Oakland Raiders: One trade that will improve the team – no, not that one

CARSON, CA - DECEMBER 31: Derek Carr #4 of the Oakland Raiders scrambles out of the pocket during the first quarter of the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at StubHub Center on December 31, 2017 in Carson, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
CARSON, CA - DECEMBER 31: Derek Carr #4 of the Oakland Raiders scrambles out of the pocket during the first quarter of the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at StubHub Center on December 31, 2017 in Carson, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

The Oakland Raiders have plenty of questions that need answering this season – here’s one potential trade that could answer one of them.

The Oakland Raiders are barreling toward the start of the season with plenty of questions that need answers sooner, rather than later. There is one position though, that could be upgraded – and probably should be – that isn’t being talked about enough.

And that’s the backup quarterback spot – and if you need a refresher on just how important it is to have a sound and competent backup quarterback on your roster, just ask the Minnesota Vikings, or Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles.

While Derek Carr is obviously locked firmly into the top spot, his backups have left a lot do be desired. As we’ve unfortunately, seen the past couple of seasons, when he’s gone down with an injury, Carr’s understudies haven’t done a particularly great job of filling in for him.

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As you might recall, back in 2016, with the Raiders having their best season, and driving toward their first AFC West crown since fire was discovered, Carr suffered a broken leg late in the year. That bad break in week sixteen ended any shot of a division title, and though they did secure a Wild Card at 12-4, they were beaten like the proverbial rented mule by the Texans in that first-round playoff game.

Fast forward to the 2017 season. After getting off to a hot start with two straight wins to open the season, Carr suffered a fracture of the transverse process in his back – an injury, that although he came back from remarkably fast – obviously hampered him for the rest of the year.

In both instances, Oakland’s backups failed to deliver. In Carr’s 2016 absence, Matt McGloin and Connor Cook combined to go 22/36 for 200 total yards, a touchdown, and an interception to close out the regular season.

After getting the starting nod for the playoff game, Cook melted down, throwing for just 161 yards on 18/45 passing, with a touchdown, and three interceptions in a 27-14 loss that was actually, a lot more lopsided than the final score might indicate.

Last season, while filling in for Carr, E.J. Manuel was – mediocre. He did the best that he could, it was unfortunately, just not all that great. In two games – one start – Manuel went 24/43 for 265 yards, a touchdown, an interception, and posted a less than stellar 72.3 QB rating.

Both have had their moments in training camp so far this offseason, with both looking sharp on some plays, and less than sharp on others – such as Manuel’s three interception performance against the Lions during their joint practice sessions.

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But, that is the same script we saw last season as well – decent in some spots, less decent in others. If there’s one thing that’s clear, it’s that given Carr’s injury history – and how incredibly badly the team struggles to find their way when he does go down – they need to get a better understudy – and they need to get one in a hurry.

Fortunately, for the Raiders there’s a guy with some starting experience, has had some success, and has a pretty solid reputation who’s out there and can be had, if they choose to go that way. Spoiler alert, they should. Or should at least, look into the idea.

And that guy is Teddy Bridgewater.

The Jets have a lot of arms in camp right now. Between Josh McCown, Bridgewater, and rookie Sam Darnold, there simply aren’t enough arms to go around. And given that the Jets view Darnold as their quarterback of the future – and quite possibly, their quarterback of the present – there’s every chance that Bridgewater won’t be in New York for long.

The idea that the Jets may opt to go with the steady, if not electric hand of McCown until Darnold is ready to take over – which, could very possibly be in week one – is already out there. And with the Jets not likely to keep three quarterbacks on the active roster, it would seem to indicate that Bridgewater can be had.

Of course, the big question revolves around whether or not his surgically repaired knee is going to hold up. We’ll get a decent enough look at it, if not an outright answer, when the Jets play host to the Atlanta Falcons to kick off their preseason schedule.

It would stand to reason that Bridgewater is going to get a decent amount of work as the Jets try to showcase him for any potential trade partners.

Bridgewater wants to be a starter in the league, obviously. But, at the moment, there don’t seem to be any starting jobs open. Which means – barring a catastrophic injury to a team’s starter – that he’s likely going to have to settle into a backup role for the season.

So, why not the Raiders?

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Though his career is still young – 30 games, with 28 starts – Bridgewater has shown tremendous poise, polish, and upside. He’s thrown for 6,150 yards on 65 percent passing, with 28 touchdowns, and 22 interceptions. He’s got a career QB rating of 86.3 – which is equal to Carr’s career 86.4 QB rating.

All of that to say, if healthy, Bridgewater would be an instant upgrade over Manuel and Cook.

The sticking point, of course, is what the Jets would be seeking in compensation for him. Obviously, they’ll be looking to get as much as they can, likely in the form of high draft picks – and no, Khalil Mack does not enter into this discussion in any way, shape, or form.

The other option, of course, is to wait until the end of training camp, when the Jets make their final cuts. If Darnold is as NFL-ready as the team seems to believe he will be, Bridgewater very well may end up on the scrap heap.

The drawback to that scenario though, is then the Raiders will find themselves in a bidding war with every other team out there searching for a competent backup – a bidding war the team can’t afford right now.

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Las Vegas Raiders /

Las Vegas Raiders

Bridgewater is on a one-year deal with the Jets worth six million dollars – of which, only one million is guaranteed, and was paid out upon signing. Other than that, it’s incentive heavy deal, which could very well work in Oakland’s favor.

But, how will they pay for it, you might ask? If this showdown with tackle Donald Penn plays out like many are expecting it to, it works in Oakland’s favor. If they trade Penn, his eight million in salary goes with him. If they cut him, they still save five million.

And given the few million they have left under the cap, they’ll have the money to pay Bridgewater, since he’s unlikely to hit all of the incentives in his deal – unless Carr goes down with an injury and he’s under center.

Additionally, if they opted to go after Bridgewater, and wind up cutting ties with Manuel and Cook, they’ll incur about four hundred thousand in dead cap money (and another 150 thousand in 2019 money for Cook – the final year on his rookie deal), but will save another million and a half or so.

On the surface, it seems like a win-win. They’ll get an experienced backup quarterback, who has shown poise and a steady hand. A backup who has had some success in the league, and who is a big upgrade over the two currently holding down roster spots.

Even better, they’d likely get him on the cheap.

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But, of course, it all comes down to a question of health. If Bridgewater’s knee holds up over the course of the preseason, and all systems check out, he could become a very valuable commodity. If there’s one thing we’ve all learned, it’s that having a competent backup quarterback is essential in this league.

You could even say, having a competent backup quarterback could be the difference between getting bounced from the playoffs and winning a Super Bowl.