Raiders

How Raiders can (realistically) improve Derek Carr's supporting cast

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How Raiders can (realistically) improve Derek Carr's supporting cast

Derek Carr wasn’t perfect operating Jon Gruden’s offensive system, but the Raiders quarterback got more comfortable and consequently more efficient running it over time.

The Raiders head coach/offensive mastermind was Carr’s fourth play caller in five seasons, and the high-priced passer believes continuity will help him improve play and execution.

Gruden’s unpredictability means there’s always a chance things could change, but right now Carr’s expected to be back running the offense in 2019. Gruden hasn’t said anything to contradict that thought, routinely praising Carr while vowing to improve his supporting cast.

“You throw for 4,000 yards in the NFL with what he has been through, and that is quite a year,” Gruden said after the season finale. “It’s quite a year indeed with a new system, young tackles, playing inside with three guards (hurt), receivers coming and going and a new featured back. He did some really good things to build upon. We have to get better around him, and I have to get better myself.”

The Raiders have resources to improve Carr’s supporting cast in free agency and the NFL draft. Here are five realistic moves – there will be no pipedreams on the list, with knowledge that some young players will stay and develop -- the Raiders can make to help make Carr’s life easier next season.

Re-sign TE Jared Cook

This point isn’t reporting that Cook will return to the Raiders. It’s quite possible he doesn’t considering the Raiders added dynamic, young (and cheap) receiving tight end Darren Waller near season’s end, and that this is Cook’s best (and maybe last) shot to cash in on bigger-money deal in free agency. Though he enjoyed being the primary target in 2018, the highest bidder will have some sway here.

But…bringing Cook back would add some continuity to the pattern, especially with a major overhaul expected at receiver. Cook’s a versatile chess piece and a known commodity, which would be valued if the receiver corps gets a whole lot younger outside Jordy Nelson.

Draft a receiver in the first round

This receiver draft class is immensely talented, offering wideouts of varied skill sets. Use the No. 4 overall pick on a defensive player, but come back and take the best available wideout with one of the other first-round picks acquired from the Bears (No. 24) or the Cowboys (TBD, No. 25 at best). There will be several good options there, possibly a future No. 1 receiver.

Then…draft another one

This draft class isn’t just talented. It’s also deep. There’s quality to be found in the middle rounds, and the Silver and Black could find another target, with a slightly different skill set to the first-rounder. If the Raiders do it right, both receivers could make an immediate impact for Carr and the offense.

Add veteran competition/depth across OL

Let’s be real here. The Raiders are going to stick with Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker at offensive tackle. They believe in both guys, and will continue to develop them hoping they become long-term solutions and left and right tackle, respectively. They really missed a reliable veteran backup. Donald Penn wasn’t available while on injured reserve, but he wants to return for one more go-round. The Raiders should add a veteran tackle anyway as an emergency option the team’s confident could start in a pinch or take over should a young tackle falter.

The Raiders had issues at guard as well. They have to make a choice with impending free agent Jon Feliciano, who will have suitors, and find quality depth inside whether he returns or not. Did Denzelle Good show enough near season’s end to be that guy? More competition couldn’t hurt.

Bottom line: Carr got sacked 51 times last year. That’s way too many, especially for someone who functions far better trusting his pocket will remain consistently clean.

The RB room needs a power boost

This is true only if Marshawn Lynch doesn’t return. There’s no telling what he’ll do, but another year with the Raiders seems highly unlikely if the team doesn’t play within Oakland city limits.

Jalen Richard should be back, but isn’t a thumper. Chris Warren can be, but he remains unproven despite a strong 2018 preseason. Gruden has declared interest in a Doug Martin return, but he isn’t a long-term solution. A draft pick might help establish a more dominant run game, especially one that can run efficiently inside and within the Raiders blocking scheme.

Derek Carr hopes pivotal Raiders offseason can expedite rebuilding process

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Derek Carr hopes pivotal Raiders offseason can expedite rebuilding process

Derek Carr is tired of burning daylight. He’s done some of that already, cycling through four head coaches, four offensive play callers and three offensive schemes in five NFL seasons. He was a young player brought in as part of a roster rebuild that worked.

It just didn’t last long. The Raiders fell back on hard times following a 12-4 campaign in 2016, and now head coach Jon Gruden’s fully committed to another radical reconstruction.

Gruden traded Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper, guys who could’ve helped the Raiders win last season. He acquired others who didn’t, namely Martavis Bryant and Ryan Switzer and several veteran defenders who won’t see another season in silver and black.

Now the Raiders enter the offseason with an arsenal: three first-round draft picks and $76 million in salary-cap space without anyone deserving of a long-term extension that must factor into the budget.

Carr’s hoping all those tools will expedite the rebuilding process. He doesn’t want to waste more seasons doing it slow, and hopes Gruden can import several impact players in one offseason.

“We need some guys who can come in and help us now,” Carr said in an interview with 940-AM in Fresno. “We have some good building pieces. We have some foundational pieces. Obviously, we have a quarterback, so we don’t need one of those. That’s the good thing.

“We just need some players who can help us win now. We’re building this thing. We’ve been building this thing. We’ve built this thing a couple of times. It’s time to get people who can just come in and help us now. There are a lot of veterans on this team who signed contracts or signed extensions or free-agent deals to come play here because we want to win and we believe in this system and what we’re doing.”

[RELATED: How Raiders can realistically improve Derek Carr's supporting cast]

Count Carr among them. He signed a $125 million extension believing incumbent stars would also be here long term and find sustained success. That wish never came true, and now Gruden’s looking to remake the franchise with new guys.

This offseason will be pivotal in Gruden’s success. It could turn things around quickly, as Carr hopes, if he and general manager Mike Mayock lock onto the right guys.

“If we get three players who are NFL ready right now, if we get three starters from those three (first-round picks) or maybe four if you count some of the other picks…,” Carr said, trailing off. “And we have some cash to spend. We have a lot of cap room. If we can spend that cap and that capital and get some good veteran players, not just average guys but guys who can make a difference, (that would be positive). We’re a lot closer than people give us credit for.”

Raiders Derek Carr dismissed by Khalil Mack when asked about being dunked on

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Raiders Derek Carr dismissed by Khalil Mack when asked about being dunked on

Khalil Mack and Derek Carr remained close even after they stopped being teammates. Carr was devastated to lose Mack in a trade for a Raiders' future draft compensation, both in the locker room and on the field.

Beyond the friendship, the two became main members of the silver and black, and brought much promise to the organization and hoped to create a culture change.

That, unfortunately, didn't come to fruition. 

But we're lucky they still participate in Twitter exchanges to show there are no hard feelings and the bromance is still alive and well. But most recently, they showed there will always be a competitive nature between the two.

Carr answered some questions on his YouTube channel Thursday. But someone wanted to ask via Twitter if he will still dunk on Khalil Mack in the offseason after it became public knowledge Mack has already dunked on him at David Carr's house.

The answer? Without question:

Well, that settles that, but we won't truly believe it until we see it. But at least there's the 1-on-1 win that Carr had against Mack.

Your move, Carr.