In a week, NFL free agency will begin. Though, teams can negotiate or “legally tamper” with players under contract on Monday, starting at noon ET. Many wonder how the Las Vegas Raiders will address their quarterback situation with one name in Jimmy Garoppolo popping up.
While Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels served as the New England Patriots’ offensive coordinator, the AFC East club selected Garoppolo in the second round of the 2014 draft. In McDaniels’ offensive system, he completed 63-of-94 passes for 690 yards and five touchdowns with a 67% completion rate.
Despite a small sample size in McDaniels’ offense, Garoppolo’s familiarity with the play-calling should allow him to absorb the playbook quickly and start right away. But at what cost?
According to Spotrac, Garoppolo could command $34.9 million in annual salary, which would rank ninth among all quarterbacks. Of course, we should pay closer attention to the guaranteed money.
Related: Las Vegas Raiders in on Jimmy Garoppolo
Derek Carr, Daniel Jones set second tier QB market
On Monday, Derek Carr signed a four-year, $150 million deal ($100 million guaranteed) with the New Orleans Saints. On Tuesday, the New York Giants inked Daniel Jones to a four-year, $160 million contract ($94 million guaranteed at signing).
With a near 2-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, playoff experience (including a Super Bowl appearance) and a close second-place finish for 2019 Comeback Player of the Year, Garoppolo will likely command $30-plus million on a contract loaded with incentives because of his recent injury history.
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Since 2020, Garoppolo has missed 18 games. He’s currently recovering from a broken foot. Last offseason, he had surgery on his throwing shoulder.
Because of Garoppolo’s history of injuries, he’s not a reliable starter. While any player can go down in any given week, the 31-year-old signal-caller has a concerning pattern of missed games and bodily erosion through a five-month season.
Jimmy Garoppolo’s projected market value
Nevertheless, Garoppolo should have a decent market in free agency because teams will spend big for second-tier quarterbacks. As mentioned above, Carr and Jones just banked $100 million and $94 million in guarantees, respectively.
NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo expects Garoppolo to draw significant interest on the open market.
If the Raiders pursue Garoppolo, what should be their cutoff number in negotiations? Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal doesn’t expect the team to offer him $33.3 million per year:
Instead of overpaying for Garoppolo, general manager Dave Ziegler should spend a lot on his defense. The Las Vegas Raiders have the least amount of money invested in their linebacker and secondary units in the NFL, per Spotrac. They need to take bigger swings to acquire top-tier talent for the back seven positions on defense.
Why not go cheap at quarterback and do what it takes to acquire one of the top two rookies on the draft board? Typically, top prospects play in their first year anyway. Most teams prefer to maximize roster-building resources with a passer on a rookie deal. Vegas should do the same.
If the Raiders find themselves in a bidding competition for an injury-prone bridge-gap quarterback in Garoppolo, they wouldn’t acquire him at a good value price.
Related: Sportsnaut’s top-400 free agents of 2023
Alternative quarterback options for the Las Vegas Raiders
Instead of signing Garoppolo for $30-plus million on an incentive-laden deal, how about Jarrett Stidham or Baker Mayfield, who had a private workout with the Patriots in 2018?
“Just before the 2018 draft, McDaniels held a hush-hush workout with Baker Mayfield,” ProFootbalTalk’s Mike Florio wrote. “The Patriots liked him; they just weren’t in position to get him.”
Is there a wide gap between Garoppolo and Mayfield? The latter may cost half the price of the former and provide just a much on the field—and also play more games.
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Even with a Stidham-rookie combination, a first-year signal-caller may be able to rack up several wins because of a strong supporting cast. While the Raiders have Davante Adams, Darren Waller, Hunter Renfrow and Josh Jacobs on the books for 2023, they need to balance the roster with a better defense.
With a few more playmakers on defense, a rookie could put together a solid season in his first year in Las Vegas. From there, the Raiders would have three more years to build around his relatively modest contract, which means more flexibility to upgrade wherever necessary on either side of the ball.
Unless Garoppolo costs the Raiders $25 million (60-65 percent of the contract guaranteed) or less on the open market, Ziegler and McDaniels should turn their attention to a more durable, younger signal-caller to lead the offense in 2023.
Maurice Moton covers the Raiders for Sportsnaut. You can follow him on Twitter at @MoeMoton.