Mariota, Winston, Carr among QBs in prove-it years
By JOSH DUBOW
The Associated Press
ALAMEDA, Calif. — While outsiders keep speculating when the Oakland Raiders will cut ties with Derek Carr and search for a new franchise quarterback, Carr tunes out all the outside noise.
He ignored all the pre-draft talk whether the Raiders would select his replacement and has paid so little attention to the talk about his long-term security that he has already bought a house in Las Vegas — where his new neighbor when the Raiders arrive in Sin City next year will be coach Jon Gruden.
“We are next-door neighbors,” Carr said. “We will be, yes, but that’s for the future. That’ll be fun. Hopefully a lot of knocks on the door. Maybe we can carpool. That would be good for us.”
Carr might be the only person so confident in his job status with the Raiders. After a promising start to his career that featured a 12-win season and MVP talk in 2016 when Oakland ended a 13-year playoff drought, Carr’s performance has lagged the past two years, thanks in part to switching play callers and diminished talent around him.
If he can’t succeed this season after the Raiders added the NFL’s most prolific receiver in Antonio Brown, a dangerous deep threat in Tyrell Williams, first-round running back Josh Jacobs and elite pass-blocking tackle Trent Brown, Carr might need to look for a real-estate agent. And for a new job as the Raiders can get out of his five-year, $125 million contract three years early with almost no penalty.
“Let’s just get through this year first and then we’ll play that game again,” he said. “I’ll probably have some more fun with it, but I’m not going anywhere. This is my team and it will be for the next however long I want to play.”
Carr is one of several QBs in a prove-it season, along with 2015 top-two picks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, who are playing out their fifth-year options in Tampa Bay and Tennessee without long-term deals; Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton; and Jimmy Garoppolo in San Francisco.
Most of those teams can get out of commitments to players they once had hoped would be franchise quarterbacks without major salary cap implications. Winston and Mariota are set to be unrestricted free agents if they don’t get new deals or franchise tags. Dalton will enter the final year of a $96 million, six-year contract in 2020 with no dead money on his deal. The 49ers can get out of Garoppolo’s with a cap charge of just $4.5 million.
Matthew Stafford could be in a similar situation with the Lions, although making a change in Detroit would come with a hefty dead money charge of $26 million according to overthecap.com, probably giving him security.
Garoppolo was viewed as the savior in San Francisco after winning his first five starts to end the 2017 season following a midseason trade from New England. That led to a $137.5 million, five-year contract in the offseason, but things soured from there. Garoppolo struggled in the first three games last season and then went down with a season-ending knee injury.
He’s back healthy this summer, still trying to prove he’s worthy of that deal and durable enough to make it through an entire season after starting just 10 games and getting hurt twice in five seasons in the NFL.
“It’s crazy what a year can do,” Garoppolo said. “I have so much motivation in myself and I push myself so much that that’s all I need. All the noise on the outside, you kind of just tune it out. … It’s always going to be there.”
The questions about Winston, Mariota and Dalton have taken longer to form. Winston and Mariota came into the league as the top two picks in 2015 but haven’t lived up to that billing.
Winston has thrown for a franchise-record 88 touchdowns in four seasons, but also has 58 interceptions in 56 career games. He hasn’t shown the consistency needed to thrive in the NFL. Last season, he was suspended for the first three games for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, then benched briefly for ineffectiveness after throwing eight interceptions in his first three starts.
Now with a respected, offense-minded head coach in Bruce Arians at the helm, and a talented cast led by star receiver Mike Evans, Winston has no excuses.
“I’ve just got to do my job,” he said. “The better I do my job, the better chance we give this team a chance to win.”
Mariota also has had a difficult time, missing at least one game a season and going through three head coaches and five play callers in his brief career. The Saint Louis School graduate is coming off a season when he threw for a career-worst 11 touchdowns with eight interceptions.
But with Derrick Henry at running back and an emerging star in Corey Davis at receiver, Mariota has the best offensive talent around him that he’s had in his career. It’s an opportunity to show he’s worthy of a mega-contract.
“Other people’s opinions don’t matter to me,” Mariota said. “I just got to be the best I can be for this team.”
Many thought the Bengals would move on from Dalton after a third straight year without making the playoffs. Cincinnati made the postseason in each of Dalton’s first five seasons but lost in the wild-card round each time — including in 2015 when Dalton was hurt — and now have taken a step back.
Dalton gets the chance to work with an offensive mind in head coach Zac Taylor.
“Andy is a very fine quarterback,” owner Mike Brown said. “He got hurt last year. I don’t know why, but the public perception seems to be that he wasn’t a fine enough quarterback. If we put the right people around him, he’s proven he can make this thing go well. I think that’s where we are, and I think he’ll do well and we’ll do well.”