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Josh McDaniels’ lack of a clear QB plan for Las Vegas Raiders should come as no surprise

Las Vegas Raiders fans want an answer at the quarterback position, and they want one right now.

Over the past week, skeptics saw fault in general manager Dave Ziegler’s comment about the team’s quarterback plan (or lack thereof), and the chatter continued on Tuesday when head coach Josh McDaniels said something similar at the NFL Combine. Those skeptics have turned into full-blown critics with apprehensive feelings about what’s to come.

On January 20, Ziegler sat down with former Tennessee Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan and nine-year NFL linebacker Will Compton for a “Bussin’ With the Boys Podcast” episode to discuss his background and a little bit about the upcoming offseason.

Related: Bold predictions for 2023 NFL free agency – Destinations for more than 50 players

When Ziegler spoke about the Las Vegas Raiders quarterback situation, he said the team may not have an immediate answer for the position in 2023. With that statement, some fans pushed the panic lever.

On Tuesday, McDaniels didn’t offer a convincing outlook for the team’s quarterback plan, via Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.Football.

McDaniels’ lack of conviction rubbed some fans the wrong way, particularly those who felt the team should’ve retained Derek Carr until it found his potential successor, but that wasn’t a feasible plan with the way the front office set up his contract.

Derek Carr era reached an expensive fork in the road

las vegas raiders
Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With Carr due to cash in on $40.4 million on February 15, the Raiders made a decision to move on from him in large part because of financial implications. The football marriage didn’t work out, and the club decided to part ways before the guarantees locked in over the course of two years.

As we can see right now, Carr isn’t likely to sign with a team that’s willing to pay him $35 million annually, per the MMQB’s Albert Breer.

“The Raiders couldn’t trade him because no one was willing to inherit that contract (with $32.9 million guaranteed this year and $7.5 million next), and if he’s now asking for $35 million per, it’d stand to reason it might be hard for him to find that. So my guess, based on what the market told us, would be he’ll be a starter somewhere, but at less money than he wants.”

– Albert Breer

Now, imagine if the Las Vegas Raiders had kept Carr past the February 15 date and tried to trade him with $40.4 million attached to his deal and a no-trade clause. Though the front office put the team in that precarious position, it had to hit the eject button to at least recoup a good amount of cap space for the offseason.

The Las Vegas Raiders have to overhaul its defense, patch up the offensive line and find a middle ground with running back Josh Jacobs, who’s set to become a free agent in a couple of weeks.

Las Vegas Raiders should be flexible with fluid QB market

las vegas raiders
Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Well, what about the Las Vegas Raiders’ unclear plan at quarterback? They’ve had nearly two months to iron out a concrete strategy. Is this a legitimate issue? Not yet.

At this point in the offseason, we cannot expect clear answers with so many moving parts. For starters, we don’t know what’s next for Aaron Rodgers, who may request a trade. If he does, what’s the cost to acquire him? We don’t know yet.

Though NBC Sports’ Peter King believes the Las Vegas Raiders aren’t interested in Aaron Rodgers, the Packers’ asking price for him could change everything.

Because Rodgers may retire within a year or two, very few teams may be desperate enough to give up multiple premium picks for him. Perhaps the New York Jets? Green Bay may have to lower the draft compensation price for the 39-year-old signal-caller to finalize a divorce. If the Packers would take a second-round pick and additional late-rounders for Rodgers, Ziegler may offer a deal.

The Raiders have been linked to Jimmy Garoppolo in free agency, but NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo expects the 31-year-old quarterback to draw “significant interest” on the open market. If that’s the case, Garoppolo’s agent may raise his client’s price in a bidding war. Ziegler probably has a set price that he’s willing to spend on each veteran quarterback on his target list. Again, that’s a fluid situation, and he spoke on that matter Tuesday.

“We’ve evaluated the quarterbacks that are in pro free agency. We understand what that market is. We have a hierarchy of what that looks like in our building, and we’re prepared to execute that plan with the caveat being there’s a contract element and a cost element involved in that. So, we don’t know what those prices are.”

What about a few wild-card options such as the former Washington Commanders quarterbacks, Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke, who have ties to the Raiders’ new passing game coordinator in Scott Turner? What if the Bears decide to trade Justin Fields? Is the trade chatter around Mac Jones legitimate? What happens to Smith if he doesn’t come to terms on a new deal with the Seahawks?

Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio believes Baker Mayfield is an under-the-radar free-agent target for the Las Vegas Raiders as well.

“There’s one more name to watch,” Florio wrote. “Just before the 2018 draft, McDaniels held a hush-hush workout with Baker Mayfield. The Patriots liked him; they just weren’t in a position to get him.”

There could be chaos in 2023 NFL draft

How about the uncertainty of the NFL draft, especially this year?

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Chicago Bears are “leaning toward” trading the No. 1 overall pick. If they’re fielding offers, Ziegler may pick up the phone to make a proposal. In the event that the Bears’ price is too steep, the Las Vegas Raiders could contact the Kyler Murray-led Arizona Cardinals, who have the No. 3 overall selection. What about the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions at No. 5 and No. 6, respectively?

Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said the team is “deeply involved” with the quarterback prospects, which may be a signal to quarterback-needy teams to make an offer for the fifth overall pick.

If the Las Vegas Raiders want to take a signal-caller early, they can potentially move all the up to the No. 1 spot to ensure they get their guy or wait to see who’s available at No. 7. Of course, with the Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts and Carolina Panthers as possible movers and shakers in the draft order, Ziegler has no idea which quarterback will remain on board when he’s on the clock unless he makes a deal for the top spot.

To sum it all up, how can you expect Ziegler and McDaniels to know exactly how to proceed with their quarterback plan with so many moving parts, options, and potential unforeseeable occurrences?

Obviously, if the Raiders have a ranking of potential quarterback targets, they’re not going to announce it to the world. The best organizations keep plans close to the vest because guess what? Other general managers and coaches may have eyes on the same players.

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As of right now, it’s best that the Las Vegas Raiders don’t hyperfocus on a specific quarterback unless they plan to make a deal with the Bears for the No. 1 pick—that’s the only for-sure plan right now aside from re-signing Jarrett Stidham to be the starter.

Ziegler and McDaniels should be flexible with how they proceed to address the quarterback position. And once they come up with a plan, don’t expect them to share it with all of us.

Maurice Moton covers the Raiders for Sportsnaut. You can follow him on Twitter at @MoeMoton.

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