ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Yes, Derek Carr is entering the third year of the five-year, $125 million extension that briefly made him the highest-paid player in the game in the summer of 2017.
And the Oakland Raiders plan on working out Oklahoma Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray and Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, having already coached Missouri’s Drew Lock and Duke’s Daniel Jones in the Senior Bowl.
But just because the Raiders are sniffing around college quarterbacks does not necessarily mean they are ready to jettison Carr, whose career arc has seen him peak in 2016 and fall off a bit the past two seasons. Not yet, anyway.
The Raiders, in their estimation, are simply doing their due diligence at the most important position in team sports.
“If you get a blue-chip quarterback, you’ve got a chance to win every game,” coach Jon Gruden said at the NFL owners meetings this week.
“When you solve that position, you’ve got a real chance. When you get that guy playing at a blue-chip level, it certainly helps. And that’s what we’re going to try to do with Derek. Getting [receivers] Antonio [Brown], Tyrell Williams, [offensive tackle] Trent Brown, hopefully that can help Derek return to blue-chip status. And if that does happen, we’ll be on our way.”
Carr, 28, finished tied for third in NFL MVP voting in 2016, when he fractured a pinkie on his passing hand in Week 12 before suffering a season-ending broken right leg in Week 16. In 2017, he missed a game after enduring three broken bones in his back on a Week 4 sack.
His Total QBR has fallen from 54.6 to 51.0 to 49.3 the past three seasons, as his sack totals have risen from 16 to 20 to 51. Still, he showed a better grasp of Gruden’s offense in the second half of last season and had a streak of 332 passes without an interception, the third-longest such streak in NFL history. This after leading the NFL in picks, with eight, through Week 5.
He finished with 19 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions.
Gruden anticipates a jump in production for Carr in 2019 given that the only other time Carr played in the same system in consecutive seasons, in 2016, he lit things up.
Which, beside his hefty contract that carries a salary-cap number of $22.5 million in 2019, is a major reason both Gruden and new general manager Mike Mayock continue to refer to Carr as a “franchise quarterback” for Oakland.
Even as they scout for his potential replacement.
“The first piece of it in my head is, OK, Derek Carr is a franchise quarterback, I do believe that,” Mayock said. “We had Drew Lock at the Senior Bowl, a potential first-round pick. We got to work with him for a week. We did our due diligence. We’re going to see Kyler Murray and we’re going to see Haskins. And again, we believe they’re high-level quarterbacks. And that’s due diligence.
“You better know how good these guys are. You better know what other teams are interested. You better know whether or not you can improve your own position. And that’s part of what a GM and a head coach do, is evaluate every position on your football team and you owe it to your team to do the best job you can to upgrade wherever you can. But again, I said this at the combine, I don’t think there’s very [many] people walking around that are better than Derek Carr.”
Gruden’s reputation as a QB whisperer of sorts is also coming into play. Particularly with the Raiders holding four of the top 35 picks in April's draft, including No. 4 overall.
But is it all a smoke screen, Oakland’s interest in a high-level quarterback in the draft? Might the Raiders, in dire need of a pass rush, simply trade out of No. 4 with a QB-needy team if, say, Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa, Kentucky outside linebacker Josh Allen and Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams are all gone in the first three picks?
The Raiders currently have eight picks overall.
“Information to me is gold,” Mayock added. “Jon Gruden is a quarterback guy, right? We all know Jon Gruden is a quarterback guy. So Jon’s going to evaluate every quarterback out there, every year. Every single year. That’s just who he is.
“As his partner in this thing, I’ve got to be very aware of that, and I think it pays tangential results down the road.”