The Raiders head into the offseason with glaring roster holes, both offensively and defensively. With a slew of high draft picks and over $70 million in available cap space, they’ll have an opportunity to finally build the team and culture that Jon Gruden believes he can win with.
Interestingly enough, many fans think that the quarterback position is one of those roster holes, which has led to an uptick in debate amongst Raider Nation.
So, is signal caller a position that needs to be addressed? Is Derek Carr not his man? Let’s dive into Gruden’s past to give us a better idea of the future!
Let’s start with his first season as head coach in 1998, where Jeff George was returning for his 8th season (2nd with the Raiders) after starting all 16 games for the Silver & Black in 1997. The quarterback room became crowded quickly as two other veterans (Donald Hollas and Wade Wilson) were pushing for playing time. Long story short, the quarterback position was a bit of a mess.
The very next offseason, the Raiders brought in 11-year journeyman Rich Gannon on a 4-year deal. This was the first time that Gannon was brought in as the clear-cut starter and he went on to play all 16 games for all four years of his contract. Rick & Jon were both known for their heated sideline arguments and their “want to win” mentality. Jon Gruden quickly turned the Raiders franchise back into a team that was used to stability at the quarterback position.
Of course, before his most successful quarterback played his final snap for the Silver & Black, Gruden was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002.
Throughout the eight years he coached in Tampa Bay, Gruden’s main starting quarterbacks were Brad Johnson, Jeff Garcia and Chris Simms, all of which came in as veterans with the exception of Simms. Simms is the highest that Jon Gruden ever picked a quarterback in Tampa, the 3rd round. Do you see a tendency here with Jon?
Let’s get back to reality.
If you look at the Raiders roster you will see two players in the quarterback room, Derek Carr & AJ McCarron, not counting Nathan Peterman on the practice squad. Both players were drafted into the league in 2014 and both players are expected to remain on the roster in 2019. Carr is still under contract through 2022, with AJ collecting his signing bonus of $3 million this March.
Is there space for another veteran quarterback to be acquired via Free Agency?
Ideally no, when you look at the list of available quarterbacks set to hit the market, we don’t have many chances at a worthy upgrade with our QB1 or QB2. No matter the case for the Raiders, keep your eye on where players Nick Foles & Ryan Fitzpatrick land as they will most likely be starters in 2019.
But let’s say the Raiders are going to add talent in the draft, how soon will they target a quarterback? The last player at that position Gruden drafted for the Raiders was Marques Tuiasosopo in the 2nd round in 2001. The last player at that position for the Buccaneers was Josh Johnson in the 5th round in 2008. With the hope that the Raiders will spend the majority of their cap space on other positions in free agency, the 4th round or later is more realistic.
Keep an eye on prospects like Ryan Finley, Will Grier, Kyle Shurmur, all of which could be had with a reasonable draft pick. The key is finding a player that can come in and compete, yet not demand an unrealistic role in an offense *insert Matt McGloin* that already has Derek Carr under center. My favorite scenario would be using a 3rd or 4th round pick on Ryan Finley. He has been known as an accurate game-manager with enough tools to step in and play if his name was called, has the skill and ceiling of a player like Alex Smith.
At the end of the day, don’t forget these things when evaluating the quarterback position.
Carr entered his fifth year with the Raiders being in his fourth offensive system. Rich Gannon said it best, Jon’s system is so complex that you need at least a year to pick it up. Towards the end of the season, you could see things started to click for our quarterback under center. Raider Nation has suffered over 15 years of instability at this position and remember, Gruden signed a 10-year contract. TEN YEARS. You have only witnessed the first, so there’s no need to assume the rest.
Derek Carr, is, was and will be the Raiders quarterback going forward.