INDIANAPOLIS – Mike Mayock has been asked about quarterback Derek Carr several times since becoming Raiders general manager. Carr came up six times on Wednesday alone, during Mayock's press availability at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Some were repeated in separate interview sessions, but all sought to determine whether Carr was the long-term solution behind center. Mayock didn't sign Carr to a $125 million contract extension in 2016. Neither did head coach/personnel authority Jon Gruden.
The previous regime did that, leaving many to wonder whether Carr will stick around in silver and black long term despite another strong statistical 2018 season, his first working in Gruden's system.
The Raiders have been attached to Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray – count the whole league intrigued by this prospect – and other passers available in this draft.
Mayock made his opinion of Carr crystal clear in this this answer to one of many quarterback questions.
"I think Derek Carr is a franchise quarterback. I truly believe that," Mayock said. "Now, do I also believe it's a general manager's and head coach's job to keep their eyes open to improve any position on a football team? Sure. But I think it's really difficult to try and improve over a franchise quarterback like the one we have in our building right now."
Mayock left the door open a crack regarding other quarterbacks, which will prompt headlines saying he wouldn't rule it out. NFL GMs never rule anything out this time of year. Doing so does no good heading into free agency and the draft.
Gruden and Mayock are confident in Carr. That much is clear. Carr also has more to prove, after some struggles the past two seasons. The front office must also help him out by upgrading positions around him.
"Everyone talks about (his 2016 season), but it has been two hard years since then," Mayock said. "There have been some injuries up front and breakdowns in protection. He has gotten beat up, and I think there's a tendency, just about with any QB in the league, bad habits occur. I don't care if you're talking about Eli Manning, who won two Super Bowls. When he got beat up, bad things happen. When it comes to Derek you have to evaluate what he had around him, from his protection to dynamic weapons, and go from there. I know the talent's there, and I believe in the kid."
Mayock praised the entire position group, including backup AJ McCarron. The former Alabama quarterback has a $3 million roster bonus coming on March 15, and his base salary becomes guaranteed on March 17. Mayock considered it a luxury to have McCarron, though there's still no guarantee he'll be around, especially on that particular pay structure. Nathan Peterman is also on the team after signing a reserve-futures contract after he spent the end of last year on the practice squad.
The possibility of drafting a quarterback remains though, like Gruden has with praise before, Mayock tried to emphasize that the Raiders have faith in their high-priced quarterback.