Bruce Gradkowski's agent was informed on Monday that the Raiders will be placing a second round tender on his client according to David White of the San Francisco Chronicle. This stands as the final signal that the Raiders are ready to move on from JaMarcus Russell.
When JaMarcus Russell was benched after nine games last season, it already seemed like a long time coming. After a tumultuous off-season that exposed Russell's lack of work ethic as well as an overall lack of physical fitness, his on the field performance was as expected. One might even say it was worse.
His benching alone was a big step because, it went against what Al Davis wanted to happen. Not to say that Tom Cable disobeyed Davis' demands. It was most likely simply a loosening of the reins due to the Raiders being already out of playoff contention half way through the season. At that point, Cable could only try and see what this team was capable of with a competent quarterback behind center. In this case: Bruce Gradkowski.
The result was a 3-3 record in the next six games with surprising victories over Cincinnati, at Pittsburgh, and at Denver. Gradkowski had quickly become a fan favorite and a player the team could rally behind.
The second sign of Russell's demise was Tom Cable keeping his job. If Cable had been fired, the message would have been that Al Davis wanted a coach who would come in and start Russell again no matter what. Instead, not only was Cable retained but Davis actually brought him some help in the form of new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson.
This past weekend Cable was asked about the quarterback situation and he claimed there would still be an open competition in camp:
"JaMarcus is working and doing the things he should be doing right now," Cable said. "He'll get himself prepared to compete for the job. I think that's the only way to look at it... That would help our football team right now, getting into more of that competition. I'm for having guys go at it and battle for the job."
I only slightly believe Cable when he says this. Truth be told, if Russell actually did put in the work, he could probably be a good QB. But you can't teach work ethic. Russell doesn't have it. He doesn't care enough to turn things around. So QB competition or no, I think Cable knows that the job is Gradkowski's until further notice.
This second round tend assigment only further proves the faith this team has in Gradkowski to keep his starting job next season. The Raiders know that no team would surrender a second rounder for Gradkowski at this point. He is far more valuable to the Raiders than he would be to anyone else.
The tender amount is a nice friendly $1.759 million for one year which is pretty thrifty for a starting quarterback. Even a journeyman who probably wouldn't start for the majority of the teams in the NFL.
The lack of a long-term deal does suggest that the Raiders only consider Gradkowski as a stop gap solution until something better comes along. But it seems pretty clear that they have very little faith that Russell can every be that better thing.