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Las Vegas Raiders looking for ‘continuity’ despite upcoming change of scenery

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Head coach Jon Gruden said on Monday the team is excited about its future in Vegas and the players they have, but is also excited about the resources at its disposal

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

“Continuity” becomes a buzzword in football circles this time of year for teams who are committed to sticking with the status quo after not making the postseason.

After listening to head coach Jon Gruden’s end-of-year press conference, it sounds like that is the track the Raiders will take in the 2020 offseason. While everyone wants to know what that means for the Raiders quarterback, it is undoubtedly a theme throughout the entire roster, not the least of which includes along the offensive line.

As for Derek Carr, here’s what Gruden had to say:

It is clear Gruden will be in his typical evaluation mode of his quarterback. He is likely inclined to stick with Carr if there aren’t any better options this offseason.

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is yet to announce his future plans. He could stay at Alabama and join Trevor Lawrence in the 2021 draft, making that perhaps the most hyped quarterback draft duo this century. In that case, you’d assume Gruden and Co. would likely ride Carr one more year, trying to align themselves from a resource-perspective at a chance to get one of the two in 2021.

They can do that fairly comfortably, as Carr’s 2020 cap hit is a relative bargain ($22.5 million), but releasing him would cost the Raiders $27.5 million in dead cap money, according to Spotrac. The only financially feasible way to get rid of Carr in 2020 is via trade.

Going to Vegas and keeping Carr for a year doesn’t immediately sound like a logical move—conventional wisdom says you want to start out in the new city with a bang, which generally means with a shiny, new marketable toy.

Gruden believes the Raiders have enough in place now to market themselves in Vegas.

“We’re excited to know where we’ll be playing. We’re excited to have a city that wants us. We have some resources in the draft. We believe the Las Vegas Raiders, the Raiders, is a brand for any player to want to play for.”

Make no bones about it, the Raiders will be active in free agency for a second straight offseason. They will aim to add more pieces who fill immediate needs, while likely looking to the draft for depth and development purposes.

At least that’s what I hear coming from Gruden when he speaks about “continuity”.

“Continuity is a word we’d like to live by here. It’s something that we have struggled to do obviously. Hopefully the young tight ends, the young backs, the offensive line, we’re starting to collect some pieces in the secondary and on the defensive edge. Hopefully those guys can play together for four or five years. That’s when I’ve seen teams really take off and become competitive, really competitive, is when they have some continuity.”

With the entire starting offensive line signed on the dotted line at least through 2020, that is not a position they figure to look at in free agency, though perhaps in the draft. The same could likely be said of any of the positions mentioned by Gruden above — though making some ancillary moves at running back around Josh Jacobs seems plausible, if unlikely.

That is one way to provide continuity. It’s the only piece of the puzzle we know about as of yet, sitting here two days before the calendar turns to 2020. It is rather telling though. The Raiders do not believe they’re far away from contending. That confidence even extends to the current coaching staff.

That’s one of the reasons they would make a move like signing a very veteran offensive guard the day after the regular season ends. On re-signing offensive guard Richie Incognito today, Gruden said:

“I think he’s a big part of this team. He’s a leader on this team. He’s an excellent player. He has a lot of life in his legs and his body. He has the passion to still keep going. And we think he’s one of the best interior players in football. You get him back in there with Rodney, and hopefully a healthy Gabe Jackson, the return of Trent Brown, and Kolton Miller’s emergence, I think gives us an offensive line we can be really excited about.”

Note that among all the things mentioned by Gruden on Monday, and all the proposed moves, or excitement about continuity, not a word of commitment has been made regarding Derek Carr.

For his part, Carr on Monday said he was excited about moving to Vegas with the team. But that choice may not ultimately be up to him. Carr’s future remains a mystery, and likely will until well after after the Raiders officially become the Las Vegas Raiders in March.

With the buzzword of continuity ringing through the team’s facility in Alameda, leaving for a new city possibly with a new quarterback seems contradictory. But the reality is the Raiders are still very much in evaluation mode right now, including how to best make the move later this offseason.

“Not many people have done it. Maybe I’ll call Jeff Fisher. We’ll certainly try to seek some counsel from some people. But we’re going to do this together. It’s going to be fun, it’s going to be exciting.”