The Raiders dropped a bombshell in the 2016 NFL Draft when they traded up in the fourth round to select Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook at pick 100. Many fans wondered why a team that was already set with Derek Carr as the starter would trade up to get a quarterback. Here is why.
In the passing era of the NFL, quarterbacks are being valued at an all-time high. The Houston Texans spent $72 million over four years including $37 million guaranteed to acquire former Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler. Despite having made just seven career NFL starts, the new Texans signal caller will make money comparable with Chicago's Jay Cutler ($18 million), Dallas' Tony Romo ($18 million) and Detroit's Matthew Stafford ($17,666,667). This move signals a quarterback shortage in the NFL.
The Raiders are in an extremely fortunate position as they boast a franchise quarterback in Derek Carr. But with backup quarterback Matt McGloin entering the final year of his contract, the Silver and Black were wise to draft Connor Cook in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
As Eric Galko of Optimum Scouting explained recently, the increase in the value of starting quarterbacks has trickled down to their backups. After a third of the league saw their starting quarterback miss at least one game due to injury, (with five missing 5+ games) backup quarterbacks are becoming a prized commodity as they offer teams valuable insurance. As a result, their contracts which have previously been valued around $2 million a year are increasing.
Colt McCoy signed for $3 million a year in Washington. Drew Stanton signed for $3.25 per year in Arizona. Chad Henne signed for $4 million per year behind Blake Bortles, Most notable, however, was Chase Daniel's $7 million per year contact for the Philadelphia Eagles.
So while teams like the Eagles are burning money that could be spent on starting players, the Raiders are taking the smarter approach of simply drafting a quarterback. With a salary of $450,000 and a signing bonus of $154,972, Connor Cook's cap hit this next season as a round four pick is a mere $619,890 according to Spotrac figures.
Reggie McKenzie was trained in Green Bay by the well-respected Ron Wolf and Ted Thompson who live by the theory of getting a quarterback every year. Green Bay drafted and developed backup quarterbacks (Mark Brunell, Matt Hasselbeck) and turned them into trade currency. The New England Patriots are another example as they traded backup quarterback Matt Cassell for a second round pick after he filled in for an injured Tom Brady.
"Well it's always important to have depth," said McKenzie following the draft. "We usually kept three quarterbacks when I was in Green Bay for a long time. You can see the cycle, even as early as last year, guys went down [with injury]. So you want to make sure you have guys prepared."
Head coach Jack Del Rio as well as McKenzie have made it clear Derek Carr is the starter and Cook is not a threat to take his job.
"We are not asking him (Cook) to come in and be the face of our franchise. Derek Carr is that," said Del Rio in a recent interview with The Herd.
What Cook does provide is inexpensive insurance in case Derek Carr is injured. And in a league desperate for quarterbacks, Cook could be used for trade bait down the road. If the Raiders can turn their 2016 fourth round pick into a future second or third round selection on top of having a reliable backup for 2-3 years, the selection of Connor Cook will look brilliant.