HENDERSON, Nev. — It’s been an eventful offseason thus far for the Las Vegas Raiders, who parted ways with nine-year starting quarterback Derek Carr and signed Jimmy Garoppolo to a three-year, $72.75 million free agent contract despite knowing he would require surgery to the left foot he injured on Dec. 4 while playing for the San Francisco 49ers.
On one hand, the Raiders invested heavily in damaged goods. On the other, they knew exactly what they were getting when they agreed to terms with Garoppolo, as evidenced by the team having the quarterback sign a waiver/release that took the place of Garoppolo needing to pass a physical before joining Las Vegas. Garoppolo, who underwent surgery in March, has been in the Raiders’ building and in classroom sessions but has not taken part in any on-field activities in voluntary OTAs or mandatory minicamp, raising questions and angst among fans.
How worried are the Raiders about Jimmy G’s status right now, and how worried should they be?
Publicly, not at all. Or did you miss Raiders coach Josh McDaniels pulling out his Alfred E. Neuman What, me worry? card during the second week of OTAs?
“I have no anxiety,” McDaniels said with a grin when asked about Garoppolo. “You guys might have anxiety. I don’t have any anxiety.”
Welp. Which later led to the obvious follow-up question of, “How do you not have anxiety?”
McDaniels smiled again. “I don’t worry about the things I can’t control,” he said. “I have very good information that would tell me that we’re going to be fine. Nothing has happened that would have changed that, so that’s why I feel that way.”
The coach added that he was not going to put a “timeline or a day” on Garoppolo taking the field. Still, you would think you’d want the guy playing the most important position in team sports to get as many offseason reps as possible with his new teammates, yes? Alas, Garoppolo having prior experience in McDaniels’ system — granted, seven years ago with the New England Patriots — is worth its weight in silver (and black?). Bottom line: The Raiders were concerned enough to have the waiver/release inserted into his contract but not so concerned as to walk away from him.
What would it cost the Raiders to get out of his deal, and as such, how much regret should they have for not trading up for a quarterback in the draft?
Basically, nothing … so long as the release is based on the foot injury and Garoppolo could not pass a physical. Garoppolo’s $11.25 million signing bonus was converted into the already existing base salary of $11.25 million for 2023, and the Raiders would not be on the hook for any of the resultant $22.5 million base salary should the contract be terminated for — wait for it — any reason related to the waiver. Still, the waiver is voided if Garoppolo remains with the team for two days after the Raiders’ final game of the 2023 season, according to a copy of the waiver posted by NFL Network.
Yes, it all lends credence to the notion that the Raiders, who were linked to both Alabama‘s Bryce Young and Ohio State‘s C.J. Stroud, should have been more aggressive in trying to trade up for either QB in this year’s draft. Alas, as McDaniels said, there were no “surprises” in Garoppolo’s health, thus, there was no internal “need” to move up as the duo went first and second overall, respectively. Plus, the Raiders did try to move up to No. 1, but the Carolina Panthers‘ package of wide receiver D.J. Moore, their first- and second-round picks (Nos. 9 and 61 overall) in this year’s draft, their first-rounder in 2024 and their second-rounder in 2025 trumped anything the Raiders would have offered.
If there is any regret, perhaps it is in allowing backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham walk in free agency to the AFC West rival Denver Broncos. Especially given Stidham’s experience and small-sample-size success in McDaniels’ offense in starting Las Vegas’ final two games last season, when he lit up the 49ers’ defense for 365 passing yards and three touchdown passes and won over the locker room by extending a play and taking a big hit on his 60-yard TD pass to Davante Adams.
Were Stidham taking first-team OTA and minicamp snaps instead of Brian Hoyer, perhaps Raider Nation’s heart rate would be a few beats slower.
What would Garoppolo’s options be if he can’t play?
Oh, you want to talk doomsday scenarios now? Yikes. Fair enough. Put it this way: Should the Raiders part ways with Garoppolo, that would mean he failed a physical, right? So how would he pass another team’s physical? Well, different doctors see different things; and given the timing of such a move (training camp or even September), Garoppolo — who would have been paid no money by the Raiders — would have to look to join someone as a backup.
The 49ers would seem to be a candidate given his familiarity with the team, but they moved on while adding Sam Darnold to a QB room already featuring Trey Lance and Brock Purdy. Perhaps Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel, who was with Garoppolo on the Niners, could use him as an insurance policy for Tua Tagovailoa. Or maybe the Raiders simply sign him to a much cheaper deal to allow him to fully heal on the sidelines.
What are the Raiders’ options should they part ways with Garoppolo, and is there any way Tom Brady is wearing silver and black this upcoming season?
As noted above, Hoyer, who will turn 38 in October and is entering his 15th NFL campaign (but his first season with Las Vegas), has been taking first-team reps. Rookie Aidan O’Connell has flashed at times, but there’s also a reason he lasted until the final pick of the fourth round, No. 135 overall, and was the eighth QB drafted. Then there’s Chase Garbers, an undrafted rookie last year who has yet to take an NFL snap but has the most recent experience in McDaniels’ system.
If the Raiders have to look elsewhere, free agent Carson Wentz would seem to be the best option. Raiders pass game coordinator Scott Turner has experience with Wentz as the Washington Commanders‘ offensive coordinator last season, for what it’s worth. Which leads us back, as always, to Tuck Rule Tom.
Yes, the scourge of that snowy night in Foxborough in January 2002, which hastened the Raiders’ demise while starting the Patriots’ dynastic run, has said he is happily retired. But even Michael Jordan unretired twice, and Brady unretired last year.
Brady is already in tight with Raiders owner Mark Davis. (Brady owns a part of Davis’ WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces and has reached an agreement to purchase a minority interest in the Raiders.) And while Brady would need an unlikely approval from NFL owners to come down from the owners box to play, that approval would only be needed if he was already an owner. And the owners haven’t even granted that approval yet; that vote probably won’t take place until October.
Yes, it’s unlikely that Brady, who also is extremely tight with McDaniels, goes against his word and unretires again; but never say never, and stranger things have happened with this organization. At least if Brady did join the Raiders in any capacity, he would have to admit the Tuck Rule play was indeed a fumble, right? “One hundred percent,” McDaniels said. “No question.”
First of all, no one will ever admit such a scheme. Secondly, the Raiders probably have too much individual talent at certain positions — All-Pros at wide receiver in Adams, running back in Josh Jacobs and kicker in Daniel Carlson; Pro Bowlers in defensive end Maxx Crosby and punter AJ Cole — to fall all the way into a position to select Williams, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner from USC, or Maye, the North Carolina standout.
And if the Raiders did finish with the worst record in the league, one or more of those standout players listed would probably be traded, and the solid footing under which McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler are operating on would become a lot shakier. And quarterback is not the only hole on a, once again, rebuilding roster.
You have angst now? Save it for training camp, in case Garoppolo is a no go.