Reed: Raiders are optimistic about Jimmy Garoppolo, but the alternatives are frightening

HENDERSON, Nevada — Jimmy Garoppolo walked into Raiders headquarters Thursday morning wearing a cream hoodie, black pants, white sneakers and a black backpack with an iced coffee in hand. A team member of staff followed close behind with a black bag believed to contain clean clothes. As the staffer explained the layout of the $75 million facility, Garoppolo looked around, broke into a smile, acknowledged that the Raiders employees had taken him in, and took it all in.

“Damn,” Garoppolo said in a video the Raiders posted to Twitter. “This is unreal, man.”

Garoppolo then reunited with Raiders coach Josh McDaniels, his offensive coordinator with the Patriots from 2013 to 2017, in the team meal. After a short conversation, they shook hands and hugged.

From there, McDaniels and Garoppolo spread the love with receivers Jakobi Meyers and Phillip Dorsett — two other players coached by McDaniels at the Patriots — with plenty of smiles. Meyers and Dorsett had already signed contracts to officially become Raiders, with Garoppolo to follow Thursday morning.

Garoppolo never signed.

Five free agents signed contracts with the Raiders — Meyers, Dorsett, safety Marcus Epps, linebacker Robert Spillane and cornerback Brandon Facyson — before addressing the media at a press conference that began around 11 a.m. PT. Garoppolo would be officially introduced around noon. Noon came and went, however, without a word from Garoppolo.

Then 1pm came and went…and 2pm came and went too. It was clear that something was not right. And just before 2:30 p.m., a Raiders spokesperson emerged from the door where Garoppolo spent more than two hours before announcing that the press conference was tentatively postponed to at least Friday and the quarterback had not signed his contract — a three-year deal worth up to $72.5 million that he and the Raiders agreed on Monday.

That said a source with knowledge of the matter The athletic‘s Jeff Howe and Vic Tafur that everything was “all good” soon after. That insinuates the belief that an agreement between Garoppolo and the Raiders will still be finalized. Whether that happens remains to be seen, but it nevertheless raises questions as to why the transaction did not close on Thursday.

To find a possible explanation, it’s worth looking at the contract Garoppolo and the Raiders agreed to earlier this week. It included $33.75 million fully guaranteed at signing. That figure was composed of Garoppolo’s signing bonus, his salary for 2023, and his roster bonus for 2024. That number is significant because it’s the only money the Raiders were contractually obligated to pay upfront.

The agreement only ensured that Garoppolo would be on the roster for the 2023 season, but it made it quite likely that he would stay on the team in 2024 as well. If the Raiders cut Garoppolo after this upcoming season, they would get $18.75 million dead money while only clearing $9.25 million in cap space. The Raiders could theoretically absorb that blow and still have plenty of cap room left in 2024, but that result would be extremely unlikely. The numbers would be more favorable if they traded it after 2023 – they’d only take a $7.5 million dead money hit while clearing $20.5 million in space – but it seems unlikely there would be many suitors to commit to. report to pay Garoppolo $24.25 million in 2024 if he gave the Raiders a reason to want to move on.

However, that probable two-year commitment wouldn’t cause the Raiders to suddenly get cold feet on Thursday. After all, they knew this would be the case when they agreed to it in the first place.

The most obvious potential sticking point is that Garoppolo’s contract technically included $45 million in total guarantees. The contract includes a clause guaranteeing his $11.25 million salary in 2024 for injuries upon signing. That means if Garoppolo suffered a significant injury in 2023 that caused him to miss time in 2024, the Raiders would have to pay that extra $11.25 million.

Before free agent contracts are signed in the NFL, teams must conduct physical checks on players. In short, the physical characteristics determine whether there is anything that could prevent the players from being physically unable to perform.

The Raiders have had a situation in the past where that became a problem. In 2014, they signed offensive lineman Rodger Saffold to a $42.5 million contract. On the day Saffold’s press conference was scheduled, the Raiders held a physical examination. After the results were out, owner Mark Davis was uncomfortable with a problem with Saffold’s shoulder and called on the Raiders to back out of the deal. Saffold never signed and the press conference was cancelled. Saffold signed with the Rams and played all 16 regular season games that season.

The Raiders spokesman who announced Garoppolo’s press conference would be postponed was asked if there was an issue with the quarterback’s Thursday physical and declined to comment, citing that the postponement was related to the leak of contract details.

The athletic reached out to multiple league sources in an effort to find out what those contract details might be, but no one responded by the time this article was published. Again, there is optimism that what kept Garoppolo from officially joining the Raiders will be resolved, but the alternative must be considered.

The Raiders will be in a difficult position if the deal falls through. They will get an influx of cap space, but there aren’t many viable quarterback options in the free agent market. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is available, but a source told me so The athletic last week that they are unlikely to sign him on a quote sheet. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is available – and Howe reported that on Wednesday that the Raiders called the Packers earlier this offseason about a possible trade for his services – but Green Bay seems on the verge of selling Rodgers to the Jets. Besides Jackson and Rodgers, the remaining veteran options are bleak.

The most notable veteran quarterbacks available for free are Carson Wentz, Matt Ryan, Teddy Bridgewater, Marcus Mariota, Mason Rudolph, Joe Flacco and Brian Hoyer. All those players would be significant downgrades from Garoppolo.

In a scenario where the Raiders had to settle for one, they would almost have to draft a quarterback next month in the first round of the NFL Draft. They are in a good position to do this as they have the number 7 pick, but there are some issues.

Number 1, there is no guarantee that any of the four quarterbacks widely regarded as first-round talents — Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s CJ Stroud, Florida’s Anthony Richardson, and Kentucky’s Will Levis — will still be available . The Panthers at No. 1, Texans at No. 2, Colts at No. 4, Seahawks at No. 5 and Lions at No. 6 are all teams for them who could theoretically field a quarterback. They could pursue a trade with the Cardinals for the No. 3 pick, league sources said The athletic that they explored trading for the No. 1 pick earlier this offseason before the Bears traded it to the Panthers – but the price would certainly be high to do so.

No. 2, it is unknown how many of the aforementioned college quarterbacks actually deem the Raiders worthy of being drafted somewhere in the top seven. It’s unlikely, but the answer could be zero. Of course, the Raiders could aim to select a quarterback later in the draft, but that would be playing with fire if they get stuck with an under-qualified starter coming off free duty.

If it’s not already clear, the Raiders will be in big trouble if their deal with Garoppolo falls through. We’ll just have to wait and see if they can avoid that nightmarish outcome.

(Photo: Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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