Considering how rough 2017 became to watch at one point because of all the injuries to quarterbacks and other star players, Week 1 was a welcome respite for fans of football. It featured a lot of great quarterback play, including a heroic return by Aaron Rodgers and a relieving regular-season debut by Andrew Luck. Patrick Mahomes and Sam Darnold, making their first starts as THE MAN for their respective teams, were all we could have asked for and much more.
Even Ryan Fitzpatrick blacked out and pretended he was Dan Marino for a hot minute.
But not everything was sunshine and roses. In fact, for a middle class of young quarterbacks, things actually went pretty poorly. Matthew Stafford and Matt Ryan also had terrible weeks, but they have a body of work to build on. The same cannot be said for Mitchell Trubisky, Dak Prescott, Marcus Mariota and Derek Carr, the guy I want to focus on for a second here.
Carr interests me because, I believe, there is a reasonable chance the Raiders will consider moving on from him in the near future. There's a few factors here, starting with his contract.
Typically speaking, quarterback contracts are going to get played out. See: Ryan Tannehill, Andy Dalton, etc. For the most part, quarterbacks are too valuable for teams to exercise out options in the middle of these deals, unless the QB is aging (Joe Flacco next offseason) or perhaps making a statement (Colin Kaepernick opted out of his deal with the 49ers, but was going to be released).
Carr's contract,, has an out basically every year following the 2018 season. His cap number is $22.5 million in 2019, but he would count for only $7.5 million in dead money if the Raiders cut him. And in 2020, his cap number is $21.5 million, but he would count for only $5 million in dead money.
Those are important inflection points, because in the 2019 and 2020 drafts, the Raiders and Jon Gruden have two first-round picks courtesy of the Bears via the Khalil Mack trade. That trade, a risky worthwhile move for Chicago, has upside for the Raiders too: they plan to be moving into their Las Vegas home in 2020, and wouldn't it be just perfectly Gruden to have acquired a young, cheap quarterback he can mold as the Raiders embark on a journey in a new home. Will Grier and Jon Gruden in Las Vegas, shoot it straight into my veins, please.
Which is not to say that Carr just has to go. He played some tremendous football in 2016 and was a viable MVP candidate until a late-season injury derailed what would eventually be a 12-win season for the Raiders. But even in that season, he wasn't putting up massive numbers: Carr finished with less than 4,000 passing yards (in 15 games) and averaged a career-best 7.5 yards per attempt. For his career, he averages just 6.6 yards per attempt. That's not good.
Also not good? Some of the throws Carr made against the Rams on Monday night. He threw the ball away with ghosts pressuring him in a good pocket.
And he appeared to potentially fail at throwing the ball away in the fourth quarter by accidentally throwing an interception.
Some Rams players reportedly said Carr was "scared" to "take shots" from them while playing on Monday. Carr became just the third quarterback since 2015 with 300+ passing yards, zero touchdowns and three interceptions in a game with his performance on Monday.
The stats don't align with what we saw: Carr completed 72.5 percent of his passes, threw for 303 yards and averaged 7.6 yards per attempt. But the Raiders were clearly scared of Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib -- they only threw the ball to Jared Cook and Jalen Richard. It was a very Charlie Checkdown situation for much of the night.
I don't want this to come off as "the Raiders must cut Derek Carr" or some such hot take. It's not that. But he is definitely not in the "Future Franchise QB" section below (if there was one, but you get the point, maybe next week) and much more likely to find himself either in "Question Marks" or "QB Limbo."
And with the Raiders paying him north of $20 million per year and set to have a whole bunch of draft picks, would it surprise you at all if Gruden decided he wanted his own guy, on a cheap salary? Again, the Raiders just traded Mack! It's clear Gruden is re-making this roster in his own image, whatever that may be, and if Oakland stinks this year, you can bet he'll find a scapegoat. Considering Carr is the most visible and talented player on the team at the most important position, it's not hard to imagine who said scapegoat would be if the offense isn't up to snuff or the team wins four games.
It is a situation, given Gruden's history and Carr's contract plus the team's cupboard full of draft picks, that should be on your radar.
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Let's get to the rankings for this wee:
What a freaking show from Aaron Rodgers against the Bears. After injuring his knee, Rodgers left Lambeau Field on a cart, appearing to potentially miss a lengthy amount of time this season. Instead of that, he was back right after the half. And boy oh boy did he put on a show, bringing the Packers back from 20-0 in the third quarter to win against their hated rival. A performance for the ages.
Tom Brady New England Patriots QB
|A ho-hum performance for Brady at home against the Texans, but more than enough to get it done in a Week 1 Patriots win.|
Drew Brees New Orleans Saints QB
|Alvin Kamara put up a monster game, but Brees quietly went huge as well in a loss to the Buccaneers. If the defense struggles he's going to put up huge numbers again.|
Philip Rivers Los Angeles Chargers QB
|Feel confident that Rivers won't fall off a cliff this year and if Joey Bosa doesn't play, he'll need to throw a lot. He finished with 424 passing yards and it could have been more if his receivers hadn't dropped so many balls.|
The goal of this elite group is to expand and contract it depending on how the guys at the tail end of it play throughout the year. I purposely didn't put a ton of guys in the group because of concerns about how some older guys might age. Philip Rivers looks like he'll be fine, but I'm not sure we can say the same for the rest of the guys.
Russell Wilson Seattle Seahawks QB
|Russell was under HEAVY pressure from the Broncos in Week 1 and just lost Doug Baldwin for several weeks. He's operating with one hand tied behind his back right now.|
Ben Roethlisberger Pittsburgh Steelers QB
|Ben stinks on the road a lot and he stunk on the road in Cleveland in some terrible weather. That might have been his worst professional game. I would expect a big bounce back against the Chiefs coming up at home. If not it's a major red flag.|
Cam Newton Carolina Panthers QB
|Cam is never going to put up huge passing totals in terms of yards per game, but he remains the deadliest red zone threat in the league as far as QBs go.|
Andrew Luck Indianapolis Colts QB
|Feel like my leap of faith was justified with Luck's performance. Asking him to throw 53 times a game feels like it might not be medically smart but it might be necessary from a football perspective.|
Lot of good and a lot of bad from this group in Week 1. Ben Roethlisberger was flat-out terrible. He might have played the worst game of his career against the Browns. That's weird because he usually dominated Cleveland, but the weather was terrible, Ben and the Steelers often play down to the competition on the road and the Browns defense is much better than it's been in years. Russell Wilson was under fire courtesy of Von Miller and, man, he does not have a ton of weapons out there. Cam Newton also lost a weapon with Greg Olsen gone, but the Panthers using him and Christian McCaffrey to run the option is going to be fun. Andrew Luck threw 53 (!) times! Fifty three times!
Alex Smith Washington Redskins QB
|Smith destroyed the Cardinals in the first half, going 17-of-20 for 171 yards and two touchdowns.|
Patrick Mahomes Kansas City Chiefs QB
|Mahomes completion percentage (55.5) wasn't mind-blowing, but some of the throws he made literally made me jump up and swear.|
Kirk Cousins Minnesota Vikings QB
|Nice work in his first game with a new coordinator and a new set of weapons and an offensive line that was not fantastic.|
Excellent first week for these guys. Smith basically snuffed out the Cardinals by halftime with an incredibly efficient performance. He really does raise the Redskins' floor. Mahomes is just a monster in waiting and Andy Reid hasn't uncorked everything just yet. Cousins got pressured a bunch by the 49ers but did a nice job making plays and not turning the ball over; he's going to have a ton of wiggle room as he adjusts thanks to the Vikings defense being so good.
Matt Ryan Atlanta Falcons QB
|Steve Sarkisian will get most of the blame for the Falcons offensive woes, but Matt Ryan made some terrible throws against the Eagles.|
Matthew Stafford Detroit Lions QB
|He was apparently giving away his signals to the Jets AND got hurt AND generally looked terrible. Not the start we wanted to see from the Lions offense.|
Both of these guys were in my "near elite" category to start the season. And I'm not selling out on them entirely after a single game. There's too much statistical history here to just give up on Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford. But another game with the same problems we saw from them in Week 1 would really sound some alarms.
Deshaun Watson Houston Texans QB
|Only completed fifty percent of his passes and finished with only 176 passing yards. It was a tough spot and Watson was coming off an ACL so nothing to worry about yet.|
Jared Goff Los Angeles Rams QB
|Goff missed several big throws down the field, although he did finish with a decent day. The Raiders gave an excellent effort early. He'll get a solid test against the Cardinals.|
Jimmy Garoppolo San Francisco 49ers QB
|I know his numbers weren't great, but he could have had a bigger day throwing to George Kittle, and Jimmy G was under siege against one of the best defenses in football.|
Pretty good starts for these guys in interesting spots: New England is a hard spot to visit, the Black Hole on a late Monday night isn't easy and the Vikings are just a brutal home team to play against. Think all three of these guys could end up seeing a nice little bump in their second start of the season.
Joe Flacco Baltimore Ravens QB
|The once ELITE QB looked pretty good against the Bills in Week 1...|
Andy Dalton Cincinnati Bengals QB
|If you protect him, he will succeed (although let's be honest here, the Colts might not be the best litmus test).|
Sam Darnold New York Jets QB
|I was REALLY impressed by how he bounced back from that first-throw pick six.|
Tyrod Taylor Cleveland Browns QB
|Nice job keeping the Browns in the game in a slopfest against the Steelers. He'll need to be better if he wants to hold off Baker Mayfield though.|
Ryan Tannehill Miami Dolphins QB
|He was taking a step forward the last time he was in Adam Gase's offense. Maybe he can pick up where he left off.|
Ryan Fitzpatrick Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB
|I mean, no, I don't believe you'd take him over the rest of the guys below long term. But you gotta reward that performance against the Saints.|
This is definitely not the list of dudes I expected to be intrigued by after Week 1, but here we are. Joe Flacco looks like he might really be willing to spend the whole year lighting it up because he's insulted by the Lamar Jackson pick. Andy Dalton has good weapons around him and an offensive line (but we need to see it against a better defense). Sam Darnold is . He's probably ranked too high here, but I don't care! He looked great. Tyrod Taylor and Ryan Tannehill didn't have eye-popping stats but their teams got 1.5 combined wins and I could see them carrying it over into a good Week 2. Ryan Fitzpatrick averaged 14.8 yards per pass attempt and might win Offensive Player of the Week, which literally zero people saw coming.
Mitchell Trubisky Chicago Bears QB
|Great scripted first half, not-so-fantastic second half of the game for Mitchell.|
Dak Prescott Dallas Cowboys QB
|What happens if the offensive line isn't blocking/protecting and the run game isn't working? We might be about to find out...|
Blake Bortles Jacksonville Jaguars QB
|Managed the game and ran the ball a bunch. Can't possibly keep him below Derek Carr at this point.|
Derek Carr Oakland Raiders QB
|Some of the throws he made against the Rams were very, very bad.|
Marcus Mariota Tennessee Titans QB
|Injured again and didn't play well against the Dolphins before he got hurt (although the injury was definitely a questionable situation).|
This is a young group of players who we thought might be able to take a leap forward starting this season and thus far -- only one week! -- the results have not been great. Trubisky looked good early on, but struggled in the second half against the Packers. Prescott might not have enough weapons (any weapons?). Bortles jumped up into this group! Carr is a major question mark for me moving forward with Jon Gruden and his contract situation. And I love Mariota, but if he's hurt it will be hard for him to take a leap forward.
Case Keenum Denver Broncos QB
|Three picks is not ideal in a situation but he fed Emmanuel Sanders aggressively, which I liked. This might be a little too low but he could move up soon.|
Eli Manning New York Giants QB
|Tough matchup, but the real dagger was watching Sam Darnold looking great against the Lions.|
Sam Bradford Arizona Cardinals QB
|Maybe a healthy Bradford wouldn't be higher after all. Nightmare performance against the Redskins.|
Does Keenum belong here? He might belong higher. We'll see. A good outing this week could bump him up for sure, but three picks is no bueno. Eli is Eli. Bradford was downright disastrous against Washington; it's hard to believe they didn't roll Josh Rosen out there at all.
But maybe it's the Nathan Peterman show. This wouldn't be a terrible spot to toss him out, considering how the Chargers defense looked against the Chiefs.
I don't think Foles is the worst starting quarterback in the NFL -- he might end up having to move up a little bit if he plays well and if Carson Wentz continues to be unavailable to play.