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Brady, Rivers among QBs Raiders could pursue in free agency

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series previewing the Raiders’ propects in the NFL free-agent signing period, which begins March 18.

Though the Raiders have Derek Carr under contract through 2022, rumors have circulated since the end of the season about the organization potentially bringing in another quarterback for its first season in Las Vegas.

Carr has shown steady improvement in two seasons under head coach Jon Gruden. He set career highs in yards passing (4,054) and completion percentage (70.4) in 2019, throwing 21 touchdowns to just eight interceptions.

Still, general manager Mike Mayock was clear at the Senior Bowl in January when he said that the Raiders will look to improve the entire roster — including QB.

“We live in a Darwinian world in football,” Mayock said. “If we can get better at any position, we will.”

If the rumors are to be believed, the Raiders could be firmly in the mix for one man in particular when free agency begins March 18. But with so many QBs set to be free agents, if the Raiders choose to move on from Carr, there are plenty of options available.

Here’s a look at five potential Raiders free agency targets at quarterback:

1. Tom Brady, Patriots. Age: 42

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady reacts after running for yardage in the fourth quart ...
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady reacts after running for yardage in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Flatly, Brady is an old quarterback. He’ll be 43 when the regular season starts, and despite being a six-time Super Bowl champion and 14-time Pro Bowler, there’s some undeniable tread on his tires.

With the right weapons around him, Brady can still be effective — as evidenced by the Patriots’ victory in Super Bowl LIII. But without consistent receiving targets in 2019, Brady struggled at times — completing 61 percent of his passes for 4,057 yards with 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Brady’s last two games in 2019 illustrated some decline, completing a combined 55 percent of his throws for 430 yards with a pair of touchdowns plus a pair of interceptions. With consecutive losses to the Dolphins and Titans, the Patriots went from Super Bowl contenders with a first-round bye to eliminated in the first round of the postseason.

With the Raiders, Brady would, in theory, have a full complement of weapons around him like running back Josh Jacobs and tight end Darren Waller. And with a new quarterback, Las Vegas would be free to pursue a top-flight wide receiver in the first round of the draft. But with Brady’s age, the Raiders would need a succession plan at the position.

One drawback could be Brady having to learn Gruden’s notoriously complicated offense. How much would he really want to learn something so different at 43?

2. Ryan Tannehill, Titans. Age: 31

Tennessee Titans' Ryan Tannehill warms up before the NFL AFC Championship football game against ...
Tennessee Titans' Ryan Tannehill warms up before the NFL AFC Championship football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, in Kansas City, MO. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

After six fruitless years with the Dolphins, Tannehill became one of the most effective quarterbacks in the league with the Titans. He was both the AP and PFWA Comeback Player of the Year after leading the Titans to a 7-3 record and a wild-card berth in 2019.

Tannehill ended the season leading the league in yards per attempt (9.6), yards per completion (13.6) and passer rating (117.5). And he displayed all that skill in front of the Raiders, passing for 391 yards and three touchdowns in Tennessee’s 42-21 victory in December.

Tannehill certainly benefited from handing the ball off to rushing champion Derek Henry. But that could provide a model for how he might look with the Raiders and Jacobs, with the team utilizing play action to spread the ball around.

However, given how successful Tannehill was in 2019, it feels more likely the Titans will either come to terms on a long-term deal or franchise the quarterback rather than let him hit the open market.

3. Jameis Winston, Buccaneers. Age: 26

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston throws against the Detroit Lions during an NFL ...
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston throws against the Detroit Lions during an NFL football game in Detroit, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The No. 1 overall pick of the 2015 draft, Winston is potentially the best long-term option on the free agent market given his age. He’s thrown for the second-most yards in NFL history through five seasons with 19,737 — including a league-leading 5,109 in the 2019 season. But he’s extremely turnover-prone, becoming the first quarterback to throw for at least 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions last season.

Winston can push the ball downfield, and being only 26 means he could be the face of the Raiders for the next decade. But his penchant for throwing interceptions would turn off Gruden, who puts a premium on ball security.

4. Teddy Bridgewater, Saints. Age: 27

In this Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019 file photo, New Orleans Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) ...
In this Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019 file photo, New Orleans Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) throws against the Chicago Bears during the first half of an NFL football game in Chicago. (AP Photo/Mark Black, File)

Since suffering a catastrophic knee injury just before the 2016 season, Bridgewater has regained his health and done well as a backup for the Saints — winning all five games he started in place of the injured Drew Brees in 2019.

Much like Winston, Bridgewater is intriguing as a long-term option for the Raiders because he’s young. While Bridgewater did well to avoid critical turnovers in 2019, he also didn’t appear to take many chances. He finished the season at 7.1 yards per attempt, which is right in line with his career average of 7.2.

If the Raiders were to pursue Bridgewater, the big question would be how much of an upgrade would he be over Carr?

5. Philip Rivers, Chargers. Age: 38

Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) warms up before an NFL football game agains ...
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) warms up before an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Rivers is familiar with the AFC West, and the Chargers officially announced that they won’t be pursuing another contract with him after 16 seasons with San Diego/Los Angeles. With a full complement of weapons around him, Rivers could potentially be effective as a quarterback again.

But he showed plenty of signs of decline in the Chargers’ 5-11 season in 2019 — throwing 20 interceptions. If the Raiders were to pursue Rivers, they would need a succession plan in place — much like with Brady.

Contact Myles Simmons at msimmons@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350. Follow @MylesASimmons on Twitter.

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