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Evaluating the Las Vegas Raiders’ QB options in the 2023 NFL Draft and free agency

The Las Vegas Raiders officially ended the Derek Carr era when they released him Tuesday. Now, what? The club only has one quarterback on the books for 2023, and his name is Chase Garbers. Unless general manager Dave Ziegler and head coach Josh McDaniels know something that no one else does, let’s assume Garbers isn’t the starter next season. That’s not rocket science, right? But the Raiders have a complex quarterback situation heading into the offseason.

Regardless of the Raiders’ big-picture plan, they need a veteran. Let’s go through the most probable options.

Ziegler can propose a strong offer to the Green Bay Packers for Aaron Rodgers or the Raiders can court Jimmy Garoppolo, who spent three seasons with the New England Patriots while McDaniels served as the AFC East club’s offensive coordinator. Las Vegas can also sign Jacoby Brissett, who’s a high-end backup with 48 career starts and one year of experience in McDaniels’ system (2016).

Related: Why it’s not Aaron Rodgers or bust for Las Vegas Raiders

Going cheap for a veteran quarterback

NFL: New England Patriots at Arizona Cardinals
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Clearly, Rodgers is the most appealing option, but the Green Bay Press-Gazette’s Pete Dougherty expects the four-time league MVP to cost any team at least a first-round pick and an additional middle-round selection, which seems like a high price for a 39-year-old quarterback who has to contemplate his future after every season. If the Raiders swing a trade for him, they’re going back into a win-now mode with statistically one of the league’s worst defenses. Very risky.

According to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, Garoppolo will draw “significant interest” from quarterback-needy teams in March. As Dwayne Douglas of Put On Raiders Podcast stated, why would Garoppolo sign with the Raiders for a stopgap position when he can have a more stable job status with a team that’s less likely to draft a quarterback in April (i.e the Tampa Bay Buccaneers)?

Related: Las Vegas Raiders’ Mark Davis under investigation over illegal payments

The Raiders will likely face stiff competition for Garoppolo, but why would they get into a bidding battle for an injury-prone quarterback, who’s missed 18 games over the past three years?

Stidham and Brissett seem like the best options. They will both be available at a cheap price. Stidham has two career starts (both this past season), and Brissett just served in a fill-in starter role for the Cleveland Browns on a one-year, $4.65 million contract.

Stidham nor Brissett will bring Raiders fans to Allegiant Stadium in droves, but they’re bargain-bin options who know McDaniels’ system, which would allow a talented rookie time to develop or challenge a couple of backup-level quarterbacks for the starting job. Either way, Vegas wouldn’t have to rush its first-year signal-caller into action, but if the young passer looks better than two quarterbacks who know the offense, he can certainly earn the first-string job.

Unless the Raiders acquire Rodgers, expect them to select a quarterback early in the draft, which is an easy prediction, but should they trade up for one?

Sizing up Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch
Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

None of the quarterbacks in this year’s draft have star potential worth a big leap from No. 7 to the No. 1 spot. When McDaniels didn’t have Tom Brady, he had quarterbacks who checked the physical aspects of a prototypical quarterback in size. So, we can fairly question if he would make an aggressive move for Bryce Young, who’s listed on Alabama’s official website at 6-0, 194 pounds.

In his scouting report, Bleacher Report’s Derrik Klassen shared an interesting nugget about quarterbacks who weighed under 200 pounds at the draft.

“Quarterbacks of Young’s frame don’t exist in the NFL. Not only is Young on the shorter side, which inhibits his ability to throw over defenders when they crowd him, but he is also a major outlier in terms of weight. Young would be the first quarterback who weighs less than 200 pounds to be picked in the top 100 since Pat White in 2007. Moreover, no quarterback under 200 pounds in the combine era (since 1999) has done anything of note besides Seneca Wallace, a fine career backup. Those size issues are worrisome as is, but it is especially so considering Young has no elite physical tools to help overcome them.”

NFL Draft and film analyst Derrik Klassen

Related: Why the Las Vegas Raiders should go all-in for C.J. Stroud

NFL history hasn’t been kind to diminutive quarterbacks. Even if you think Young can become an outlier, would you trade several premium picks for a signal-caller who’s going against the grain? Young isn’t that special of a player who’s worth that risk.

However, the Raiders should consider moving up to the No. 3 slot if C.J. Stroud is available after the first two selections. He fits the profile of a McDaniels-type quarterback, who’s more equipped to beat defenses with an accurate arm than his legs, plays within the structure of an offensive system and shines in the quick passing game.

Stroud needs to work on his creativity outside the pocket, but he can be cerebral with just enough time to throw. Furthermore, the Ohio State product has shown that he can lead wide receivers open, allowing them to rack up yards after the catch rather than wait for his pass-catchers to create a wide-open window for him. Stroud should be able to move the ball with Davante Adams, Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow on the field.

Related: Las Vegas Raiders and Josh Jacobs have yet to discuss contract extension

What will it cost the Las Vegas Raiders to trade up?

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Rams
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So, what would a trade up to the third spot look like? Consider the New York Jets’ move from No. 6 to No. 3 in 2018. They sent three second-rounders (two in 2018 and one in 2019) to the Indianapolis Colts and selected quarterback Sam Darnold.

The Raiders would likely have to follow that mold. They would undoubtedly have to surrender pick No. 39 and their 2024 second-rounder. Without an extra second-round pick this year, Ziegler would have to get creative. Perhaps he can offer center Andre James and a fourth-rounder in this year’s draft.

James could be expendable because, according to The Athletic’s Vic Tafur, the Raiders may move rookie Dylan Parham from guard to center next season. If he’s the future at the pivot, James is disposable, but the 25-year-old may also be appealing to the Cardinals, who might lose center Rodney Hudson to retirement.

James struggles against powerful interior defensive linemen, but he’s a decent starter who allowed 24 pressures and just two sacks in 964 pass-blocking snaps and cut his penalties down from eight to three between the 2021 and 2022 campaigns, per Pro Football Focus.

A calculated risk for prosperity

If the Cardinals would take two second-rounders, James and a 2023 fourth-rounder or a third-rounder in next year’s draft, McDaniels should consider the deal. Yes, they would give up several picks, but they would have a lot of cap-space flexibility with a cheap veteran quarterback and a signal-caller on a rookie contract.

Keep in mind that the Raiders are projected to receive two compensatory picks, a fifth- and a sixth-rounder, which would give them a total of four fifth-round picks and three sixth-round picks in the 2023 draft. They can package their Day 3 picks to acquire an additional third- or fourth-rounder.

If Ziegler and McDaniels have Stroud high on their big board, they should go after him. They’re not guaranteed a spot in the Caleb Williams/Drake Maye sweepstakes in the event that those two quarterbacks forego remaining collegiate eligibility for the 2024 draft.

Coming off a disappointing 6-11 campaign, Ziegler and McDaniels aren’t in a position to save a big swing for next year. They must start building for the future right now—take a calculated risk to find the team’s next quarterback or take a seat in the slow lane at the bottom of what could be a more competitive AFC West division with the Kansas City Chiefs still on top.

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

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