HENDERSON, NEVADA — What will the Las Vegas Raiders do now that Derek Carr has been released by the only NFL team he has ever known?
The club, which has relied on Carr as its primary starter since he was a rookie in training camp in 2014, hasn’t recently navigated these seas. Consider this: Carr has missed two regular-season games and one playoff game due to injury since then. Carr was replaced by Matt McGloin in the 2016 season finale due to a fractured right ankle, and by EJ Manuel in Week 5 of the 2017 season due to broken bones in his back. Connor Cook began the 2016 wild-card round playoff game in Houston as Carr was recovering from surgery.
Even if the Raiders are in trouble, their compass should point in one of two directions: sign Moby Dick, a pricey possible Hall of Famer with baggage, or go the safe road and sign someone who is comfortable with the system while looking forward. He elected to retire, forcing the Raiders to rethink their strategy.
As a result, Aaron Rodgers has become the colossal whale who swam away in 2005, when the Raiders picked CB Fabian Washington with the 23rd overall choice, one spot ahead of Rodgers, who decided to sign with the Green Bay Packers. Not only in terms of established players or draught money. Green Bay may demand a first-round pick and a conditional third-round pick with second-round potential, according to various sources. Tight end Darren Waller was reportedly a target for the Packers at the trade deadline this past season.
And it just considers the deal itself, not Rodgers’ salary or cap number. According to ESPN Packers reporter Rob Demovsky, Rodgers signed a three-year, $150 million contract in March that included two voidable years in 2025 and 2026, as well as a $58.3 million fully guaranteed option bonus for 2023. To exercise the option, the Packers have until March 15, 2023, the start of the league year and the day before their first game of the season.
The timing of the option is critical because Green Bay will almost certainly want the team that acquires him to pay it since the option accounts for the bulk of Rodgers’ compensation this year, which is $59.515 million. Rodgers also owes a non-guaranteed $49 million by 2024.
Rodgers currently has a cap figure of more over $31.6 million for 2023 and $40.7 million for 2024, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Even for a four-time MVP, that’s a high price to pay, let alone for a man who will be 40 before the end of the next season and is coming off a bad season; his 39.3 total QBR as a starter was a career low, as were his 3,695 passing yards for the year. Rodgers is as stubborn as he is brilliant, and he has no prior experience playing in Raiders offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ system.
Nonetheless, Rodgers would re-join All-Pro receiver Davante Adams, who has shown interest in joining Rodgers in Las Vegas, as well as Waller and All-Pro running back Josh Jacobs, who is a free agent after the Raiders declined his fifth-year option last offseason.
It’s a lot of money to spend on what might be a two-year deal in a division that contains the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, another playoff team with a young franchise quarterback in the Los Angeles Chargers, and a Super Bowl-winning coach in the Denver Broncos. Many would argue that the Raiders could have spent that money more productively by improving the defence and offensive line while retaining up to 11 draught picks, including the No. 7 pick.
That would require hunting for a quarterback in free agency who is already familiar with McDaniels’ teaching approach for a lower salary than Rodgers would want.
Many people think Jimmy Garoppolo is a lateral move from Carr, but he grew up in McDaniels’ offence with the New England Patriots (even though he last played in it in 2016) and, well, he wins. Carr’s 63-79 record as a starter pales in compared to Garoppolo’s 40-17 record.
Following Carr’s benching and departure from the team, backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham made his first NFL start against the NFL’s best defence, passing for 365 yards and three touchdowns in a 37-34 overtime loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Then he scared the eventual Super Bowl champion Chiefs early on.
Stidham, if nothing else, provided a template and seemed more at ease in McDaniels’ system in two starts than Carr did in fifteen. Stidham, who is also chasing free agency, did well, especially in the Raiders locker room. There would be no learning curve since he is already as comfortable with the strategy as his teammates, and he would be a quarter of the expense of Rodgers or Garoppolo.
Will the Raiders fall so completely in love with any of the top three quarterback prospects — Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Alabama’s Bryce Young, or Kentucky’s Will Levis — that they will use the No. 7 pick and maybe as many as 11 more picks to choose one of them? Tim Tebow was picked over a seasoned veteran, and McDaniels’ last stint as head coach in Denver did not go well. Or will they go for the bridge method, awaiting the emergence of a more competitive and well-regarded quarterback class in 2024?
Whatever direction the Raiders go this summer will offer us a clue.