Derek Carr and the Raiders are breaking up, just in time for Valentine’s Day.
The Raiders are releasing their long-time starting quarterback on Tuesday. The decision comes after Carr told the team that he wouldn’t waive his no-trade clause to facilitate a deal to remove him from Las Vegas.
The Raiders had until Feb. 15 to make a move with Carr or be forced to guarantee him an extra $40.4 million as part of a three-year extension he signed with the team last offseason.
They are poised to release him to avoid paying that sum.
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Carr’s departure from Las Vegas is hardly a surprise. He was benched for the final two games of the Raiders’ disappointing 6-11 season in favor of Jarrett Stidham. That signaled that Carr was getting scapegoated for Las Vegas’ issues in its first year under Josh McDaniels.
Carr knew it, and that’s why the 31-year-old had already penned a goodbye to Raiders fans in early January.
“It’s especially hard to say goodbye because I can honestly say that I gave you everything I have, every single day, in season, and in the off season,” Carr wrote. “It certainly wasn’t perfect but I hope that I was able to leave you with more than a few great memories as Raider fans.”
— Derek Carr (@derekcarrqb) January 12, 2023
Carr’s run as the Raiders starter lasted nine years. It began immediately after he was selected in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft and lasted until the end of the 2022 season.
Carr had started 143 of a possible 146 games before his benching.
MORE: Why did the Raiders bench Derek Carr? Breaking down Las Vegas’ surprising decision
While Carr garnered some interest on the trade block, teams ultimately weren’t willing to take on the $120 million-plus that the Raiders had given him on a three-year extension. That’s why he was ultimately released.
Carr should now be a sought-after free agent given his solid track record as a starter. His 63-79 record may not be too inspiring, but his career marks include a 64.6 completion percentage, 35,222 passing yards, 217 touchdowns and 99 interceptions. That would make him an upgrade at quarterback for several teams around the NFL.
But where could Carr land? Here are a handful of spots that could make sense for the soon-to-be 32-year-old veteran as his time in Las Vegas comes to an end.
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Derek Carr landing spots 2023
New York Jets
It’s no secret that the Jets are going to be looking for a quarterback during the 2023 NFL offseason. Zach Wilson has been a major bust to date after being the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft and was benched in favor of Mike White, who is set to be a free agent. The team could re-sign White but even if it does, New York may want a more proven commodity at quarterback.
Carr has had some accuracy issues in 2022 that will make some Jets fans shudder, but he has generally been a solid, capable passer who can get his team to the playoffs. He also has ties to new Jets assistant coach Todd Downing, who served as Carr’s quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator during his first three Pro Bowl seasons from 2015 through 2017.
The Jets also have ties to Aaron Rodgers and Jimmy Garoppolo, so Carr is no guarantee to land in New York. But certainly, the Jets will be in the mix for his services.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints are another team that has a connection to Carr. Head coach Dennis Allen coached the Raiders from 2012 to 2014, and he was the one who made Carr a starter during his rookie season in 2014. Allen lasted just four games that year, but clearly, he saw enough in Carr at that time to roll with him.
New Orleans also was the lone team to host Carr on a visit once the Raiders allowed the veteran quarterback to seek out potential trade partners. That signals that the Saints are at least interested in his services.
Carr could fit well in New Orleans given that the Saints need an upgrade over 35-year-old Andy Dalton that Jameis Winston hasn’t provided. The Saints would have to work hard to open the cap space needed to pursue Carr, but without a first-round pick, this could be their best path to a quarterback upgrade.
MORE: Derek Carr jokes about Raiders departure at Pro Bowl skills challenge
The Panthers have a solid-looking defense and an offense that overachieved as it closed the 2022 season. Sam Darnold was decent as a starting quarterback during the 2022 season, but the 25-year-old is set to be a free agent after the season.
That leaves Carolina with a choice. Will the Panthers re-sign someone like Darnold, will they spend a top-10 draft pick on a quarterback or will they pursue a veteran upgrade like Carr?
Given the instability that the Panthers have had at quarterback, they could choose to target a reliable player like Carr to pair with D.J. Moore. At the very least, they have shown some interest in the quarterback, and he could be a good fit in a Carolina offense that figures to be a ground-dominant attack even under Frank Reich.
Too, the Panthers could sign Carr and still draft a young quarterback while treating Carr as a bridge to the future. That may be Carolina’s top option after missing on its big swing at quarterback in previous offseasons.
The Commanders were teetering on the edge of playoff contention again despite having minimal talent at the quarterback position. Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke rank 33rd and 38th out of 39 qualified passers according to Pro Football Focus; as such, improving this position will be of the utmost importance to Ron Rivera in 2023.
Washington’s offense is built to win now. It has plenty of weapons — including Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson and Curtis Samuel — and with Rivera’s seat getting hot amid an ownership change, he may get aggressive as he looks to solidify his standing within the organization.
Meanwhile, Commanders defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio was Carr’s head coach from 2015 through 2017, a time during which Carr made three consecutive Pro Bowls. Del Rio could know a bit of what makes Carr tick, so that relationship could make Washington a great landing spot for him.
The only hang-up with Washington as a landing spot is that 2022 draft pick Sam Howell shined late in the season in his lone start at quarterback. The team seems willing to give him a chance to start because of that. Carr won’t want to compete for a starting job if he can help it, so that drops the Commanders a bit — unless their interest in starting Howell is a smokescreen.
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The Colts haven’t been afraid to acquire veteran quarterbacks in recent offseasons. They signed Philip Rivers in 2020, traded for Carson Wentz in 2021 and traded for Matt Ryan in 2022 while parting ways with Wentz. Carr could be the latest to join that train of experienced passers.
Carr’s 14 interceptions, tied for the third-worst in the league, could be a drawback for the Colts, as Matt Ryan, Nick Foles and Sam Ehlinger have struggled with turnovers and sacks in 2022. Still, if Shane Steichen believes he can get Carr back on a more accurate track, Carr could draw consideration for this opening.
However, it’s more likely that the Colts will use the No. 4 overall pick on a quarterback of the future for their roster. They might like to pair that rookie with a veteran, but again, Carr probably won’t want to be a backup.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A third NFC South team? Why not? The Buccaneers lost Tom Brady to retirement (again) but they may still be in win-now mode with a veteran-laden roster playing in a weak division.
Carr may not be a perfect fit for the Buccaneers’ pass-happy offense, but he would have plenty of weapons at his disposal to find success in 2023. Plus, the Bucs offensive line would be healthier, so he would probably get better protection than Brady got in 2022.
Either way, Tampa Bay could sell its fans on Carr keeping the team afloat and in the playoff picture thanks to the bleak state of the NFC South quarterback rooms.
There should be no shortage of interest in Carr once he is officially released. Even if he isn’t the best quarterback available on the market, he is a viable starting option. That will allow him to be scooped up quickly as he moves on from his nine-year relationship with the Raiders.