If the Raiders and new head coach Jon Gruden want to make Derek Carr a better quarterback right away, they can do so without having him watch a single game tape, without putting him through any drill and without tweaking his mechanics.
Yes, folks, the quickest, surest way to make Carr more comfortable and less of a focal point in the offense is to sign running back Le’Veon Bell if the Pittsburgh Steelers opt to let the standout walk and hit the free agent market.
Ignore the financial ramifications, we’ll get to those later.
Adding Bell would take pressure off Carr by giving the Raiders the kind of lead back they haven’t had since, really, Marcus Allen in the 1980s.
Consider, the Raiders passed 60.1 percent of the time in 2017. Having Bell as the lead back would give Gruden the kind of lead back he covets and the opportunity to establish a balanced offense.
Bell, an All-Pro this season, likely would be even more effective with the Raiders than he has been with the Steelers the past five seasons, given he would be waiting in the backfield while guards Kelechi Osemele and Gabe Jackson and center Rodney Hudson blow open massive holes.
Whenever Carr feels the need to get rid of the ball in a hurry or panics in the face of pressure, what better outlet than Bell, who averaged 80 receptions the past two seasons?
Adding Bell also would allow the Raiders to walk away from 2017 lead back Marshawn Lynch and, in the process, not have to rely upon backups Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington as much, too.
Check out this telling stat: last season, Lynch, Washington and Richard combined for 320 rushes and 81 receptions. Bell had 321 rushes and 85 receptions.
Oh, yeah, the money.
First off, it’s not your money, just as you’re not having to reach into your pockets to pay any of Gruden’s $10 million per year salary.
As for the salary-cap worry, that’s easily solved. The Raiders could free up more than the $12.12 million Bell made in 2017 simply by cutting Lynch and wide receiver Michael Crabtree. If Gruden opts to bring back Crabtree, then the Raiders could structure Bell’s contract so that he gets paid more on the back end. In other words, salary cap space isn’t a deal-breaker at all.
Another reason people use for not being sold on Bell is that he turned down a long-term contract from the Steelers before last season that would have paid him more than $12 million per season and more than $30 million in the first two years of the deal.
Then there’s the matter of Bell’s high mileage. He has 1,229 carries in his five seasons and missed 18 of a possible 80 regular-season games. When he’s healthy and motivated – I know, the same has been said of Lynch – Bell is a transcendent back.
Such backs are worth the investment and the headache. They don’t come along very often and they hit the free-agent market in their prime far less often. This is a move that would go a long way toward making the Raiders offensive explosive once again and not so dependent upon Carr and the passing game.
These are the kind of bold moves that can transform a franchise.