This is shaping to be one of the most unique offseasons in recent memory when it comes to the quarterback position. Between guys set to hit free agency and guys who it is believed will be available for trades, the options are bountiful.
And that’s why the Raiders must make a move at the quarterback position this offseason, and a substantial one. No, they don’t necessarily need to replace Derek Carr. But to not upgrade the most important position in football when there is such a huge opportunity to do so would be borderline criminal.
The way I see it, there are two primary ways to upgrade this quarterback room. You replace Carr with someone else then get trade value for Carr. You bring in someone who represents a big upgrade at the backup quarterback spot who can challenge and push Carr.
But even without going one of those two routes, you can still upgrade the backup spot, even if the upgrade won’t push Carr for a starter role.
The options to outright replace Carr aren’t numerous, but there are some.
There are plenty of reasons not to love the idea of signing Tom Brady. He’s only a transitional guy. He will command a massive salary despite no longer being on the decline. He’s only ever played in one system and there would be big questions about what happens with the Raiders offense.
But even at his advanced age and with his on field play not the same as it used to be, he’s still one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL. He’s dropped off but he hasn’t fallen off of the cliff. In the right scenario, he could absolutely lead a team to a Super Bowl win. Are the Raiders the right situation? Not right now but with another great offseason? Maybe.
Many won’t agree with me on this one. There are legitimate arguments to be made that Carr is as talented or more talented than Bridgewater as a quarterback. But this is where I think people often overlook the importance with scheme fit. Just like one concern with Brady is whether he would fit into Gruden’s offense or if he’s a product of the NE offense, there are guys who are just better fits for Gruden’s scheme than Carr and Teddy Bridgewater is the best of those guys.
Gruden’s offense relies heavily on a quarterback who can go through his progressions and make smart decisions. These are two areas where Carr struggles. Bridgewater’s biggest knock is his lack of arm strength, but that’s not important in Gruden’s system. That was a big knock on Rich Gannon as well. Bridgewater has good pocket awareness and does a good job of going through his progressions. He’s accurate with the ball and athletic enough to extend plays with his legs when he needs to.
I wouldn’t take Winston as a replacement for Carr but if the Raiders really want to get crazy, why not bring in the complete opposite of Carr. While Carr is viewed as a guy who is far too conservative with his decision making, Winston is a guy who does nothing but take shot after shot after interception. If, by some miracle, Jon Gruden is able to teach Winston to make better decisions, his upside is crazy. And isn’t that part of the reason Mark Davis agreed to pay Jon Gruden $10 million a year, because he’s supposed to be a QB guru?
This would be mostly about upgrading the backup role significantly, but I am positive that Fitzpatrick would push Carr. All Fitzpatrick does is win starting snaps he was never supposed to win. If the Raiders are looking to push Carr and see if they can get more out of him via a quarterback competition, they could do a lot worse than Fitzpatrick. Ideally he would get Carr to step up his game and the Raiders not only get a better Derek Carr but also one of the best backups in the league. The only downside is that getting Fitzpatrick would mean making a trade with Miami. Unless they’re willing to part ways with Fitzmagic for a late rounder, this is a non-starter.
Hill is a restricted free agent so he won’t hit the open market. But the Saints might be willing to deal him. If they put a 2nd round tender on Hill, it might be too steep for the Raiders, but what if they’d take a third? Raiders have enough to make a move with one. And if so, Hill is an incredibly intriguing prospect. He’s not shown much as a passer in the NFL but he’s shown a ton as an all around football player. It would be interesting to see if he could push Carr and even if he doesn’t, the Raiders end up with a decent backup who adds value as an offensive tool.
After a big year in Minnesota, Keenum was flat out bad with the Broncos. But he wasn’t that bad in Washington. You could easily pin his play there on the circumstances. With Minnesota, Keenum had a good offensive line and good weapons. If he were to play with the Raiders, it would be the second best offense he’s played on. He likely wouldn’t be an upgrade over Carr but I could see him pushing Carr a bit and he’d be a huge upgrade as the backup quarterback.
Mariota has never lived up to where he was drafted, but he also hasn’t been a bust. At worst, he’s one of the better backup quarterbacks in the league. And who knows, maybe he’s similar to his replacement in Tennessee and will find more success with a change of scenery. He wouldn’t be one of my top choices for the Raiders to target, but bringing him in to compete with Carr even though he’d still likely end up a backup, would be a big upgrade to the Raiders quarterback room.
Pure Backup Upgrade
There are a few guys who wouldn’t be exciting but who would give the Raiders a better chance to win a few games if Carr gets hurt.
Colt McCoy, Chase Daniel, Chad Henne, Andy Dalton, Nick Foles (if he gets cut, not worth trading for).
Two names that some may have thought would come up on one of these lists are Philip Rivers and Cam Newton.
Rivers is a free agent but I think he’s pretty much done. Unlike Brady who still has something left in the tank, I think River is over the hill and needs to retire.
Cam Newton could make some team very happy but I don’t think it’s the Raiders. I just don’t think Cam is accurate enough with the football to excel in Gruden’s scheme. A lot of what Gruden does relies on yards after the catch. And that requires a quarterback who is accurate enough to hit a WR in stride so they can make plays with the ball in their hands.