The Derek Carr Sweepstakes has its first publicly acknowledged entrant.
NFL Media reported the New Orleans Saints invited the quarterback, whom the Las Vegas Raiders have granted permission to seek a trade, for a visit Wednesday, and that the Raiders have acquiesced to that request. The report added no trade is imminent.
However, the visit implies the teams have agreed on potential compensation, which was a condition of the Raiders giving Carr permission to speak with franchises interested in acquiring the nine-year veteran.
The Raiders are under a tight deadline to make a decision about Carr, a four-time Pro Bowl selection. They must trade or release Carr by Feb. 15 — three days after the Super Bowl — or his contract will become guaranteed and Las Vegas will have to pay him $40.4 million over the next two years. The contract contains a no-trade clause, so Carr has some say in where he will play.
If a trade is consummated, there is a good chance Carr would be in line to sign an extension that would lower his upcoming salary-cap numbers. His 2023 cap hit is $34 million, which balloons to more than $43 million for 2024-25.
It would be imperative that the Saints, who are projected to be more than $60 million over the salary cap, work out a longer-term deal with Carr to be able to afford him. They also would need to cut players and likely restructure other contracts before the start of the league year on March 15.
An added layer to the Saints’ interest could be that coach Dennis Allen was Carr’s first coach with the Raiders. Pete Carmichael is New Orleans’ long-time offensive coordinator and helped Drew Brees reach the Pro Bowl 12 times.
The Carr-Raiders rift escalated when he was benched for Jarrett Stidham with two weeks remaining in the regular season. On Jan. 12, Carr posted a lengthy statement saying goodbye to Raiders fans.
Mike Martz, an analyst for The 33rd Team, said he believes Carr moving on could benefit both sides.
“Sometimes it just doesn’t work,” Martz said. “I think it’s the best possible outcome for both guys. (Coach) Josh McDaniels can get a young guy in there that he can groom and that he’s more comfortable with. I think that Carr should’ve gotten out of there years ago. He should get a badge of courage for lasting as long as he did there.”
Carr has put up prolific passing statistics for some bad Raiders teams (his regular-season record is 63-79). He has passed for almost 4,000 yards per season and has an average touchdown-to-interception ratio of 24:11.
“You look at Derek Carr when you look at his career as a Raider, and it’s really how we’re evaluated as quarterbacks in the NFL,” said Rich Gannon, a former MVP quarterback for the Raiders and an analyst for The 33rd Team. “How many times were you able to get your team to the finish line? You’ve got a 63-79 record as a starting quarterback. Many people would say well, he never played with a great defense, they never had a great supporting cast.
“I think if you look at their offense this year, when healthy, you’ve got one of the best tight ends in football (Darren Waller), you’ve got arguably the best receiver in football in Davante Adams, you’ve got one of the best-rushing leaders in Josh Jacobs. So I disagree. I would tell that the reason he got sat down were the mistakes and the turnovers, nine interceptions in the last five games.”
If a deal involved draft picks, the Saints strengthened their position last week. They regained some draft capital when former coach Sean Payton was “traded” to the Denver Broncos last week. New Orleans obtained the No. 29 pick in the first round. The Saints also possess their own pick in the second (No. 40) and third (No. 71) rounds.
Should Carr land in the Big Easy and the Raiders acquire a pick or picks, it could then help facilitate another trade for the Raiders to obtain another quarterback. Andy Dalton started 14 games last season for the Saints and is an unrestricted free agent. Fellow veteran Jameis Winston has a cap number of $15.6 million next season.