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Raiders’ Backup Plans: East to West, yet again

Jarrett Stidham’s arrival helps shape up Las Vegas’ quarterback room to Josh McDaniels’ liking

NFL: New England Patriots OTA
Quarterback Jarrett Stidham (4) and Josh McDaniels, right, are reunited once more. The pair of former New England Patriots are now Las Vegas Raiders.
Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

At this point, we shouldn’t be surprised when Dave Ziegler or Josh McDaniels brings in former New England Patriots to be Las Vegas Raiders. The Silver & Black’s general manger and head coach, respectively, have gone to the Foxborough well often this offseason.

Quarterback Jarrett Stidham is the latest Patriots-to-Raiders conversion after Las Vegas sent a 2023 sixth-round pick to acquire the signal caller along with a 2023 seventh-round selection.

The 25-year-old former fourth-round pick (2019) joined what seemed to be a crowded quarterbacks room in Las Vegas, but the Raiders dwindled the group from five to four when they waived Garrett Gilbert in the acquisition of Stidham. The Auburn-products arrival does helps shape Vegas’ QB room to McDaniels’ liking.

A brief glance at the Raiders’ signal caller hierarchy: Starter Derek Carr, backups Stidham, Nick Mullen, and undrafted free agent Chase Garbers.

The trade for Stidham is purely one to determine a competent backup/developmental quarterback behind Carr — the unquestioned franchise quarterback based on his three-year extension worth $121.5 million he inked with the team this offseason (whether you like that distinction or not).

The anticipated battle for primary backup duties (QB2) is likely going to come down to Stidham and Mullens.

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Cleveland Browns
Nick Mullens, seen here for the Browns against the Raiders this past season, is likely to battle Jarrett Stidham for QB2 duties in Las Vegas.
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Where Stidham has a leg up is familiary with McDaniels’ concept and schemes as he was immersed in it since being the No. 133rd overall pick in the 2019 draft. The 25-year-old is steeped in the system more than Mullens. The 6-foot-3, 214-pounder has played the role of developmental-type signal caller since his arrival. He was a rookie in Tom Brady’s final season as a Patriot (2019) although he appeared to have a shot at becoming the starting quarterback the following season.

Instead, the Patriots added Cam Newton and brought back super veteran Brian Hoyer and Stidham was relegated to a rotation of second- and third-string role for the duration of the 2020 campaign. Hence the zero career starts (eight games played) to go along with a 24 of 48 (50 percent completion rate) for 270 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions career stat line thus far in his two years in the league.

In terms of starting experience, Mullens should give Stidham a run for his money for the backup role behind Carr. The undrafted free agent out of Southern Mississippi started 17 games in his career (played in 20) going 5-12 in those starts. He’s gone 407 of 630 (64.6 percent completion rate) for 4,861 yards, 26 touchdowns and 22 interceptions over the course of his four seasons in the league.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Mullens is a scrappy player with the moxie befitting of an underdog quarterback that’s often ideal for the backup. He’s been thrown into tough situations and hasn’t drowned in circumstances.

One of the downsides when it comes to Stidham that Mullens could take advantage of is the former’s past availability issues. Stidham suffered a hip injury during his competition with Newton in 2020 and this past season, Stidham started on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list due to offseason back surgery. He was activated on Nov. 9 but didn’t appear in a single contest in 2021.

Garbers, meanwhile, is the definition of a developmental quarterback who is a practice squad-type. He’s years away from being an NFL-caliber quarterback coming out of Cal. While he doesn’t leap off the page in terms of athleticism, arm strength or even accuracy, the 6-foot-2, 225-pounder is a mold of clay. If he develops a better sense of timing and anticipation, the Raiders can work on the rest. He’s a safe, conservative-type quarterback that avoids big mistakes, but his lack of zip allows defenders to break on his throws.

The Pipeline

Stidham joins a list of ex-Pats that include: Edge rusher Chandler Jones, running back Brandon Bolden, fullback Jakob Johnson, tight end Jacob Hollister, and safety Damon Huron. Vegas did have Garrett Gilbert (another former New Englander) but he was waived to make room for Stidham.

The Foxborough-Henderson pipeline isn’t exclusive to just players, of course. Ziegler and McDaniels are the 1-2 combo as GM and head coach. McDaniels’ coaching staff is littered with New England ties and so is the personnel side. New Raiders offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi, new offensive line boss Carmen Bricillo, new quarterback coach Bo Hardegree coached for the Patriots alongside McDaniels. Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham and senior defensive assistant Rob Ryan also have ties to McDaniels and the Patriots.

And there’s seemingly one more big addition on the horizon to Ziegler’s crew.

All this isn’t even remotely astonishing, of course. McDaniels spoke about the advantages of brining in people who are knowledgeable about the system he’s installing in Las Vegas — players or staff.