The quarterback situation in Oakland is far from settled.
The Raiders clearly want former No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell to be the answer. But that is a long way from a sure thing. The Raiders will have to think of other options in case Russell proves again he is not capable of being a winning NFL quarterback.
Here is a breakdown of Oakland’s current possibilities, plus some other potential options, as the team hits the early stages of the offseason.
Current role: He is considered the front-runner to be the starter in 2010. But he ended the season as a backup after he was benched because of ineffectiveness.
Why he should get a shot: He is getting $32 million guaranteed from the team. The Raiders really need Russell to show something. That’s why he is still in the conversation. Oakland owner Al Davis apparently still believes in Russell and wants to give him one more shot to produce. One of the reasons Ravens quarterbacks coach Hue Jackson was hired this week as offensive coordinator was to re-energize Russell. Jackson has a history of working with young quarterbacks.
Why he may not be the best option: He has not been good at all in the NFL and he has taken steady steps backward. Russell is not a leader and his teammates are not inspired by him. If he is given a chance in the regular season in 2010 and fails, it could ruin another season in Oakland.
Prediction: Russell will go into training camp as the starter, but he will have competition. If he fails early, the Raiders will pull the plug and his days in Oakland will be over.
Current role: In a lot of ways, Gradkowski has to be considered the returning starter. He replaced Russell on merit in November and then he was sidelined for the season in December with a knee injury. Had he been healthy, he would have ended the season as the starter.
Why he should get a shot: His teammates and Oakland fans love him. Gradkowski was becoming a cult hero in Oakland. He isn’t overly talented, but he has a great heart and he moved the ball. Gradkowski is full of energy and has a will to win.
Why he may be not the best option: He has been a journeyman to this point. Because of his limited ability, his success may have a short shelf life.
Prediction: The Raiders will re-sign the free agent. He wants to be in Oakland.
Current role: Frye was the backup to Gradkowski after Russell was benched. Frye did start when Gradkowski got hurt. But he had a difficult time staying healthy.
Why he should get a shot: Like Gradkowski, the rest of the Oakland offense responded to Frye. He is a leader and he is a student of the game.
Why he may not be the best option: He is injury prone, he makes too many mistakes, and he may be, ultimately, a poor man’s Gradkowski.
Prediction: Frye probably won’t be in the mix. Oakland probably will add to the position and he may have a hard time making the 53-man roster.
Current role: He was the fourth quarterback on the roster. He was signed after Gradkowski was hurt.
Why he should get a shot: He is a former first-round pick who has a strong arm. He is the type of player who gets the coaching staff excited.
Why he may not be the best option: He was just a late-season addition. The team is not married to him.
Prediction: Unless Oakland gets a late start on adding quarterbacks to the mix, Losman could have an early exit from Oakland.
Draft a rookie early
Why this may be an option: If Russell is deemed a bust, Oakland doesn’t have a long-term answer at the position.
Why it may not be the best option: The Raiders may not want to invest another huge contract in a young quarterback so soon after Russell was drafted. The team has other areas to address.
Prediction: I don’t think Oakland will or should take a quarterback in the first two rounds. If a standout falls to the third round who the Raiders believe fits their system, they should take him. Still, drafting a young quarterback early won’t cure Oakland’s immediate ailments.
Sign or trade for a veteran
Possibilities: Baltimore’s Troy Smith, Philadelphia’s Donovan McNabb, Washington’s Jason Campbell, Philadelphia’s Michael Vick, Cleveland’s Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson and free agent Jeff Garcia. (These names are listed based on speculation on who might become available as the offseason develops.)
Why this may be an option: Oakland needs a strong insurance policy. If Russell can’t improve and Gradkowski is only a backup, the Raiders will be in bad shape. A proven veteran, even if he is a stop-gap option, would help Oakland get through a transitional season.
Why it may not be the best option: I don’t think there are any negatives in Oakland adding a quarterback who has started in the NFL this year.
Prediction: Oakland will bring in another veteran quarterback, but it is difficult to figure out now whom it will be. We’ll have to see the quarterback market develop, but expect a familiar name to come to Oakland.