The Raiders face plenty of questions heading into their first season in Las Vegas, but one looms ominously above the rest: will Derek Carr be the team’s starting quarterback?
It was reported last month that concerns about Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr’s play and development are growing within the organization, and that the team will at least consider moving on from him this offseason. Despite a seemingly strong relationship, Jon Gruden was notably non-committal at his season ending press conference when discussing Carr’s future.
Carr’s detractors cite his inability to extend plays with his legs and reluctance to throw the ball downfield as signs of that his development has plateaued. Others, including Gruden, point to his steady, calming presence while leading a young and injury-riddled team to an overachieving season as reason to believe in Carr as a player.
As Carr reminded us after the team's loss to the Denver Broncos, he did post career highs in a number of statistical categories this year, including completion percentage, passing yards, yards per attempt, passer rating, and QBR. But it seems as if for every positive stat about Carr’s 2019 performance, there’s an equally damning negative one.
He ranked near the bottom of the league in a number of advanced statistical categories that are much more telling, such as air yards per completion and Aggressiveness. Then there’s the fact that posting a bunch of career highs doesn’t actually mean you had good season, it just means you were better (or less bad) then you had been.
If there’s one thing we know for certain, it’s that DC believes he’s the guy. Between buying a house next to Gruden in Vegas and consistent passive aggressive self-aggrandizing during press conferences, he has either successfully tuned out criticism of his play and speculation about his future or thinks that refusing to acknowledge it makes it not exist.
If the Raiders do decide to move on from Carr, it would cost them just $5 million in dead cap, saving them $16.5 million this season as well as about $22.1 million in 2021 and $19.9 million in 2022. On its face, cutting bait could be seen as a tantalizing proposition for those who find Carr and his play to be insufferable (we know this camp has numbers), but the next step of bringing in a new quarterback gets a bit tricky.
The trade and free agent markets will include players like Marcus Mariota, Teddy Bridgewater, Alex Smith, Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, and Nick Foles, none of whom jump out as a significant upgrade over Carr and, with the exception of Mariota, all of whom will command a similar salary. Of course the Raiders could opt to use some of their draft capital on a quarterback, but dumping a proven commodity to hitch your wagon to post-op Tua or Justin Herbert or whichever other quarterback inexplicably rises up draft boards this spring doesn’t make a ton of sense for a team with so many other holes.
Sure, he can be a real Checkdown Charlie at times. Yes, I’ve heard that the only quarterback to lose more games in their first six seasons in the league is his older brother. I’ve already penciled him in for at least one hideously baffling mistake per year. I know his tiny hands are never going to grow. Yet, at the end of the day, as much as many would love to bid DC adieu, there just aren’t many practical alternatives to bringing him back for a team in the Raiders position.
I’ve accepted that as reality and have turned my attention to dreaming about which wide receiver from this year’s stacked draft class will look best in Silver and Black, or fantasizing about how awesome a healthy Johnathan Abram will be next fall. I feel that soon enough Raiders brass will be left with no choice but to commit to three more years of Derek Carr, and the rest of us won’t have much choice but embrace all that comes with it.