Rumors are flying around about the Las Vegas Raiders potentially pulling off a Derek Carr trade, which is among the most idiotic moves they could make and would torpedo coach Jon Gruden’s second stint with the franchise.
Raider Nation is probably antsy about questing forth with Carr under center in 2021 and beyond given that Justin Herbert and Patrick Mahomes are also in the AFC West division. However, the veteran signal-caller is the least of Las Vegas’ problems in recent years, and doesn’t need to be shown the door yet.
Continuity and sustained success are often intertwined in the NFL, and with Gruden dialing up the plays for Carr over the past two seasons, it’s resulted in plenty of production from the most important position on the field.
A Derek Carr trade won’t yield enough assets
Given the unsavory perception of Carr from casual NFL fans and even the Raiders’ own fanbase, what’s he likely to yield in a trade? Despite the buzz about interest in his services, it’s not like he’s going to fetch a haul of multiple first-round picks, which is what the Los Angeles Rams gave up to acquire Matthew Stafford.
Although Carr isn’t far off from Stafford’s level and is arguably a bit better than him, part of the reason the Rams gave up a second first-round pick was a favor to Detroit for taking on Jared Goff’s exorbitant contract.
Who could the Raiders realistically get to replace Carr? There’s no clear path to an upgrade. Any perceived superior option outside Las Vegas, a la Marcus Mariota, would either be far more expensive against the salary cap, cost tons of valuable draft assets.
It’s not as if the Silver and Black can afford to be sacrificing draft picks by the bunches. They have glaring holes on their roster that must be filled, a relatively inexpensive quarterback in Carr, and even with that, need to do some tricky financial maneuvers this offseason as they’re slated to be $16 million over the salary cap limit.
Replacing Derek Carr for Deshaun Watson makes no sense for Raiders
So with the tight cap situation and the fact that Carr was Pro Football Focus‘ 11th-rated QB in 2019 and slid into the top 10 this past season, what logic is there for Las Vegas to mortgage its future for someone like Watson?
Watson led the NFL in passing yards during the 2020 campaign, yet the Houston Texans won just four games. They were in a similar situation as the Raiders in that their defense was atrocious, as was their offensive line, and even high-end quarterback play couldn’t offset those deficiencies.
Now, before invoking the ire of the Vegas faithful, let’s be clear that the Raiders are much closer to building a sustainable winner than Houston is. Las Vegas went 7-9 in 2019 and improved to 8-8 this year — and that was with a late-season collapse that resulted in a 2-5 finish.
Watson wouldn’t fix all that. He’d have to learn Gruden’s complex offense, which Carr has mastered, and be faced with many of the same problems he’s dealt with on the Texans. Plus, Houston’s superstar is more expensive than Carr, both in terms of salary cap hit and the cost it’d be to acquire him.
If Las Vegas Raiders improve roster, Derek Carr will be elite NFL QB
The term “elite” is thrown around a lot, so it depends on one’s own definition. Carr isn’t included in such conversations — through no real fault of his own.
Yes, you’d love to see Carr take a few more downfield shots — and he’s definitely moving in that direction as his comfort in Gruden’s system grows and he has the weapons to accomplish such an objective.
On that particular criticism, though, it’s hard to ask someone to be super aggressive when he’s playing as part of a team that can’t stop the opponent from scoring. Las Vegas allowed 29.9 points per game in 2020, so it’d often take a brilliant, turnover-free performance from Carr for the team to have a chance of winning.
Oh, and according to PFF, the Raiders’ o-line ranked one slot lower than Houston’s, at 24th out of 32 NFL teams. Injuries contributed to those protection woes, and it also stymied Las Vegas’ rushing attack, as Josh Jacobs’ yards per carry went down almost a full yard from his breakout rookie campaign.
Health should help fortify the Raiders’ offensive trenches. Where general manager Mike Mayock and the personnel team must place their focus is on defense.
Las Vegas recorded only 21 sacks this year, down from an already-underwhelming total of 32 the season before. That’s not the best way to break in a youthful secondary, which Mayock has tried to build through the draft. In fact, Las Vegas has had a terrible pass rush since trading away superstar Khalil Mack.
if the front office can put even a competent defense on the field, Jacobs can get back to his 2019 form and Carr gets more out of speedy first-round wideout Henry Ruggs, what’s to stop the overlooked QB from being truly elite in 2021?
Trading for Watson, or making space for a perceived upgrade such as Dak Prescott, really won’t fix the Raiders’ underlying issues.
Carr and Gruden have proven to be a dynamic combination. Getting those two leadership positions right is critical in pro football, and the bottom-line results and production out of the passing game prove that those two should have plenty of runway to deliver a Super Bowl.
It’s on Las Vegas’ talent evaluators to make the most of their QB-coach duo by bolstering the roster at all three levels of the defense, and protecting Carr, to unleash the field general’s full potential. Despite fierce competition within the division, the Raiders are closer than many realize to doing something really special. Keeping Carr is vital to that cause.