Here’s why the Raiders’ rebuild might not include Derek Carr

By Vincent Frank
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

A lot has been made of the often contentious relationship between Oakland Raiders franchise quarterback Derek Carr and head coach Jon Gruden.

This was brought to an entirely new level during a 2018 campaign in which the Raiders won four games and moved on from two core pieces of a team that earned a surprise playoff spot back in 2016.

If Gruden is indeed looking to blow things up in Oakland (or wherever the Raiders play), wouldn’t Carr himself be part of that process? It seems like we’re sounding a false alarm here. But not a single person could have predicted that Gruden, acting as the de facto general manager, would have traded former NFL Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack and Pro Bowl receiver Amari Cooper.

If you had that in the cards when Gruden was hired a year ago this month, I’ll personally fly you out to Vegas as a good-luck charm.

As the Raiders’ prepare for a franchise-altering offseason under first-year general manager Mike Mayock, questions will continue to arise about Carr’s future with the organization. Mayock, an NFL Media personality before behind hired by Oakland, didn’t do much to quiet these rumors during his intro press conference.

“That’s really part of my study right now,” Mayock said when asked about his impression of Carr. “Bottom line, it’s easy to pick names right now, but I’m not going to make a comment on anybody on the current roster until I’ve done a complete deep dive and I’ve had a chance to meet with all of the coaches.”

Mayock did note that he had Carr as a top-20 pick heading into the 2014 NFL Draft, saying that the Pro Bowler can “fling it.”

In no way is this a representation that Mayock has committed to Carr long-term. “But I am not going to make a comment on anybody on the current roster.” Those are words that suggest Carr’s future with the Raiders is at least in doubt.

Boasting three first-round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, Oakland hopes to improve its talent-stricken roster leaps and bounds from the product we saw this past season. Even then, there’s very little reason to believe this team will contend in the AFC West with Kansas City and Los Angeles moving forward.

For the Raiders, it’s all about the 2020 season and Las Vegas. Owner Mark Davis knows full well that a move to the desert will bring renewed expectations. Building for contention in the desert metropolis makes more sense than the foolish belief that one offseason will somehow act as a quick fix.

Having signed Carr to a five-year, $125 million contract extension back in June of 2017, Oakland’s previous brass committed to him as a franchise quarterback. But he had no built-in relationship with Gruden and obviously hasn’t interacted much with Mayock in the past. That’s no small thing, especially given what we saw with both Mack and Cooper.

There’s also this thing called performance. Carr’s production declined a great deal under Gruden this past season. He led the NFL’s fifth-worst scoring offense and threw a career-low 19 touchdowns. Questions were raised about Carr’s ability to throw downfield in this scheme. And once Cooper was traded, this became an even larger problem.

Given just how valuable quarterbacks are in today’s NFL, the Raiders could conceivably add to their stockpile of draft picks by moving Carr in a blockbuster trade. There are numerous teams that would view him as a long-term upgrade over what they currently have.

From Gruden’s perspective, trading Carr would be the final move to tell Raiders fans that he’s in complete control of the ship. His power-play victory over former general manager Reggie McKenzie was the latest step prior to adding Mayock to the front office. Before that, it was about moving on from longtime veterans such as Sebastian Janikowski and Marquette King.

Gruden’s MO also suggests that he’s going to want to add his own signal caller. We saw him flirt with a plethora of options as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ head coach from 2002-08. That included Tampa Bay starting nine quarterbacks over a seven-year span.

As noted above, Oakland boasts three first-round picks. Its first selection is No. 4 overall, meaning that recently-declared former Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins could be an option. Adding Haskins to the mix would give Oakland a new identity as it prepares for that new multi-billion dollar stadium in the desert. Out with the old and in with the new, so to speak.

It would be Gruden’s way of saying things have changed and we’re ready to move forward with a completely revamped organization. Obviously, that’s been his internal talking point since signing a 10-year, $100 million contract nearly a full calendar year ago.

If not Haskins, there are a ton of veterans that could be available in either free agency or via a trade. And we know how much Gruden liked his veteran quarterbacks in Tampa Bay. That list could include Joe Flacco (Ravens), Blake Bortles (Jaguars), Teddy Bridgewater (Saints), Ryan Tannehill (Dolphins) and Eli Manning (Giants).

These are names Raiders fans would not necessarily like to see linked to their team. In no way does it mean they are not viable options.

Gruden has done his thing no matter the optics. Mayock is greenish with no set philosophy. Together, they are true wild cards. This leads us to believe that it’s nowhere near a foregone conclusion that Carr will be back with the Raiders in 2019.

Don’t kill the messenger, Raiders faithful.