Jon Gruden

Derek Carr 'looking forward' to being QB in Raiders' Las Vegas opener

Derek Carr 'looking forward' to being QB in Raiders' Las Vegas opener

Out of a possible 96 starts since being drafted by the Raiders in 2014, quarterback Derek Carr has been under center for 94 of them.

But after a disappointing 7-9 season, many Raiders fans have clamored for a change at the game’s most important position.

Carr, however, hasn’t paid the rumors or social media fodder too much attention.

“But I'll say it this way,” Carr said (h/t ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez). “I look forward to taking the first snap in that stadium, and I look forward to taking every snap from here on out -- until I'm done."

The 28-year-old had a career year in 2019, setting career-highs in passing yards (4,054), yards per attempt (7.9), and quarterback rating (100.8).

But coach Jon Gruden grew frustrated with Carr’s inability to throw the ball downfield consistently, and some potential free agent quarterbacks reportedly have caught the Raiders’ eye.

[RELATED: Raiders should pay attention to these 10 Senior Bowl stars]

As the team re-brands and moves into its new home in Sin City, some believe the team will bring on a new starting signal-caller to usher in the Las Vegas Raiders era.

Just don’t count Carr among them.

Raiders’ Senior Bowl experience was vital to excellent 2019 NFL draft

Raiders’ Senior Bowl experience was vital to excellent 2019 NFL draft

The Raiders took their entire football operation down south this time last year to coach the Senior Bowl’s North squad.

That’s a luxury afforded to terrible teams from the NFL season that just concluded, and the 4-12 Raiders certainly were one. The provided an up-close look at some of the NFL draft’s finest prospects available throughout the selection process.

The Raiders got to see how players work in practice and pay attention in meetings, with an opportunity to swap squads – the 49ers coached the South – on the practice week’s final day.

Head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock got a great evaluation of every Senior Bowl prospect.

That week in Mobile, Ala., turned out to be an information gold mine. They learned to love a lot of those prospects and capitalized on opportunities to acquire them in the NFL draft or shortly after.

The Raiders drafted four Senior Bowl participants and signed three more after the amateur selection process.

“Coaching and being there really helped us a lot,” general manager Mike Mayock said after the NFL draft. “It really is a big deal to be involved in that game.”

The Raiders certainly hope this Senior Bowl week bears fruit, albeit with a lot less access to the prospects. They’ll send a slightly smaller contingent to this important evaluation week, though the Silver and Black still will canvas this group from stands over the sidelines. Practices start Tuesday, beginning a three-day stretch that’s more important than the All-Star Game itself.

Last year’s close-up look ended up putting several participants in silver and black.

The Raiders got Mississippi State safety Johnathan Abram in the first round, LSU tight end Foster Moreau and Houston cornerback Isaiah Johnson in the fourth and Clemson receiver Hunter Renfrow in the fifth. Then, they signed Wisconsin fullback Alec Ingold, Notre Dame linebacker Te’von Coney and UC Davis receiver Keelan Doss as undrafted free agents.

Everyone save Coney spent most of the year on the 53-man roster and many of them made a major impact on the 2019 Raiders.

Those guys should be an even greater part of the 2020 squad, with Abram expected to rejoin the starting lineup after he underwent season-ending shoulder after Week 1, and optimism is high after what was essentially a lost season for Johnson after he suffered a preseason facial fracture.

Renfrow developed into a major player, and even Ingold became a reliable blocker and short-yardage back. Moreau was a touchdown machine in his first season, forming a promising tight-end duo with breakout star Darren Waller.

The Raiders preferred Senior Bowl participants last year, and this practice week is something vital to pre-NFL draft evaluation. The Raiders have five selections in the top 92, broken down into two first-round picks and three more in the third down.

[RELATED: Raiders' Gruden, Mayock at East-West Shrine Bowl practice]

Last year the Raiders favored players from either championship college programs or Senior Bowl participants, with rare exceptions. There’s no telling if that’ll be the case again this year, but Senior Bowl game and practice film is a vital piece of the evaluation process.

“Everybody will tell you they look at the Senior Bowl practice tape, the Senior Bowl game film over and over and over,” Gruden said last year. “You watch the matchups over and over and over.

“I remember doing it with [late Raiders owner/GM Al Davis]. He would put the Senior Bowl on for the 44th time and I would say, ‘how many more times are we going to watch that game?’ There’s tremendous value in it. It’s a great tool and provides great matchups you would never see if you didn’t come here.”

Tom Brady to Las Vegas Raiders 'has legs,' UFC's Dana White believes

Tom Brady to Las Vegas Raiders 'has legs,' UFC's Dana White believes

Given the uneven performance Derek Carr had in the Raiders' final season in Oakland, it wouldn't be surprising if the team brought in another quarterback to start for the franchise' in its first season in Las Vegas.

Whether it's veterans like Cam Newton and Marcus Mariota or draft prospects like Tua Tagovaiola and Justin Herbert, there's no shortage of possibilities for Jon Gruden to consider as Carr's replacement and/or backup.

By the looks of the Connor McGregor-Cowboy Cerrone UFC fight Saturday night, it appears there's another name on the list, and it's the biggest one possible.

Yep. That would be Raiders owner Mark Davis in the white, and six-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady in the black leather jacket on the right. If that doesn't get the rumor mill swirling, the following context might do the trick.

According to Adam Hill of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, UFC president Dana White -- who is a friend of Brady's and already is a suiteholder at Allegiant Stadium -- believes a Brady-Raiders pairing isn't all that farfetched. 

Carr is set to make $18.9 million in base salary in 2020, so it's difficult to see a scenario in which he and Brady are on the same team. Brady might be the best QB of all-time, and simply put, he's not taking a major pay cut. However, the Raiders would save $16.5 million and take a cap hit of just $5 million if they trade or release Carr prior to June 1, which would appear to be a precondition for bringing Brady to Sin City.

Of course, if the Raiders did that, it would be under the assumption that Brady could regain some of his three-time MVP form -- which, if you watched him in New England this past season, is nowhere near a certainty. In fact, one could argue that Carr is a superior QB to Brady right now, thus making that hypothetical move both illogical and unnecessary. While throwing for nearly an identical number of passing yards in 2019, Carr posted a far superior completion percentage than Brady (70.4 percent to 60.8 percent) and averaged 1.3 more yards per pass attempt. Of the 30 quarterbacks that qualified for ESPN's Total QBR rating -- which values the quarterback on all play types on a 0-100 scale adjusted for the strength of opposing defenses faced -- Carr was ranked ninth (62.4), while Brady was ranked 17th (53.7)

[RELATED: Mayock gives glowing review of Carr's 2019 with Raiders]

One would imagine that Gruden knows what he has in Carr, and considering his lukewarm-at-best endorsement of the Raiders' incumbent QB at the conclusion of the season, it wouldn't be surprising if the team opted to go in another direction. Brady certainly would provide plenty of excitement -- and would sell plenty of tickets -- but it would also be a big gamble on the Raiders' part.

Given it's Las Vegas, maybe that's the way to go.