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Raiders look to surround QB Derek Carr with more help

Updated March 1, 2019 - 8:02 pm

INDIANAPOLIS — There is no confusion as to how the Raiders view Derek Carr.

This week, they saw to it.

General manager Mike Mayock and coach Jon Gruden addressed reporters Wednesday and Thursday, each holding a news conference and then group interview with local reporters. When Carr surfaced as a topic, they tag-teamed a takedown of any talk the franchise could be in the market for a replacement this offseason.

“I think Derek Carr is a franchise quarterback,” Mayock said. “I truly believe that. … I think it’s really difficult to try to improve over a franchise quarterback like the one we have in our building right now.”

Said Gruden: “He is our franchise quarterback, yes. Try to make that clear.”

Raiders brass vocally supported Carr at the NFL scouting combine. They also plan to support him where it counts. Beginning this month in free agency, the organization is intent on providing Carr more on-field help, allowing him to blossom under the scheme stability that Gruden’s presence affords.

This will involve a significant investment at wide receiver.

Although the club has discussed and continues to monitor Pittsburgh Steelers star Antonio Brown as a potential trade candidate, at least one option in free agency is expected to garner interest. The Raiders are considered likely to make a serious run at Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Tyrell Williams.

Williams, 27, averaged 15.9 yards per reception the past three seasons, catching 153 passes for 2,440 yards and 16 touchdowns. His combination of speed and 6-foot-4-inch size would be a welcome addition, and his game is still growing as a former undrafted free agent from Western Oregon.

Marcell Ateman, a 2018 seventh-round pick, finished last season as the Raiders’ starting “X” receiver.

“Typically, in most NFL systems, the ‘X’ is the bigger wide receiver,” Mayock said Wednesday. “Ateman right now is a guy that we like, but again, at all positions, we think we can get faster, more athletic, and that’s what we’re going to try to do — not just at ‘X’ but everywhere throughout our roster.”

Be it Williams or someone else, the Raiders’ first addition at wide receiver probably won’t be their last.

The Raiders are considering all avenues to upgrade the position. Many of their options from the 2019 draft class will be on display Saturday when on-field workouts, including the 40-yard dash, take place at Lucas Oil Stadium.

And then, there are other needs.

Carr was sacked a career-high 51 times in 2018. Questions exist on the offensive line, perhaps chief among them at right tackle.

Brandon Parker was thrust into action as a rookie third-round pick from North Carolina A&T. While the Raiders are counting on a significant development jump this offseason from their 2018 class, they would prefer to allow Parker an opportunity to grow at a more manageable pace.

He is not expected to be Plan A this year.

Donald Penn, 36 in April, is not, either.

Running back Doug Martin and Marshawn Lynch paced the backfield with 172 and 90 carries last season. Both are scheduled to become free agents when the league year begins March 13. Lynch, who is coming off groin surgery, turns 33 in April. Gruden said “the coming weeks will give us a better indication where he is physically.”

In 2018, tight end Jared Cook set team and career highs with 68 receptions, 896 yards and six touchdowns. Free agency is about paying for future production, not past. The likelihood he returns largely will be dictated by his market in a weak veteran crops of tight ends.

Much of the Raiders’ cash and draft-pick capital will be devoted to their defense this season.

But on offense, they are not searching for a franchise quarterback.

They seek help for him.

More Raiders: Follow at reviewjournal.com/Raiders and @NFLinVegas on Twitter.

Contact reporter Michael Gehlken at mgehlken@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GehlkenNFL on Twitter.

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