PHOENIX -- Las Vegas Raiders general manager Dave Ziegler exited the gated swimming pool area at the posh Arizona Biltmore resort Tuesday afternoon for a one-on-one interview with ESPN.com. How appropriate, given the second-year GM had been dipping his toes into the NFL's free agency pool the previous two-plus weeks.
Because while the Raiders signed free agent quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to a three-year, $72.75 million contract on March 17, they hold the No. 7 overall pick in next month's draft.
So how might Garoppolo joining the Raiders affect Ziegler's thinking in terms of adding a quarterback high in the draft?
"It doesn't change our philosophy at all," Ziegler said. "If we have an opportunity to draft a young quarterback there that we think, obviously, is a potential starter at that spot, I think we would do it. What Jimmy’s signing does is it probably does something psychologically for you in trying to stay true to the process, not trying to create a prospect because you need one and convince yourself.
"It allows me to feel like we can go through the process, we can do it the right way, we don't have to feel the pressure of manufacturing something that may not be there."
The Raiders, who released nine-year starter Derek Carr on Feb. 14, have been linked to virtually every first-round-graded quarterback in the draft, from Alabama's Bryce Young to Ohio State's C.J. Stroud to Florida's Anthony Richardson (Ziegler will be attending the Gators' pro day this week) to Kentucky's Will Levis to potential second- and third-day picks Hendon Hooker from Tennessee, Jake Haener from Fresno State and Aidan O'Connell from Purdue.
At No. 7, the Raiders, who hold 12 draft picks, are in prime real estate to trade up or back for a player they like, which begs the time-honored question -- will Ziegler and coach Josh McDaniels draft for need, or the best available player?
"Josh and I, I think philosophically, we've made the decision that we're going to pick the best available player," Ziegler said. "I don't think that's going to change.
"With where we're at with our roster construction, we have to take the best available player."
A day earlier, McDaniels said much the same when asked about drafting a quarterback high.
"If we feel like the guy's worth it," he said, "I think we would do it.
“We're doing a deep dive, obviously, in the draft. I would love to have a quarterback room that's got guys that are young, developing, under contract that you can continue to work with every year, as opposed to try to do the veteran route every season, if you can."
Ziegler said the Raiders, who also added starters in safety Marcus Epps, linebacker Robert Spillane and receiver Jakobi Meyers, use free agency to address specific needs, and will use the draft to take the best players available on their board.
It being late March, Ziegler said he felt "good" about where the Raiders' roster currently stood.
"Do I feel great about it? No, and I never probably will," he said. "Because where we're still living is filling too many needs in free agency. That's an uncomfortable feeling when you still feel like you still have to fill out your roster [in free agency].
"Eventually, we need the guys that we've drafted, whether he's the starter or whether he's the third linebacker, or he's established himself as the fourth wide receiver. Those roles right now, we're still going out and addressing those in free agency. If we do our job well over the course of some years here, that won't be part of the equation."
Which lends credence to the notion that Ziegler and McDaniels are operating with full job security.
In fact, Raiders owner Mark Davis said Monday he had to show patience with the year-old regime, which went 6-11 this past season after a 10-7 campaign and playoff appearance in 2021.
"Dave is young," Davis said. "He's never been in this position before. It takes time to learn all the tricks of the trade, so to speak. I think the people he confides in might not be giving him all the full picture because it’s so damn competitive."
"But he's going to be doing great," he added.
And while Davis shot down the thought that Ziegler and McDaniels were turning Las Vegas into New England West with their philosophy and signing of so many players with Patriots ties -- "When you start a new company or you start a new business or you start a new football team, you're going to bring people in that you know share your same ideologies, that the learning curve is less steep and that you know the person, most importantly," Ziegler said. "We're still starting our team and building our team, how our vision is."
Ziegler said he was also leaning into the Raiders' old-school mystique. Admittedly, one that has been missing for a while.
The Raiders have had only two winning seasons and two playoff appearance -- a pair of losses -- since appearing in Super Bowl XXXVII in January 2003.
"It was a physical, fast, explosive team that always had an edge to it," Ziegler said of Raiders teams of old. "We want a team that, when people come and play the Raiders, they know there's some dogs on the other side. To me, that ties into a lot of what Mr. Davis, Al Davis, wanted in his players.
"There may sometimes be differences in the processes, but we lean into that."
No, Ziegler has not gone off the deep end, but he is ready to jump into it.