Veteran quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was the first player who Las Vegas Raiders’ general manager Dave Ziegler agreed to terms with once the ‘legal tampering’ period began this offseason. Of all the players who verbally agreed to terms with the Raiders during this period, he was the very last to officially sign his deal. First to agree, last to sign the dotted line; what’s going on? According to most reporters at the time, there was nothing to worry about. Everything was just fine – a minor detail in the contract-language was being worked on, that’s all.
As it turns out, that wasn’t really true; unless, of course, you count failing a physical as a “minor” detail.
QB1 in the building: Jimmy Garoppolo reunites with Josh McDaniels, Dave Ziegler in Las Vegas
On March 16th, three days after Garoppolo verbally agreed to terms with the Raiders, players acquired in the ‘legal tampering’ period headed to Raiders’ HQ. These players officially signed their contracts at the team’s headquarters, with each taking part in an introductory press conference. Garoppolo did neither. Not only did he not sign his deal, but the 31-year-old signal caller had his press conference postponed until the following day.
Finally, Jimmy Garoppolo was contractually part of the Silver and Black.
But what held up the process?
Multiple reports stated the holdup was nothing more than minor details in the contract language. That never made much sense, though. The two parties agreed to a deal just three days prior, with both Ziegler and Garoppolo being sold on each other from the start. Now there’s suddenly some sort of disagreement? That can’t be right.
And it wasn’t. As we know now, Garoppolo had failed his physical.
Ziegler could’ve cut his losses right then, but he chose not to. Why would he? How would the team react if Derek Carr was cut, just for the Raiders not to have an answer at quarterback? What would be on Davante Adams‘ mind?
You can bet the pillars of leadership in the Raiders’ locker room wouldn’t be happy.
Instead of ending the Jimmy G-era before it began, Dave Ziegler chose to add a caveat in Garoppolo’s contract.
Garoppolo didn’t have to pass a physical on the day of his signing, but he will have to eventually. And what if he doesn’t? The harsh truth is, there’s a chance that might be exactly what happens – Garoppolo fails his physical, leaving Las Vegas with a void at the quarterback position once more.
As scary as it may be to think about, the Raiders need a backup-plan for such an event.
Plan-B At Quarterback
You’ve heard the rumors by now, Raider Nation. Tom Brady suiting up for the Silver and Black while simultaneously being part-owner of the team. Trey Lance being shipped from San Francisco to Las Vegas.
Don’t hold your breath.
You have a better chance of hitting on the lottery than watching Tom Brady quarterback for the Raiders in 2023. For one, Brady remains adamant that he isn’t coming back. When you have a 10-year, $375 million deal waiting for you in the booth, being safe and sound in the broadcasting box far outweighs taking shots on the field at 45 years old.
Last week, Sports Illustrated’s Robin Lundberg had the opportunity to talk to Brady about potentially coming back.
“I’m certain I’m not playing again,” Brady told Lundberg. “I’ve tried to make that clear and I hate to continue to profess that, because I’ve already told people that lots of times. I’m looking forward to my broadcasting job at Fox next year,” Brady added.
Even if Brady had a sudden change of heart and was sold on playing for the Raiders, team owners league-wide would have to vote on such a move being allowed. Had Brady not been involved in a deal for part ownership of the Raiders, he’d be free to do as he pleases. However, as the seven-time Super Bowl champion is now in the process of having an ownership stake, things become complicated.
But what about Trey Lance?
Dave Ziegler, Trey Lance and the Raiders
Simply put, this move isn’t going to happen. The idea of Ziegler trading for Lance is nothing more than Raider Nation theorizing potential solutions at quarterback for their team.
Let me explain why Lance won’t be going to Las Vegas – or anywhere outside of San Francisco, in all likelihood.
To start, Lance is the guy who current 49ers general manager John Lynch traded three first-round picks to acquire. In the 2021 NFL Draft, Lynch agreed to give Miami the 12th-overall pick in addition to two future first-rounders, plus a 2022 third-round pick. With this trade, San Francisco moved up to third-overall and selected their guy, Trey Lance.
Now they’re just going to give Lance away?
With rookie quarterback Brock Purdy, the 49ers were able to reach the NFC Championship Game. Had Purdy not gotten hurt, along with each of the other quarterbacks on San Francisco’s roster, who knows; perhaps they would have reached the Super Bowl. Such a powerful “what if” leaves fans speculating Purdy has overthrown Lance as the 49ers quarterback of the future.
But it wouldn’t be the first time a San Francisco quarterback had a wildly successful season, just for Lance to continue being QB1.
The year prior, during Lance’ rookie season, new-Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo also led the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game. Garoppolo and his team lost to the eventual Super Bowl champions, Aaron Donald and the Los Angeles Rams, by only three points. At the end of the season, San Francisco’s coaching staff didn’t mince words as they quickly confirmed Lance to be the starting quarterback moving forward.
Even if this time is different and Purdy overthrows Lance, Purdy himself is nursing a serious injury. In April, Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer claimed the 49ers believe Purdy will need six-to-eight months before he’s ready to play again. In the meantime, someone needs to be under center in San Francisco. Although the team signed Sam Darnold this offseason, Lance has taken all of the first-team reps thus far.
It’s highly unlikely the 23-year-old will be shipped this season.
Perhaps the backup-plan is already on the Raiders’ roster
If Dave Ziegler’s plan-B at quarterback is already in-house, Brian Hoyer has far-and-away the best chances of being the answer. Chase Garbers failed to appear in any contest last season, and rookie Aiden O’Connell is just that; a rookie. While O’Connell may very well be given the keys mid-season in this scenario, it won’t be Week 1.
On the other side of things, Hoyer is a 14-year veteran who’s spent multiple years in McDaniels’ system. Raider Nation might not want to hear it, but if Garoppolo can’t get healthy, Hoyer is likely the team’s QB1.
Through his ’20 and ’21 campaigns, both under Josh McDaniels, Hoyer totaled 35 passing attempts. In these attempts, the veteran quarterback logged a 68.6% completion percentage with one touchdown and one interception. Hoyer’s passer rating was 99.3 in this timeframe, earning 14.9 yards per completion.
It’s not the ideal situation, but it isn’t the worst, either. For reference, Hoyer’s accumulated 99.3 passer rating under Josh McDaniels from ’20-’21 would’ve ranked eighth-highest last season. In saying that, 35 attempts is a ridiculously-small sample size.
Ziegler may find it appropriate to acquire an additional signal caller via trade. It’s also possible – more likely, even – he’s content with what he has in-house. If you want my opinion on what I think will happen, I’ll tell you.
The way I see it..
Speculation is fun. Raider Nation has enjoyed theorizing solutions for the team’s possible quarterback problems, and I’m right there with them. There’s nothing quite like sitting back and letting your brain get creative.
Sometimes, however, it’s all for naught. Sometimes we spend all that time coming up with a plan-B, plan-C, and even plan-D, just for the pre-existing plan-A to work fine. To me, this is one of those times.
I simply can’t picture a world where the Raiders’ front office goes through the offseason as they did if the chances of Garoppolo not eventually passing his physical were high.
The team’s new regime traded for Jarrett Stidham last season. In two appearances, Stidham totaled four touchdowns and three interceptions with 584 passing yards and a 91.6 quarterback rating.
Against San Francisco in Week 17, Stidham put on a show. The Auburn alum tossed three touchdowns for 365 yards against one of the league’s top defenses, earning a passer rating of 108.1. Yet, Ziegler thought it best to not match Denver’s two-year, $10 million offer to his now-former quarterback.
Some may say $5 million annually is too much for a backup, but that simply isn’t true. At the least, five backup quarterbacks are making no less than $5 million annually. After them, there’s an additional four players signed as backups making at least $4 million annually. That’s almost one-third of QB2s league-wide. None of that matters, though; If Garoppolo had a serious chance of not passing his physical, Stidham wouldn’t have been signed as a backup. Instead, he’d be brought back as the potential starter.
Then, there’s how the team approached the 2023 NFL Draft. Sure, quarterback Aiden O’Connell was one of the Raiders’ selections, but that came in the fourth-round. By then, seven quarterbacks were already off the board. It’s clear Dave Ziegler didn’t view the position as an urgent need, which he surely would’ve had Garoppolo’s health been of true concern.
All-in-all, I expect things to go exactly as planned. Jimmy Garoppolo passes his physical, effortlessly taking the keys to the offense.
*Top Photo: Raiders Official Website