At 2-7, the Las Vegas Raiders are in an unexpected state and it’s going to make the upcoming offseason fascinating.
It’s very likely the Raiders will head into the 2023 offseason much earlier than expected and with much different plans than they anticipated as well.
In short, this season has been a disaster thus far (with a three-game losing streak during the easy part of the schedule), the playoffs seem like an unrealistic possibility and if the Raiders don’t make the playoffs this year, it would be a major disappointment.
When Raiders owner Mark Davis hired Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler as head coach and general manager, respectively, he wasn’t looking for a rebuild of a 10-7 playoff team and he said as much. That’s why they went out and traded two premium draft picks for Davante Adams and signed Chandler Jones to a big deal. That’s why the extended the core of their roster (including quarterback Derek Carr) — the Raiders saw a three-year Super Bowl window.
Now, the first year of that window is all but shut.
On Monday, McDaniels, once again, talked about this being a building situation, echoing what Ziegler has said. Frankly, it’s probably their best approach to take with Davis in an attempt try to buy as much time as possible. It seems to be working.
The day after losing to the Jeff Saturday-coached Colts at home, Davis told the Las Vegas-Review Journal he was not thinking of terminating McDaniels and he went as far as saying the first-year Raiders coach, who is 13-24 as an NFL head coach, is doing a “fantastic job.” Also on Monday, The Athletic reported that McDaniels has been assured he will be in Las Vegas next season.
Of course, Davis can always change his mind. But assuming he does feel comfortable with keeping the new brass in 2023, what would be their move? Something would have to be done. A team just can’t go from the playoffs to an also ran after making all those moves and just roll out the same core the next season. A reboot would have to be made.
This week, there has already been multiple NFL reporters speculating that if McDaniels doesn’t leave Las Vegas, quarterback Derek Carr may be on his way out.
I don’t necessarily see the current state of the Raiders coming down to McDaniels or Carr. I don’t think that’s where their relationship is nor do I think that is the heart of the Raiders’ issues. But it’s also clear that the McDaniels-Carr marriage hasn’t been as successful as hoped even with the addition of Adams. Carr hasn’t been good for stretches of this season, his accuracy is down and he hasn’t been strong in the clutch much.
But the bottom line is when there is major change in the NFL, it usually revolves around the head coach or the quarterback. So, if Davis sticks to his public words and keeps McDaniels after this disappointing season, the team may believe walking away from Carr is the best move.
Here are some reasons why:
- Would it really make sense to bring back Carr, who will be 32 next March, for his 10th season with no playoff wins and the stink of 2022 still fresh?
- The Raiders can easily walk away from him. As noted by PFT this week, the Raiders can get out of his contract, which was extended in April, after this year by cutting him in February and only absorb a relatively small amount in dead money.
- The 2023 NFL Draft is stacked with interesting quarterback prospects such as Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Bryce Young of Alabama, Will Levis of Kentucky and Anthony Richardson of Florida at the position. The Raiders, who are currently on pace for the No. 2 overall draft pick, have scouted some of these players are being connected to them.
Let’s face it; the Raiders have more work to do than just at the quarterback position. They have big needs at the offensive line, pass-rusher, defensive tackle, linebacker and in the secondary. So, using a top pick on a quarterback may be looked at as a luxury, I could see McDaniels and Ziegler being intrigued by the idea.
Quarterbacks rule this league and if they can sell Davis on a quarterback change being the catalyst of their regime success, I could see that being the plan.
Yes, other scapegoats such as defensive coordinator Patrick Graham or the injured Darren Waller could be on the chopping block as well in the offseason. But, it’s worth wondering if Carr is entering his final days in Las Vegas.