Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock have been asked about Derek Carr’s future all offseason.
No shocker, there.
Whether the Raiders starting quarterback gets a seventh season calling signals has been a major talking point despite him setting several statistical bests last season. The reason’s super simple. He hasn’t won enough.
Carr’s a polarizing figure among the fan base, with believers and detractors squaring off daily on social media.
Love him or hate him. There is no middle ground.
It’s hard for either side to use Gruden or Mayock remarks to assist a debate, considering how well both head coach and general manager have talked and said nothing while discussing a quarterback under contract through the 2022 season.
Gruden has been at times effusive with praise, but that’s his role as "good cop." Mayock is amazing at straddling the fence on this issue.
He did it best at the NFL scouting combine, praising Carr’s season while leaving the door open to always look for upgrades.
“Derek Carr played at a high level. I’m very happy with Derek Carr,” Mayock said. “What I’ve told everybody I’ve been in touch with since the day I took this job, we’re going to evaluate every position, every year. And if we can get better, we will.”
That’s both GM talk, and a valid explanation of the Raiders quarterback outlook at the heading into the crux of the NFL season. And here’s a fact some fans won’t like. There aren’t many options available to the Raiders at this time better than Carr.
Carr is a darn good quarterback. He was excellent for a stretch there in 2016 but has still been impactful with a subpar supporting cast in years since.
Mayock said it best: If the Raiders can get better at the position, they’ll go for it. What he doesn’t expressly say The Raiders won’t significantly hinder their rebuilding effort for a minor upgrade or an even talent exchange.
Actions truly speak, and the Raiders will start executing their offseason plan Monday when the free-agent negotiating window opens. Teams can start signing players Wednesday when the new league year begins.
Trading high enough into the first round for a top quarterback would be cost-prohibitive, even armed with the Nos. 12 and 19 overall selections. They could, however, get one later.
There was a clear interest in Tom Brady, but NBC Sports analyst Chris Sims said Sunday the six-time Super Bowl winner is going to Tampa Bay or staying with the New England Patriots. The Raiders would surely like to make a pitch. If it were allowed and considered and successful, I believe the Raiders would change quarterbacks in a snap.
Outside of that, which veteran quarterback is a legitimate upgrade?
Philip Rivers is a great competitor but he’s 38, coming off a rough season and seems earmarked for Indianapolis. Gruden has great respect for Ryan Tannehill’s re-emergence, but he’s off the market and staying in Tennessee. Teddy Bridgewater’s also available, but is he a better option than Carr? Nope. Jameis Winston throws way too may picks -- Gruden loves ball security -- for consideration.
Carr knows the system and works well with Gruden, far better than you think.
If there isn’t an obvious and affordable upgrade, stick with your guy and build around him. If it doesn’t work out with Carr after 2020, the team will be ready to support whomever comes next. That’s what I think the Raiders should do.
That said, a solid backup is required. Marcus Mariota seems like a perfect Gruden reclamation project and someone who can compete with Carr should he falter. Nathan Peterman’s out there as another option Gruden really likes. Don’t discount the Raiders keeping Carr, signing Mariota or another veteran and still drafting a quarterback to develop.
Gruden likes veteran quarterbacks. He likes quarterback depth and he likes developing young prospects. There’s a way to have all three and foster some strong competition.
Carr’s certainly tired of hearing about others coming for a job he has held since 2014, with a hardened edge and D-G-A-Fudge attitude that typically serves him well on the field.
His exit from the East Bay was rough, especially after getting booed off the field in his last two games at Oakland Coliseum. He said all the right things as he almost always does, but that bothered him deep down. The Las Vegas move will be viewed, as he put it, like a breath of fresh air.
That should help, but not as much as an improved receiver corps and an upgraded defense that hasn’t been good enough in a long, long time.
The Raiders should and will attack needs at receiver, linebacker and cornerback through free agency and the draft. Maybe an interior pass rusher joins the party.
The market will play a factor in all this. Let’s not forget the Raiders are in the midst of a roster overhaul. While last year’s foundation draft class seemed to expedite proceedings, it remains a longer-term process and the team will take prized draft picks whenever they can get them. If a team throws significant assets at the Raiders for Carr and his affordable quarterback contract, the Raiders might jump at the chance and go another direction at quarterback.
It's all fluid heading into the start of the free agency and the new league year. Will the Raiders change course at quarterback or stay put. There’s little to read into what the Mayock and Gruden have said. It’s finally time to see what they do.