At this point in the NFL offseason, we shouldn’t expect Las Vegas Raiders general manager Dave Ziegler to know exactly how he’s going to address the quarterback position. He must consider moving parts in potential trade discussions, the unpredictable nature of free agency, and uncertainties in how the 2023 draft will pan out.
Nonetheless, the Raiders should have a handful of names on their radar as the possible replacement for Derek Carr next season. The list below doesn’t rank quarterbacks from worst to best, it includes the circumstances needed to acquire or sign that player as well. In other words, trade and price value matter. Ziegler must use his cap space and draft capital wisely.
Related: Las Vegas Raiders mock draft 2023 – Finding a franchise quarterback
Let’s discuss realistic starting quarterback options with a ranking system from the worst to the best fits.
6. Jimmy Garoppolo
Jimmy Garoppolo isn’t the worst quarterback option in terms of how much he can elevate the Las Vegas Raiders offense, but he may be the most overvalued passer on this list.
According to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, Garoppolo will draw “significant interest” in the free-agent market. He could command $34.9 million annually, per Spotrac, which is way too much for a quarterback who posted average passing numbers under San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and missed 36 percent of his games since 2020.
If Garoppolo can stay healthy (and that’s a big if), the Raiders could win six or seven games, but they shouldn’t want to remain in a land of mediocrity with a potentially strong quarterback class coming up in 2024.
Garoppolo is good enough to keep the Raiders out of range for a top-five draft pick, but he isn’t someone who’s shown the ability to elevate an offense. A team will overpay for him, and hopefully, it’s not the Raiders.
5. Jarrett Stidham/Jacoby Brissett
If Vegas opens the 2023 season with Jarrett Stidham or Jacoby Brissett as its Week 1 starter, you should prepare for a four-to-five-win season. While both have experience in Mcdaniels’ offense, they’re not going to move the needle on a week-to-week basis.
At least in Stidham’s case, he may have a fair amount of untapped potential with a lot of room to grow in a familiar offense. Who knows? With a full offseason in a starting role, he could make significant strides.
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While Brissett is one of the top backups across the league, he’s a low-volume passer who hasn’t averaged fewer than 197 yards through the air in three seasons as a primary starter (2017, 2019, and 2022). The 30-year-old signal-caller can keep the offense afloat, but he’s an uninspiring starter who would be in Vegas to keep the seat warm until the Ziegler and McDaniels find a replacement for Carr.
Yet going cheap at quarterback with Stidham or Brissett would allow the front office to spend a ton of money on the defense. Currently, the Raiders rank last in cap dollars spent on their linebacker and secondary groups, per Spotrac.
4. Aaron Rodgers
How could a four-time league MVP and Super Bowl champion rank third on a list of preferred starting options?
For one, Aaron Rodgers may cost three draft picks in a trade, including an early-round selection in 2024, and a player. Moreover, he may not continue his career beyond the 2023 season. We don’t know if the 39-year-old will play in the upcoming campaign. Lastly, the Las Vegas Raiders would have to make room for his sizeable contract even if they restructure it.
So, in summary, Ziegler would acquire a potential one-year costly player in exchange for three draft picks, which may include a first-rounder, and maybe Darren Waller or Hunter Renfrow. If the Packers pull that off, kudos to them for executing an NFL trade heist.
Sure, Rodgers can make Vegas a playoff contender right away, but without a decent defense, this team wouldn’t go far with him. In 2022, Green Bay had the 17th-ranked scoring defense and went 8-9 in a division that’s weaker than the AFC West.
Ziegler shouldn’t entertain a Rodgers trade unless the quarterback is committed to playing two years in Vegas, and the Packers make him available for second- and third-round picks.
For what it’s worth, ESPN’s Jeff Darlington spoke to a “very important Green Bay Packers source” who believes Rodgers will play for the Packers in 2023.
3. Bryce Young
Bryce Young’s size (6-0, 194 lbs) will raise concerns in some draft rooms. Bleacher Report scout Derrik Klassen shed light on a troubling trend with quarterbacks who weighed less than 200 pounds going into 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.”
Young may be an exception though. He’s an accurate passer in and out of the pocket and fits the mold of a modern-day quarterback who can beat defenses with his arm with the ability to routinely extend plays with his legs.
However, Young would have to prove he’s an outlier with years of data stacked against quarterbacks of his size. When you consider how much Kyler Murray has been banged up at the end of seasons, Young, who has a thinner body frame, isn’t the top choice here.
The Las Vegas Raiders may not be willing to trade up for Young with few NFL success stories that feature undersized starting signal-callers.
2. Mac Jones
Over the past couple of weeks, NFL reporters have shared conflicting insights about Mac Jones‘ standing with the New England Patriots. Though if Jones is available, he would be a good option because of his familiarity with head coach Josh McDaniels’ system and his rookie contract.
The Raiders wouldn’t have to guess if Jones fits the offense, he operated in the system at a fairly high level for a rookie. So, why would the Patriots trade him?
According to the MMQB’s Albert Breer, who joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Zolak and Bertrand,” head coach Bill Belichick didn’t take kindly to Jones’ attitude while the team went through extended offensive woes this past season.
When asked if the Patriots would listen to a trade proposal for Jones from the Raiders, Breer said, “I think they would.”
While on the Rich Eisen Show, NBC Sports Boston’s Tom Curran lowered the temperature on trade rumors around Jones, but in his position breakdown of the Patriots quarterbacks, he acknowledged that Bailey Zappe’s progress may impact Jones’ future with the team.
“Zappe’s progress will be fascinating to watch in this camp and could ultimately impact how the Patriots proceed with Jones,” Curran wrote.
Jones put together a solid rookie year under McDaniels, throwing for 3,801 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions with a 67.6 percent completion rate and finished second in Rookie of the Year votes. In 2022, he regressed under play-caller Matt Patricia, who has a background on the defensive side of the ball.
In Las Vegas, Jones could build on what he did through his first season in New England under McDaniels. Meanwhile, the Las Vegas Raiders would still have plenty of cap space to build a strong defense and pay running back Josh Jacobs with a quarterback on a rookie deal.
1. C.J. Stroud
C.J. Stroud isn’t a dynamic playmaker when the pocket breaks down, but he has functional mobility that allows him to evade pressure. Despite the knocks against his limitations while on the move outside the pocket, he’s not a statue under center. If necessary, the 6-foot-3, 218-pounder can escape defenders and pick up yards with his feet—just watch his games against Northwestern and Georgia.
As primarily a pocket passer, Stroud can make throws all over the field. Yes, he had elite-level wide receivers over the last two years, but someone had to get the ball to Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Marvin Harrison Jr., and Emeka Egbuka in good spots.
Stroud can expose holes in the short-to-intermediate areas of the defense, which would allow him to excel in McDaniels’ system right out of college. He’s shown the ability to read coverages, go through his progressions and throw through tight windows for completions.
Among the rookie quarterbacks, Stroud is the best fit for the Raiders, and Ziegler should consider moving up to the No. 1 spot for him. He’s a potential immediate answer for the position.
Maurice Moton covers the Raiders for Sportsnaut. You can follow him on Twitter at @MoeMoton.