INDIANAPOLIS — On the opening day of the NFL Scouting Combine on Tuesday, Raiders general manager Mike Mayock was as effusive in his praise for quarterback Derek Carr as he’s been all offseason.
“Derek Carr played at a high level,” Mayock said. “I’m very happy with Derek Carr.”
But he stopped short of saying Carr will be the Raiders’ starting quarterback when they open their first season in Las Vegas in September. Holding firm on a position he’s held since the end of last season, Mayock insisted the Raiders will evaluate every position with the objective of getting better, quarterback included.
“And if we can get better, we will,” Mayock said.
That might seem obvious, since the whole point of the off-season is to grow and improve as a team.
But the Kansas City Chiefs don’t share the same sentiment about their quarterback position. Nor do the Seattle Seahawks or Los Angeles Rams or Green Bay Packers or New Orleans Saints.
Mayock and the Raiders might be happy with Carr, but the vibe they are sending is they still aren’t as happy as they want to be at quarterback.
It’s a vibe others in the NFL might be picking up on, which increases the likelihood that another team — or teams — might use the combine as a chance to gauge the Raiders’ interest in trading Carr.
Mayock says he isn’t sure how other teams are interpreting his approach.
“I can’t speak for anybody else,” he said. “I know if I have a question about a player on another team I’ll pick the phone up and call the GM.”
He made it clear, though, that the Raiders aren’t shopping Carr.
“We‘re not looking to actively move him at all,” Mayock said. “We know what we have, and we appreciate it.”
That could change if the Raiders find a better option in the draft or free agency.
A handful of quarterback prospects in Indianapolis this week provide intrigue and upside, although there are enough flaws and questions among them to not declare any of them surefire long-range stars. That includes the top-tier group of LSU’s Joe Burrow, who had one great season in college, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, who hasn’t been medically cleared to resume football after suffering a hip injury last season, and Oregon’s Justin Herbert, who regressed from his junior to senior year.
Behind them, Utah State’s Jordan Love, Washington’s Jacob Eason and Georgia’s Jake Fromm are more developmental prospects than day one starters.
It’s a mixed bag in free agency, with no one among Teddy Bridgewater, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota and others offering much more than stopgap possibilities. Tom Brady and Philip Rivers are future Hall of Famers who provide name recognition and short-term upgrades. But they both have rapidly approaching expiration dates, and the Raiders are building for the present and future.
Mayock acknowledges the challenges of playing under Raiders head coach Jon Gruden, who demands so much of his quarterbacks, and is quick to point out the strides Carr has made mastering the offense.
“We’ve got a quarterback that runs Jon’s offense at a very high level,” Mayock said.
It’s left the Raiders to walk the fine line between openly expressing a desire to get better while still appreciating what they presently have.
“I think everyone needs to understand at what level Derek Carr played last year,” Mayock said. “The guy completed 70 percent of his passes. He had almost a three-to-one touchdown to interception ratio. I think we were No. 11 in the league in total yards. We were seventh in third-down conversions. We did a lot of really good things on offense last year.”
All roads remain open at quarterback, including one that leads the Raiders right back to Carr.