Why Trading for Matt Schaub Was Best Option for the Oakland Raiders

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Why Trading for Matt Schaub Was Best Option for the Oakland Raiders
Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Oakland Raiders were in desperate need of a starting-caliber quarterback until agreeing to trade a late-round draft pick to the Houston Texans for Matt Schaub on Friday, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The deal is pending a physical, per John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

General manager Reggie McKenzie’s options to find a decent quarterback were severely limited. McKenzie could either draft one at No. 5 overall, sign an available free agent or try to make a trade for any that might be on the block.

McKenzie made the best possible decision for the Raiders, both in the short and long term. It’s not because Schaub is a great quarterback, but he is a decent one. The Raiders are no longer locked into taking a quarterback at No. 5 overall.

If there was one thing that the Raiders didn’t want to do, it was waste the No. 5 overall pick just to find a serviceable quarterback. They weren't looking for the next Christian Ponder. If they were going to use the fifth selection on a quarterback, they needed him either to be a franchise type from the start or sit for a year behind a veteran.

Whether McKenzie realized his preferred quarterback wouldn’t be available at No. 5, or that they would benefit from sitting for a year behind Schaub is unknown. In either case, the Raiders knew it was far too risky to try to wait to draft a quarterback or start Matt McGloin.

With options like Josh Freeman, Mark Sanchez and Michael Vick available, the Raiders were understandably less than enthusiastic about signing one of them. Vick comes with many of the same problems as Terrelle Pryor in terms of the inability of the coaching staff to predict the outcomes of plays when they decide to scramble.

Freeman and Sanchez have youth on their side, but not much else. If the Raiders were to bring one of them in, it would likely have been as competition with McGloin or a rookie and nothing more.

The Raiders traded what amounts to a throwaway pick for a short-term solution to their quarterback problem. The trade doesn’t change how the Raiders will draft, but it could be a hint into their thinking. If the Raiders had reason to believe the quarterback they coveted would not be there at No. 5 overall, it would make even more sense to make a move for Schaub.

The move for Schaub has one major perceived drawback: He’s expensive. The Raiders will be on the hook for Matt Schaub’s $10 million base salary and another $1 million total in per-game roster bonuses ($62,500 each game), per overthecap.com. Schaub has a base salary of $12.5 million in 2015 and $14.5 million in 2016 with an additional $1 million in per-game roster bonuses each year.

There is no motivation for Schaub to restructure his deal, even though it includes no guaranteed money. The Raiders could cut Schaub before the season and be out only the late-round draft pick they traded to the Texans.

Chances are Schaub will never see the money he is due in 2015 and 2016. The Raiders assume very little risk by trading for Schaub. Consider that Blaine Gabbert was recently traded for a sixth-round pick and the trade for Schaub doesn’t look too bad.

If he plays well and the Raiders don’t find a viable alternative by next offseason, some type of restructured contract could make sense for both sides. If Schaub doesn’t play well, paying him $11 million in 2014 doesn’t hurt the Raiders very much.

Matt Schaub's Remaining Contract
Year Base Roster Bonus Guaranteed/Dead Money Cap Number
2014 $10,000,000 $1,000,000 ($62,500 per game) $0 $11,000,000
2015 $12,500,000 $1,000,000 ($62,500 per game) $0 $13,500,000
2016 $14,500,000 $1,000,000 ($62,500 per game) $0 $15,500,000

overthecap.com

Even with Schaub on the books, the Raiders are going to struggle over the next couple of years to meet the NFL’s cash spending minimum. Per the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, teams must spend 89 percent of the salary cap over a four-year period starting in 2013. The money going to Schaub over and above what he would normally get was realistically not going to be used to upgrade the roster.

Had the Texans released Schaub, chances are he would have chosen to reunite with his former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in Cleveland. The draft pick and the contract were more than worth it for the Raiders to secure a quarterback of Schaub’s caliber.

If the Raiders weren’t going to use the money on other players, it doesn’t really matter how much Schaub is paid. The Raiders used the resources available to them to get the quarterback they wanted, but with minimal risk.

As far as Schaub’s performance, it’s important not to be too shortsighted. He had a bad year, yes. He threw too many costly interceptions that were returned for touchdowns, no question.

However, Schaub was without question the most proven quarterback available. Prior to last season, if you had asked anyone to choose between Schaub for a late-round draft pick or Alex Smith for two second-round picks, almost everyone would have chosen Schaub.

Matt Schaub's 2013 Season
Split PFF Grade Comp % YPA TD INT
Season -15.9 61.2% 6.5 10 14
Starts -11.3 52.5% 6.4 9 13
Starts Minus SF/DEN +3.8 65.9% 6.9 8 8

Pro-Football-Reference.com

Schaub’s bad season was also the product of two horrible games, not a series of bad games. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Schaub didn't do well against the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers. Remove those two performances and Schaub’s 2013 season looks pretty similar to his previous campaigns. 

In one of those games, Schaub didn’t have running back Arian Foster or Ben Tate. In both, he tried forcing the ball to Andre Johnson without much success (23 targets, seven receptions). 

Doug Farrar of SI.com wrote in October how badly the Texans needed to diversify their route concepts. If forcing the ball to Johnson was by design, then it’s hard to blame Schaub completely for his poor performances.

Even if Schaub crashes and burns in Oakland, it’s hard to blame the Raiders for trying. Great options were not available to the Raiders, so they had to bring in the best possible option. Sometimes the best idea is a player who the coaching staff feels like they can work with.

The Raiders may now target a quarterback like San Jose State product David Fales in the middle rounds to develop behind Schaub. Although Schaub might not be a great quarterback, he gives the Raiders options they didn’t have the day before.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all statistics via Pro-Football-Reference.com.

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