this season in cash and salary cap, which is the second lowest paid veteran “starter” QB in the NFL behind Alex Smith of the Chiefs. If you look at this as a two year contract with an annual value of $12.25 million it ranks as 4th lowest among veteran starters. So the contract is not as bad from the Raiders perspective as some are making it out to be.
The decision will bring more scrutiny to GM Reggie McKenzie’s handling of the Carson Palmer situation in 2013. McKenzie wanted Palmer to take a paycut of $3 million in 2013 which Palmer refused to do because of how he felt he was being treated in Oakland. McKenzie traded Palmer and a 7th rounder to the Arizona Cardinals for a 6th rounder and a conditional draft pick in 2014. The Raiders would then send a 5th in 2014 to the Seahawks for Matt Flynn, who was an epic disaster and released in October. McKenzie restructured Flynn’s contract for both cap relief and the ability to give him that “job security” adding more dollars to the picture that the Raiders had to account for when Flynn was released.
Palmer ended up reducing his salary in 2013 and 2014 with the Cardinals from $27 million to $16 million with a chance to earn $4 million in incentives and escalators. The guarantees were just $10 million. Schaub is essentially a lateral move from Palmer putting the Raiders right back to where they were in 2012. All told the Raiders will spend, assuming Schaub does not take a paycut, $26.84 million in salary cap charges in 2013 and 2014 for Palmer, Flynn, and now Schaub. The Cardinals spent $16 on Palmer over the same time period.
The Raiders are probably the best example in the NFL of the desperate levels that teams will go to try to fix the QB position. In the last three years the Raiders have sent draft picks to other teams for the services of Jason Campbell(4th in 2012), Carson Palmer(1st in 2012 and 2nd in 2013), Matt Flynn (5th in 2014) and now Matt Schaub(6th in 2014). The first three QB’s started a total of 43 games in four seasons going 19-24. Over that same time frame the Raiders have also drafted Terrelle Pryor (supplemental that cost a 3rd in 2012) and Tyler Wilson (4th in 2013). Pryor started 10 games in 3 years while Wilson was released in 2013. When you combine all the picks(1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 4th, 5th, 6th) the Raiders have essentially given up an entire draft for the position. That’s quite the waste of resources.
For McKenzie he needs Schaub to work out our this will likely be the end of his run in Oakland, where he oversaw the salary cap teardown of the team and had little success on the field while struggled with the mistakes of the organization before him. The Raiders have spent approximately $47 million in cap space this season, mainly on veterans likely leaving their primes than entering it, which means the improvement needs to come quickly. They still maintain cap flexibility as almost every contract has a one year escape window, but he wont be in Oakland if they have to pull that switch in 2015.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.