Las Vegas Raiders still looking for more quarterbacks

ByPaul Gutierrez ESPN logo
Tuesday, March 19, 2024

"You don't want to put a Band-Aid on the [quarterback] position. That's old, man, that's old ... we've seen that enough in this organization." -- Las Vegas Raiders coach Antonio Pierce

HENDERSON, Nev. -- So, if Pierce is to be taken at his word -- and why shouldn't he be? -- the Raiders are not done addressing the most important position in team sports.

Not even close.

Not even with Las Vegas signing vagabond veteran QB Gardner Minshew to a two-year, $25 million free agent contract with $15 million guaranteed last week.

Especially not with the Raiders bringing in Minshew, the epitome of a "Band-Aid", to join Pierce's proclaimed "BFF" Aidan O'Connell in the QB room.

Because with the Raiders only having two quarterbacks on the roster after cutting Jimmy Garoppolo -- who found a home with the Los Angeles Rams -- and Brian Hoyer, Las Vegas is sure to bring in another signal-caller, or two, before the start of OTAs in May.

The question is, will it be another stopgap-type vet, or, as Pierce has more than intimated, a highly-touted draft pick? The latter would most likely mean the Raiders having to trade up from No. 13 into the top 2 or 3, which would carry a hefty price tag.

"I know we had Derek Carr for a bunch of years," Pierce said of the Raiders' nine-year starter from 2014-22. "But before him and after him, it's been a bunch of one-stop guys."

Consider: in a 10-year stretch from Rich Gannon playing his final game in 2004 until Carr was drafted in 2014, the Raiders started 14 different QBs -- Kerry Collins, Marques Tuiasosopo, Andrew Walter, Aaron Brooks, Josh McCown, Daunte Culpepper, JaMarcus Russell, Jason Campbell, Bruce Gradkowski, Carson Palmer, Kyle Boller, Matt Flynn, Matt McGloin and Terrelle Pryor.

Since Carr left the team after being benched with two weeks to go in the 2022 season, Jarrett Stidham, Garoppolo, Hoyer and O'Connell have started at QB for Las Vegas.

"And I don't think any organization wants that," Pierce continued. "You want the face of your franchise to be the quarterback, to be that guy you can count on for the next few years."

Draft pick it is, then, right?

Well ...

The Raiders in general, Pierce in particular, have been heavily linked to LSU's Heisman Trophy winner Jayden Daniels, who was initially recruited out of high school to Arizona State by Pierce. Daniels shouted Pierce out in his Heisman acceptance speech and was in the Raiders locker room for their cigar celebration after their season-finale victory over the Denver Broncos.

The teams holding the top three picks in the upcoming draft to be held April 25-27 (Chicago Bears, Washington Commanders and New England Patriots) are all in the market for a quarterback. Also, the QB-needy Minnesota Vikings acquired the No. 23 pick to go with their own selection at No. 11, so perhaps they are also aiming at trading up to get the likes of Daniels, USC's Caleb Williams, North Carolina's Drake Maye, Michigan's J.J. McCarthy or even Oregon's Bo Nix.

Washington's Michael Penix Jr. could conceivably be there at No. 13 for the Raiders, but do they see him as that face-of-the-franchise piece Pierce has alluded to?

Whichever direction the Raiders go, Minshew is not shying away from a competition. In fact, he and his folksy demeanor are welcoming it.

In a respectful manner, of course.

"It's going to be competitive," Minshew said. "I think [the Raiders are] going to try to put together the best quarterback room they can. There's no promises being made; I don't want any guarantees, I just want a chance, and I'm excited for the chance I have here."

Minshew is already a five-year vet, but at 27, is only two years older than O'Connell, who finished his rookie year as the Raiders starter.

Minshew has played in 49 NFL games, starting 37, and has 59 touchdown passes and 24 interceptions while passing for 9,937 yards and completing 62.2% of his passes. The 6-foot-1, 225 pounder is also able to extend plays with his legs. He rushed for 344 yards as a rookie in 2019 and had five rushing TDs last season.

Minshew has a 90.2 passer rating but just a 15-22 record with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts, though he is 2-0 vs. the Raiders, eliminating them from the playoffs in Week 17 last season.

O'Connell, meanwhile, had one disastrous start with Garoppolo concussed, played in relief of Hoyer with Garoppolo out with a back injury and took over for Garoppolo for good upon Pierce taking over on Nov. 1.

In his final nine games, O'Connell went 5-4. In his last four contests, O'Connell threw 8 TD passes without an interception.

The fourth-round draft pick (No. 135 overall) finished his rookie season with a passer rating of 83.9 and a QBR of 40.5 after throwing for 2,218 yards, 12 TDs and seven interceptions while completing 62.1% of his attempts. He did lack pocket awareness at times, taking 24 sacks and only rushing for 11 yards on 17 attempts.

"I don't know if I can give myself a grade," O'Connell said the last week of the season. "Throughout it, there's been good and bad. I think I'm more so [I'm] just disappointed that we didn't win more games. I think that's what ultimately will be what hurts the most ... not being able to pull out some of the games that I think we could have won.

"That's kind of the scar tissue that hurts. Obviously, we've had some good wins, but yeah, I think the lack of capitalizing on opportunities in late drives and stuff like that, I think that's what I'm thinking about the most."

O'Connell has yet to author a fourth-quarter comeback, while Minshew has six to his name. Two different skill sets, with the need for another signal-caller in the Raiders QB room, right?

"I think everything is starting to line up," Minshew said. "You add the experience on top of the physical maturity ... I'm just so excited to be able to use that experience here and, hopefully, help us win some games."

Paging that third mystery QB, then.

Related Video