Raiders

What Jon Gruden, Derek Carr think about longtime QB's Raiders future

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USATSI

What Jon Gruden, Derek Carr think about longtime QB's Raiders future

ALAMEDA -- Derek Carr believes his Raiders should be prepping for a playoff game right now. Instead, they were cleaning out their lockers.

The 2019 season ended with a thud, after a promising start was squandered with five losses in the last six games. Bad times can pick at old wounds, with more reports that Carr and coach Jon Gruden aren’t a long-term match.

Those stories have been written since Gruden was hired last year, before he'd ever worked a single practice with Carr. Ceasefires never last long, with peaks leading up to the NFL draft and here recently, when the season went south.

The offseason's biggest question is this: Has Carr played his last game in Silver and Black? 

The answer isn't completely clear, though the quarterback believes it is. 

Carr was asked directly about his somewhat uncertain future with the Raiders on Monday despite having three years left on his contract, and whether he’ll be the starting quarterback in 2020.

“We’ll see when that time comes,” Carr said. “You’re probably sick of talking about it, just like I am. I had some good meetings with my coaches. I’m looking forward to Las Vegas.”

Carr is building a house near the team’s under-construction training facility in Henderson, Nev. It’s right next to Gruden’s plot. That could make for some awkward summer barbeques if Carr is cut or traded before the Raiders formally leave for Las Vegas after conducting training camp in Napa.

Gruden didn’t guarantee Carr would be back during his season-ending press conference.

"He played good. I'm not going to get all the next-year scenarios,” Gruden said. “I’m just going to say that 7-9 is a step forward. Statistically, we took a step forward. We have to get a lot of guys healthy, and we have a lot of things to look at and to evaluate before we start making any assumptions."

Gruden has a tough decision ahead when comparing Carr’s performance versus options on the free-agent market and 2020 NFL draft, where the Raiders have five selections in the top 90.

We all can agree that Carr is a quality quarterback. If you’re going to get rid of very good, you’d better replace him with someone truly special.

There’s also no arguing that Carr showed tremendous growth in his second season under Gruden, with career highs in passing yards, completion percentage, yards per attempt and passer rating.

This marks the second time in six seasons that Carr has played consecutive seasons with the same play-caller -- 2016 was the other instance -- and he was productive and efficient both times. This year, Carr threw for 4,054 yards and 21 touchdowns with just eight interceptions, with 7.9 yard per attempt and a 100.8 passer rating.

“I don’t think it’s is a surprise that my second year in a system have been both of my best years,” Carr said. “This, by far, statistically speaking, brought career highs in almost everything except wins. I think we need to get more wins. And then everyone will chill out.”

There is no chill when dealing with Carr’s uncertain future. It will rage in coming weeks as the Silver and Black push into the offseason. There’s no chill among the fan base on this topic, with vocal supporters and critics screaming at each other on social media.

[RELATED: Raiders sign Incognito to contract extension]

The wins haven’t been enough to quiet the angry mob that's increasingly frustrated with mounting losses that aren’t all Carr’s fault. But the fact remains he had 55 losses in his first six seasons. Only brother David Carr has more, with 56 in that same span.

We’ve seen that frustration boil over this month, with Carr booed off the field in his final two games in Oakland. That hurt. Carr will say all the right things about those moments, but they cut to his core.

It’s clear from his comments Monday that he’s ready for a new start. Not with a different team, but certainly in a new city.

He’ll get that soon enough, when the Raiders move to Las Vegas this summer.

“I’m not going to lie. It’s exciting,” Carr said. “I think it’s time for some fresh air.”

NFL free agency: How Raiders stack up with Chiefs, AFC West rivals

NFL free agency: How Raiders stack up with Chiefs, AFC West rivals

NFL free agency hit like a tidal wave last week, as some of the league's best players headed for news homes with better paychecks.

The AFC West was at the forefront of the dealing as the Raiders, Los Angles Chargers and Denver Broncos do whatever they can to close the gap between themselves and the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.

So, as NBC Sports Bay Area Raiders insider Scott Bair and I discussed on the latest edition of The Raiders Talk Podcast, let's grade how each AFC West team did and see where the Silver and Black now stack up against their rivals.

Raiders

Additions: Marcus Mariota, Jason Witten, Cory Littleton, Eli Apple, Nick Kwiatkoski, Jeff Heath, Carl Nassib, Nelson Agholor, Maliek Collins, Daniel Ross and Nick O'Leary.
Subtractions: Tahir Whitehead, Karl Joseph, Daryl Worley

The Raiders' defense got a lot better with the addition of Littleton and Kwiatkoski, two three-down, play-making linebackers who can cover tight ends. Littleton, 26, is a great athlete, a sure tackler and adept at rushing the passer. Those additions were made to help combat Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce who has been a nightmare in the pattern. The addition of Apple, should he become consistent, gives the Raiders a physical corner to put on the likes of Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins to try and slow down the track team in KC.

Grade: A-minus. The Raiders got loads better on defense. While they whiffed on Byron Jones and Chris Harris, they still made wholesale improvements and the additions at linebacker should allow them to better defend the Chiefs -- in theory.

Denver Broncos

Additions: A.J. Bouye, Jurrell Casey, Graham Glasgow, Melvin Gordon, Nick Vannett, Sam Martin Jeff Driskel
Subtractions: Chris Harris, Joe Flacco, Conor McGovern, Will Parks

I really like what the Broncos did on defense. They traded for Bouye, giving them a No. 1 corner and a healthy Bryce Callahan should help them lessen the blow of losing Harris in the slot. They then somehow got the Titans to trade them Casey, who still is a productive player.

Adding Glasgow is a good addition to what was a suspect offensive line last year. There's still no reason why they should have given Melvin Gordon $8 million a year, when they have Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman. Gordon looked slow, unathletic and couldn't hold onto the ball last season. Maybe I should try out for the Broncos?

Grade: B. I love the defensive additions and if Bradley Chubb returns healthy this will be one of the better defenses in the NFL. They didn't get another receiver opposite Courtland Sutton and appear to be convinced Drew Lock is the guy. Best of luck.

Kansas City Chiefs

Additions: Mike Remmer, Antonio Hamilton
Subtractions: Kendall Fuller, Emmanuel Ogbah, Stefen Wisniewski

The Chiefs' roster is stacked and they know the bill for Mahomes is coming due soon. They lost one corner in Fuller and the other starting corner Bashaud Breeland currently is a free agent. That's a big issue for a defense that started to come on toward the end of the season. 

But they franchise-tagged Chris Jones and were able to retain Mike Penne and Anthony Sherman. They'll have a decision to make with Sammy Watkins, who currently is the highest-paid player on the roster, but the champs did well to keep most of the group together.

Grade: B-minus. Losing both starting cornerbacks hurts. But they still have Mahomes and the most dynamic offense in the league.

[RELATED: Five bold predictions for 2020 NFL Draft]

Los Angeles Chargers

Additions: Chris Harris, Trai Turner, Bryan Bulaga, Linval Joseph and Nick Vigil
Subtractions: Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon, Thomas Davis, Russell Okung, Derek Watt, Travis Benjamin and Adrian Phillips

The Bolts were wheeling and dealing. They waved goodbye to franchise quarterback Philip Rivers and took a swing at Tom Brady. They missed. So they currently are planning to go into the season with Tyrod Taylor as the starter. It's not great. They should give Cam Newton a call whenever they can get him in for a physical, but that could take some time due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Adding Harris and Joseph to a defensive unit that already includes Melvin Ingram, Joey Bosa, Derwin James, Casey Hayward means this could be one of the best units in football if healthy.

They also franchise-tagged Hunter Henry and kept Austin Ekeler around. It's a complete roster except for the most important position in sports.

Grade: B-plus. This has room to go up if they sign Newton or give the keys to Justin Herbert or Tua Tagovailoa in the draft. Taylor is a solid NFL backup quarterback. But this roster is loaded and that defense has the parts to at least combat the best weapons the Chiefs have. Just have to find a quarterback.

The AFC West is one of the deepest divisions in the NFL.

The three teams chasing the Chiefs each made moves to try and stake claim to the No. 2 spot in the division and a shot at the wild-card spot.

The Raiders did well to bulk up their defense and surely will add more important pieces come draft time. Their offensive line when healthy can hold up against the best rushers in the division. With improved quarterback play from Derek Carr or a relief appearance from a reborn Marcus Mariota, the Raiders have the pieces to be the second-best team in the AFC West. They still are a couple of leagues behind the Chiefs, but that will happen when you are chasing a generational talent who has yet to enter his prime.

I expect the Raiders, Chargers and Broncos to beat up on each other in what looks like a relatively even AFC West after the Chiefs.

The Silver and Black are on the rise. Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock have a clear plan and are executing it, choosing to play the long game in a multi-year rebuild. They've checked some boxes and have more holes to fill -- most notably wide receiver and cornerback -- but I expect them to compete for eight or nine wins and a wild-card spot if things go right.

NFL Draft 2020: Five bold predictions, including quarterback surprise

NFL Draft 2020: Five bold predictions, including quarterback surprise

The 2020 NFL Draft is a little over a month away, and team needs are coming into focus after a wild free-agency season.

We know Joe Burrow will be a Cincinnati Bengal, but everything is up in the air after that. Ohio State defensive end Chase Young is the top player in the draft, but the quarterback position will rule everything.

Teams certainly will try and move up to draft both Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon's Justin Herbert, but who will it be?

CeeDee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy are elite wide receiver prospects, but with a loaded class, could they slide as teams pass on them hoping to get a Justin Jefferson or Denzel Mims later on?

And what will the Raiders do? Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock hit a home run with last year's draft and look to do the same this year with five picks in the top 92. But Chucky always can be a wild card.

So it's time to make some bold predictions that just might come true on draft day. (Probably not.)

CLICK FOR FIVE BOLD NFL DRAFT PREDICTIONS