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S&BP Roundtable: Tackling the tough decisions

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The Silver and Black Pride staff comes together for a roundtable discussion about cap space, Karl Joseph, and of course Derek Carr.

NCAA Football: UCLA at Stanford Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

By cutting Lamarcus Joyner, Tyrell Williams and Tahir Whitehead, the Raiders would save a total $30.3 million dollars ($12.9 from Joyner, $11.1 from Williams, and $6.25 from Whitehead). That would raise their 2020 cap space from approximately $70 million dollars to over $101 million dollars. Of that group, who do you think has a chance of being cut?

Cyril: I think Lamarcus Joyner and Williams should be safe unless their level of play falls off completely over the last four weeks. Joyner is out of place at the slot corner position, so he could be cut if the Raiders find a better option, but with the plethora of holes up and down the roster, that would give the team yet another position of need. Whitehead is the most likely cut candidate considering his $6.25 million salary. If his contract isn’t at least restructured, I’d be surprised.

Will: Joyner and Williams are candidates to have their contracts re-worked in order to lower their cap hit and maximize space. It’s hard to imagine the team would give up on either after just one season. Whitehead could fall into that category as well, given that the upcoming draft is weakest at the off-ball linebacker spot and the list of free agent off-ball linebackers is fairly hit or miss. That being said, if the Raiders fall in love with a Kyle Van Noy, or someone of his caliber, it wouldn’t shock me to see them pay market value at the position and let Whitehead go.

BD: I can see the Raiders giving Joyner another season to prove his worth. Maybe a restructuring of Williams’ contract. But Whitehead will be gone, he’s already shown what he is and the Raiders can get his level of play by signing someone to a vet minimum.

Alex: I think Joyner is the safest out of the three. It comes down to Williams and Whitehead. Williams will be the 17th highest paid WR in the NFL next season. He’ll also be the 5th highest paid player on the team. Whitehead will be the 8th highest paid player on the Raiders’ next season. I think Williams has a chance to flourish when he’s not the WR1. I’d also like to see what he can do next season, but that price is steep. That leaves Whitehead. I could be persuaded based on what my fellow writers say, but Whitehead seems the most likely to be cut.

Evan: The cap situation is in pretty good shape, so I don’t necessarily think cutting players is the answer. The one player from that group I would be alright with being let go is Whitehead. He has struggled big time in coverage in his time with the Raiders. I expect the position to be addressed through the draft with maybe multiple picks. Tyrell Williams has had a tough year as well, but I think there are two things to consider. One, he was signed with the intentions of being the No. 2 receiver. As we know, that changed. Second, I think he is playing hurt. His turf toe injury might still be effecting him more than we know. If the Raiders can bring in a legit No. 1 receiver in the offseason, then I think Williams can be a nice complimentary option. Joyner deserves another season as well, especially if Karl Joseph is not retained, you could be looking at an overhaul at the safety position.

With both Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington set to be unrestricted free agents at the end of this season, do you think the future backup to Josh Jacobs is going to be obtained in the draft, in free agency, or that Richard, Washington, or both, should be re-signed?

Will: Running backs have truly become a dime a dozen in the NFL. Few teams are willing to pay top dollar for one, because in reality, few are worth it. That’s an important side note as the upcoming NFL draft features a number of guys who could come in and start at the running back position right away. The Raiders don’t need a starter, obviously. But you’d love to have a great backup if possible. Thus, I think the most likely scenario is to let one of the Richard/Washington pair go, while re-signing the other and waiting till day three to select a third back who could potentially be a key contributor in year one.

Alex: I’m going with the hot take here big time, but I’d love to see the Raiders go out and sign Kareem Hunt. That means the Raiders would have two proven running backs that can be three down backs. It takes the load off Jacobs, who is on pace for 290 carries this season. Hunt can do what Washington and Richard do, but way better. If Hunt isn’t an option, the Raiders should seriously look at Najee Harris with one of those 3rd round picks and re-sign Richard or Washington, whoever’s price is right.

Evan: I think you have seen the lack of depth behind Josh Jacobs. When Jacobs is not carrying the ball, the ground game is ineffective. I think if it’s one or the other, it will be Richard who gets to stick around. I do think Gruden and Mayock will add another back through free agency. However, I think there are far too many needs at other positions to use a selection in the draft on a backup RB.

BD: Isaiah Crowell was the plan before an Achilles injury sidelined him during OTAs. Richard and Washington are serviceable, but Crowell is a legit NFL back who compliments Jacobs’ style very well. I would love to see that backfield next season.

Cyril: I’d love to see Richard back in the fold. Heck, I’d like to see his role expanded as a receiver. Put that man in the slot Gruden! That said, Richard isn’t pounding the rock on third and short in between the tackles. So, I’m going to have to go with Alex on this one. Reuniting Jacobs with Najee Harris in the backfield would be awesome. Plus, Harris is an East Bay native out of Antioch, so there’s a high chance that he already bleeds Silver and Black.

Before his season ending injury, do you think that Karl Joseph did enough to be re-signed by the Raiders this offseason?

Evan: I am basing my decision off of what I have seen the last four years, not just this season pre-injury. I am going to say no, he has not done enough. I think he is a one-trick pony. He is physical in the run game and will knock your block off, but is terrible in coverage. He is too often picked on by opposing coordinators and is a complete liability in coverage. I don’t know what kind of money he will demand on the open market, but with the way contracts are given out these days, I would let him walk.

Will: Sure, there’s always room in a backup role for guys with talent and who aren’t jerks. It’s also true, though, that sometimes a player or team (or both) may just want a fresh start.

Alex: Yes, I think Joseph did enough, especially during the Lions game when he was making some big key plays. That was enough for me, because he seemed like he was finally starting to put it together in the pass and run game. That being said, as a former first round pick, I’d be curious to see how much money he’s asking for. It wouldn’t surprise me if another team overpays.

Cyril: Joseph became redundant in the Raiders secondary the second this team drafted Johnathan Abram. With the emergence of Erik Harris as a quality starter, Joseph is expendable for the Raiders. I’d like to see a hard-hitter of his caliber on the team, but only on a low-end deal with minimal long term commitment.

BD: As much as it pains me to say it, no. Joseph is an elite run defender for his position but leaves a lot to be desired against the pass. Abram and Joseph play the same position (box safety). This defense needs cover defenders in the back end.

I really don’t want to ask this, but is Derek Carr the future quarterback of the team? Most analysts have Tua Tagovailoa falling to the mid-teen picks. Do you think the Raiders are going to give Carr more weapons on offense and see what he does? Or are we witnessing the beginning of the end?

Alex: Here’s my fear. The Raiders and Bears picks are going both to be between 10-20. This upcoming draft might be the Raiders best chance to get their quarterback for Vegas and beyond without mortgaging the future. I don’t care if the Raiders finish this season 10-6 with Carr, I think we’ve seen Carr’s ceiling. The Chiefs, led by Mahomes, are going to be a force for the next five years easily. And that’s a low estimate. Mahomes is an elite talent. Carr isn’t the guy to go toe-to-toe with him, and honestly that’s what the Raiders need moving forward.

I refuse to make excuses for a guy who’s making $20+ million a year behind one of the best offensive lines in football who has a good tight end group and a star running back. Quarterbacks being paid that amount of money are supposed to raise the level of play of everyone around them. And to be preemptive to the crowd that’s inevitable going to point out that Carr doesn’t have any wide receivers to throw to, go look at his performance at Arrowhead during the 12-4 season. I’m good. Draft a rookie and let him study the system for a year.

I don’t care if Mark Davis had the Raiders draft Carr to entice Gruden to return to coaching. Enough is enough.

BD: I wouldn’t be mad at the Raiders drafting a player like Jordan Love or Jalen Hurts with their second first-round pick. Keep Carr on the roster and see if the rookie can beat him out. Let the best QB play.

Cyril: I’m not ready to throw Carr under the bus entirely, but it’s clear that he’s never going to be the guy who wins games for the Raiders single-handedly. Gruden won a Super Bowl with Brad Johnson (!!!!!) as his starting quarterback, so there’s clearly precedent for this situation. That said, if Tua declares and falls to the mid-teens or the Raiders find themselves enamored with Justin Herbert and try to trade up, I wouldn’t bat an eye. The most likely scenario is that the Raiders draft a quarterback on Day 2 or early Day 3 of the draft to come in and compete with Carr. Should I start profiling late-round draft-eligible QBs?

Evan: That is the $25 million dollar question, isn’t it? And I think a lot depends on what happens in the next four games. I think Gruden truly does like Carr as a talent, but I also believe that if Gruden falls in love with another quarterback he will move on. Regardless of who is playing quarterback, the receivers need an upgrade.

Will: I think this is more of a fair question than it seems at the onset. There were rumblings headed into last year’s draft that the Raiders might be in the market for Kyler Murray. Even before that, rumors were floated that Jon Gruden was enamored with Tua and would likely try to place himself in a spot to acquire the Alabama signal-caller. And the reality is, Derek Carr hasn’t played well the past two weeks. Tua would put butts in the seats in Vegas and fits perfectly from a hype perspective.

Now, it’s a completely different story if you ask me what I’d do. Carr is fine. He’s not a top-five quarterback in the league regardless of the talent around him. But he can be a “win with” quarterback. The upcoming draft is seriously 12-15 players deep at the wide receiver position who figure to be good-to-great NFL players. And there will inevitably be one or two guys who slip through the cracks and become good NFL receivers that few if any scouts are thinking about at this moment. I think every team who isn’t getting Chase Young or Joe Burrow in this draft should try to take a receiver in round one and then double up with another later in the draft. Or at least, that’s the strategy I’d take if I were the Raiders.

If you only had one Pro Bowl vote, which Raiders player would get it?

BD: Josh Jacobs is a no-brainer. He’s already one of the top performers at his position.

Cyril: If Jacobs can finish the season and push through his shoulder injury, I’d give him the nod. He’s probably going to win OROY if things don’t go awry. If Jacobs doesn’t finish the year, give me Darren Waller. The man is on pace for a 1,000-yard season and already looks like a top 5 tight end in the league.

Will: It’s between two rookies for me: Maxx Crosby and Josh Jacobs. The NFC is much more stacked in terms of sack production than the AFC. If he were in that conference, he’d have no shot. But playing in the AFC, he is eighth in the conference in sacks and third among defensive ends who would be eligible for the game — Myles Garrett is presumably ineligible for the Pro Bowl. Jacobs, meanwhile, is third in the conference in rushing yards, and it’s more fashionable to give the nod to a rookie running back than a defensive end. But it’s hard to downplay what Mark Ingram has done for the Ravens’ offense or overlook the production of Nick Chubb and Derrick Henry. On the comparisons alone, I’d go Crosby.

Evan: Easy, Josh Jacobs.

Alex: While Josh Jacobs and Maxx Crosby have played out of their minds, I’ve got to go with Darren Waller. Might as well put a cherry on top on all of his hard work in both his professional and personal life this season.