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Gruden not ready to make call on Raiders 2020 quarterback

ALAMEDA, Calif. — Derek Carr looked very much like a quarterback ready to get back to work on Monday morning, his tightly wrapped right ankle and the mild limp notwithstanding.

But the moving boxes that surrounded him in the Raiders locker room, which were filling up quickly as he and his teammates packed up their belongings, were a painful reminder that their 2019 journey was officially finished.

Not that Carr wasn’t already laying the groundwork for a busy offseason he believes will close the gap between the Raiders being playoff contenders and playoff participants.

“We’re hitting the ground running,” Carr said.

The Raiders’ 7-9 finish represented a three-game improvement from 2018. A similar jump next year will put them in the playoffs. Carr, who threw for 4,054 yards and 21 touchdowns this season, is convinced it’s within reach.

“I hope so,” he said. “We better be.”

The “we” part might seem presumptuous given speculation that the Raiders — specifically coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock — might consider a quarterback change as the franchise moves from Oakland to Las Vegas.

When asked Monday if Carr was a certainty next year, Gruden was non-committal.

“I’m not going to get into all the next-years scenarios,” Gruden said. “I’m just gonna say that 7-9 is a step forward; we took a step forward.

“We have got to get a lot of guys healthy and we got a lot of things to look at and evaluate before we start making any assumptions.”

Gruden and Carr have worked together for 32 games. That is more than enough time for Gruden to determine whether the Raiders should begin the process of looking for a new one.

Gruden’s year-long partnership with Mayock already has yielded at least six new starters from the 2019 draft alone. Among them Josh Jacobs, who set a franchise rookie record for rushing yards with 1,150, slot receiver Hunter Renfrow, rush end Maxx Crosby, defensive end Clelin Ferrell and cornerback Trayvon Mullen.

Armed with five picks among the first 90 selections in next April’s draft and $75 million to spend under the salary cap, Gruden and Mayock have the opportunity to parlay the success of the 2019 offseason into one that uncovers a quarterback that significantly raises the Raiders ceiling.

Carr, though, seems unfazed by any of the speculation. He spent most of Monday talking about a bright future that he anticipates playing a major part in.

“We need to get more wins,” Carr said. “And I think everyone will chill out.”

As he scanned the Raiders locker room, he saw a team similar to the one in 2015 that used a four-win improvement from 2014 as the foundation for a 12-win season and playoff berth in 2016.

But he said he believes this Raiders team is in better position to create sustained success rather than the fleeting kind of 2016. The emergence of Jacobs and Renfrow and Darren Waller and the rebuilt offensive line has a lot to do with that, but so too does this groups work ethic and passion and mindset.

“Because we know who’s going to be around and stuff like that,” Carr said, obviously counting himself among those guaranteed to return.

Jon Gruden, though, wasn’t ready to make that commitment Monday.

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Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow at @VinnyBonsignore on Twitter.

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