The first week of free agency is nearly complete and the Las Vegas Raiders unofficially have their next starting quarterback. For those unaware and confused by the bold and italic font, Jimmy Garoppolo was supposed to officially sign with the Raiders and have his introductory press conference on Thursday. However, after a more than two-hour delay, the organization announced that they are postponing Garoppolo’s presser to Friday.
What does that mean? As I write this on Thursday afternoon, your guess is as good as mine. I won’t speculate on what the hang-up is, but I will say this is a weird situation since the Raiders made just about every other unofficial signing official yesterday. It is worth noting that a source told The Athletic’s Jeff Howe that everything is “all good”. We’ll probably have more answers by the time this publishes tomorrow.
Jimmy G wasn’t the only move Las Vegas made this week though, just the most significant one, and Raider Nation had plenty of questions for me about the offseason and the franchise's direction.
Question: Are the Raiders looking at a two- or four-year rebuild?
Q: I think Josh McDaniels is safe this year regardless of what happens, but do you think they are preparing for 2024? The cheap signings & little compensation trading away assets speak to this being a throw-away (tank job) year.
Answer: I combined two people’s questions here since they were pretty similar.
As far as this being a two- or four-year rebuild, I think the plan for any team in this situation is always just for a two-year rebuild. However, as the Raiders have proven in the past, sometimes that “plan” gets stretched out by one, two or 10 more years.
It does feel like McDaniels is safe — as person No. 2 points out — so to me, it’s fair to say the regime is more focused on the long-term direction of the team rather than making a playoff and/or Super Bowl run next season.
If they were looking to do the latter, Marcus Epps wouldn’t be their biggest free agent signing — no offense to Epps who is a solid player — on defense and I will (safely) assume they would have done more this week to beef up the offensive line. Outside of re-signing Brandon Parker, of course...
Do I think McDaniels and Co. are tanking and striving to have the No. 1 overall pick to draft USC’s Caleb Williams or North Carolina’s Drake Maye? No, if they were doing that there would be no point in signing Garoppolo and it would make more sense just to give Chase Garbers a shot.
However, I do think they’re more concerned with the long-term plan and want to build the roster with a core of young players, especially on defense. Mark Davis has proven to be more patient with coaches than Al — granted, that’s not saying much — as he gave Jon Gruden a 10-year contract and backed McDaniels when the team was 2-7 this past season. Although, Jack Del Rio would beg to differ...
To summarize, I do think McDaniels has time and is in no hurry to make a playoff push, but I hesitate to say this is a full-on tank job.
Q: Matt, do you think we draft a quarterback with the seventh pick? If not, if somehow Dave Ziegler manages to produce another 1st, do you think the Raiders will draft Calijah Kancey and Bryan Bresee?
A: Quarterback is definitely still on the table (even more so if the s*** hits the fan with Garoppolo) with the seventh pick. Assuming the Garoppolo deal does become official, his presence really just reduces the immediate need and opens up the draft board.
If Will Levis falls — or Anthony Richardson, I just don’t see that happening after the combine — I wouldn’t be surprised if Levis is the pick. He wouldn’t have to start right away and the coaching staff could work to iron out his accuracy issues before throwing him into the fire. However, Las Vegas is in a good spot to trade back and potentially add another first-round pick, as you mentioned.
In that scenario, I definitely would be intrigued by Bresee. He’s one of my top defensive tackles in this year’s draft class due to his impressive blend of strength and athleticism. That being said, he’s raw as his technique is a work in progress, partially because he’s missed a lot of football over the last two years.
In regard to Kancey, I’m not as high on him as other people are. I do have a second-round grade on him and think he could be a good interior pass rusher, but I’m not a fan of spending premium picks on outliers. Some have compared him to fellow undersized defensive tackle from Pittsburgh Aaron Donald, but Kancey’s arms are two inches shorter than Donald’s and that’s a big deal when it comes to the next level.
I’ll admit, I could end up being very wrong about Kancey and worry about nothing, but I’m okay with that because again, I’m not a big fan of gambling on outliers.
Q: As of now based on the offseason moves, do you think it’s more likely for the Raiders to move up or to trade back and get more picks?
A: Well, the Jimmy G situation could change my answer but assuming that all goes smoothly, trade back.
Ziegler said earlier in the offseason that they don’t need to find the quarterback of the future this year and McDaniels talked about how deep this quarterback class is at the combine, so I think it’s more likely that they want to collect picks than give them up. That will also help them build out the defense which, as noted above, still needs a lot of work.
Q: With recent legal issues cleared up, do you still see Jalen Carter falling far in the draft? Personally, I don’t see the team taking the chance even if he’s available, but weirder things have happened. That pro day was awful (game tape though is great).
Q: How do you think recent events and getting cleared affect Carter’s draft stock? I honestly think he comes around more next year with everything personal going on.
A: Another one, two people with the same question so I’ll give one answer. Some call me lazy, I like to think of it as just being efficient! :-)
Reaching a plea deal and getting the legal situation resolved was definitely a step in the right direction for Carter. The problem is he’s taken about four or five steps backward before that over the last couple of weeks.
His performance at his pro day definitely raises questions about his work ethic which, if I’m being brutally honest, is probably more concerning to NFL general managers and scouts than facing two misdemeanor charges. There’s no doubt that his game tape is great, as you mentioned, but that’s not going to matter if he doesn’t continue to put the work in.
Unfortunately, if or how far he’ll fall on draft day is a question I can’t really give an answer to because the answer is going to be rooted in how he interviews during the team meetings. The only way I/we can find out about how those go is through media leaks, which is unreliable because a team that is picking later might try to leak that so Carter falls to them. It’s “anonymous source” season which means teams use the media to do their dirty work for them and keep their hands clean.
If Carter is able to explain to teams why he was out of shape at his pro day, and he does have a decent excuse in that he was probably more concerned with clearing his name of criminal charges over the last two weeks, then he’ll still go top 5. For his sake, hopefully he has some good sales skills.
Q: Have you poked through the DTs in this class? Curious about your thoughts on Siaki Ika from Baylor and Mazi Smith from Michigan.
I’m very intrigued by Ika. His junior tape was impressive where I kept saying to myself: “340- to 360-pound dudes shouldn’t be able to move like this.” I think he can be an excellent nose tackle who can also give you some interior pass-rush help. However, his tape this past year was a different story.
It looked like Ika put on a little bad weight and didn’t have the same movement skills that I saw when watching him over the summer. He’s still a massive human being who can plug up gaps against the run, but I’m less confident about his upside as a rusher. Still, if the Raiders can get him in the second round, I’d be ecstatic.
I have a Day 2 grade on Smith, but he’s a frustrating player to me. He was No. 1 on Bruce Feldman’s Freaks list this summer, but you wouldn’t know/think that if you just watched Smith’s film as it’s kind of underwhelming for how impressive his measurable are.
Now, he’s still a good player who clearly has plenty of potential and I’d be happy if he ends up in Las Vegas, but he is still a bit of a project and may just be a workout warrior.
That’ll do it for this week’s mailbag. Thank you all for submitting questions and, as your weekly reminder, if you’d like to have your questions answered in a future column, tweet them at me, @MHolder95, or email them to SBPQuestions1@gmail.com.