2023 NFL Draft or Raiders Free Agency? Gm Dave Ziegler has options - Darren Waller

“Win Now & Sustainability:” Raiders GM Dave Ziegler’s Conundrum

Dave Ziegler is in an unenviable position. The Las Vegas Raiders general manager wants to build a sustainable winner in the desert, but he’s faced with the monumental task of winning immediately.

This is a byproduct of his and head coach Josh McDaniels’ all-in plan for the 2022 season magnificently backfiring and blowing up their respective faces. Wide receiver Davante Adams was supposed to be the final piece to unlock “Ultra Instinct” Derek Carr. It didn’t work. It failed spectacularly.

But the Patriot Twins — what I dub Ziegler and McDaniels — were given a Year 1 mulligan by Raiders owner Mark Davis. That kindness isn’t going to last much longer than the initial season. Davis grew increasingly frustrated and dismayed with how his team stumbled to a 6-11 finish. And like any other owner, he wants a quality return on his investment. And that means victories—lots of them.

Raiders GM Dave Ziegler’s resolve is already being tested… 

That’ll test Ziegler’s resolve thoroughly. The Silver and Black GM isn’t keen on quick fixes. He wants sustained, long-term championship building within the confines of Raiders HQ in Henderson, Nevada. Yet he and McDaniels know a similar lackadaisical showing in 2023 likely seals their fate as the power duo in the desert. There must be tangible progress, and in the NFL, that’s measured by wins. As a result, Ziegler may be forced to abandon his long-term plan for the Raiders.

There’s a conundrum at the most important position.

Peep this: Undrafted free agent and Cal product Chase Garbers is set to be the lone signal caller on the roster unless something changes. Jarrett Stidham, who started the final two games in Derek Carr’s stead this past season, is an unrestricted free agent. Carr will be either shipped out or simply waxed from the roster. And even Garbers’ 2023 status is an up-in-the-air thing, as he was a practice squad type until the final two games of 2022.

Win Now?

Which brings us back to Ziegler’s task of winning now. The Raiders aren’t without options at quarterback. But the best route is to sign a veteran, preferably well-versed in the McDaniels’ offense. Tom Brady could be the ideal veteran option.

But that flies in the face of sustainability.

Brady is the GOAT and is as accomplished as any quarterback can be, but he’s 45 years old, and his career longevity is limited at best. He’s a short-term fix to a long-term problem. I have no doubt that he will lead the Raiders to victory. But the question is, for how long? (Not to mention it’s still unclear whether he’ll even continue to play at all or entertain the Raiders if they come calling.)

Is Tom Brady the answer for Dave Ziegler and the Raiders?

But Brady is the best bet to be competitive in 2023. Other options like Jimmy Garoppolo (San Francisco 49ers) or Jacoby Brissett (Cleveland Browns) that are familiar with the scheme McDaniels installed in Las Vegas are a tier below the GOAT.

But if somehow, some way, TB12 becomes a Raider, the notion of sustainability isn’t lost for Ziegler. And that’s thanks to his prime draft position. Las Vegas owns the seventh overall pick along with the 38th overall selection in the upcoming NFL Draft, which puts the team in firing range to take a shot at a quarterback prospect. Whether it’s staying put at seven, trading up, or even trading down, the Raiders can be in prime position to select the likes of Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud or Florida’s Anthony Richardson to watch and learn behind Brady.

That’s an ideal-state scenario.

But so was the Adams-Carr combo.

So, the trepidation is warranted.

*Top Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

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