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Las Vegas Raiders: After being benched, will Derek Carr walk away from football?

Oct 23, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) warms up before a game against the Houston Texans at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday, the Las Vegas Raiders announced that they will bench Derek Carr for the final two games of the regular season, but, of course, this story doesn’t end here. Now, Carr has a decision to make about his future.

Carr left the Raiders with the team’s permission. In all likelihood, the 31-year-old will weigh his career options, though we shouldn’t overlook the possibility that he steps away from the game —even temporarily.

If this is the beginning of a breakup, the Raiders would trade Carr in the best-case scenario. General manager Dave Ziegler may be able to get a late first-round pick for him. Per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, some talent evaluators still see Carr as a top-10 quarterback:

From a practical business sense, the Raiders did the right thing in benching Carr if they plan to trade him because, in the event that he went down with an injury, it would trigger guarantees for his 2023 salary ($33 million) and $7.5 million of his 2024 salary.

With general managers and head coaches desperate to save their jobs and other front offices looking to pivot from stop-gap quarterbacks, Ziegler could strike a deal that involves Carr for premium draft capital.

Realistic and questionable trade destinations for Derek Carr

Derek Carr against the New Orleans Saints
New Orleans Saints head coach Dennis Allen hugs Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) after the game at Caesars Superdome. Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

About a third of NFL teams could see Carr as a clear-cut upgrade over their projected starting quarterback for the 2023 season — including the entire NFC South division if Tom Brady moves on from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

As a Fresno State alum and nine-year veteran who played in Oakland and Las Vegas, Carr may want to avoid cold-weather locations and suit up for another team that plays inside a dome.

Perhaps Carr would have an interest in reuniting with his first NFL head coach, Dennis Allen, in New Orleans but Allen may be on the hot seat after a disappointing 2022 campaign.

With all the constant change and chaos that Carr has gone through with the Silver and Black, he’ll likely seek stability at a new location, which creates questions about fit with the Indianapolis Colts, who seem to have an impulsive owner in Jim Irsay, and the Houston Texans, who have had a different head coach (and one interim) in each of the last three years.

In 2021, the Atlanta Falcons hired head coach Arthur Smith and general manager, Terry Fontenot. They probably have pressure to finish with a winning record in their third season together.

Intriguing warm weather landing spots for Derek Carr

Derek Carr
Michael Longo/For USA Today Network / USA TODAY NETWORK

If Carr doesn’t mind the outdoors in a warm weather city, the Buccaneers seem like an obvious choice in the event that Brady signs elsewhere. In Tampa Bay, he would have a quality offensive line (when healthy) with a supporting cast of offensive skill players that includes wideouts Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Russell Gage and running backs Leonard Fournette and rookie third-rounder Rachaad White. Also, Carr would have a stout defense (currently ranked seventh in scoring), which is something he didn’t have in Oakland/Las Vegas.

Other than the Buccaneers, the Miami Dolphins may have to move on from quarterback Tua Tagovailoa because he’s suffered multiple concussions and has a recent track record of injuries. In Miami, Carr would have a four-time Pro Bowl left tackle in Terron Armstead with arguably the league’s fastest wide receiver duo in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.

Also, keep in mind, Reggie McKenzie, who selected Carr in the second round of the 2014 draft, currently serves as a senior personnel executive for the Dolphins.

With that said, the Dolphins have two issues. They won’t have a first-round pick because of a tampering violation that involved Tom Brady and former Saints head coach Sean Payton. Also, the front office would likely have to clear some cap space since the team is projected to be $2.5 million over the cap limit for 2023. While clubs routinely clear room to acquire players, Miami may find it difficult to acquire Carr if the Raiders want a first-round pick.

Dark-horse suitor for Derek Carr

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Tennessee Titans
Credit: Andrew Nelles-USA TODAY Sports

If Carr isn’t deterred by cold temperatures and inclement weather in the winter months, the New York Giants could garner his interest if Big Blue plans to retain star running back Saquon Barkley.

The Giants have two former first-round picks at tackle in Andrew Thomas and Evan Neal. As of Thursday, Big Blue is projected to have the third-most cap space ($59.2 million), which allows the club enough financial capital to acquire Carr and add wide receivers.

At 8-6-1, New York has a good chance to make the playoffs this year. Carr would step in as an upgrade over Daniel Jones and play under a head coach in Brian Daboll, who’s likely to earn some trust from the organization if he leads the team to the postseason in his first year.

While much is made of the New York media, Carr won’t have a problem if he wins games. David Carr can give his younger brother a crash course on the New York landscape since he played three seasons (two different stints) with the Giants.

Will Derek Carr put his career on hold or walk away?

Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders
Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As Carr takes some time away from the team, he may decide to play golf rather than wear another team’s uniform, which would make him even more popular among some Raiders fans. Nonetheless, Ziegler should hope that’s not the case because he would only be able to recoup cap space — no draft capital in a trade.

On numerous occasions, most recently in each of the past two offseasons, Carr has talked about playing for one team, the Raiders.

“I’d probably quit football if I had to play for somebody else,” Carr said in June 2021. “I am a Raider for my entire life. I’m going to root for one team for the rest of my life — it’s the Raiders. So, I just feel that so strong in my heart I don’t need a perfect situation … to make things right.”

Carr said after he signed a $121.5 million extension in April, “I’ve only wanted to be a Raider. I told my agent, ‘I’m either going to be a Raider or I’m going to be playing golf. I don’t want to play anywhere else.’ … I was dead serious when I said that. I had one year left on my contract. If it was one year, it was going to be one year. Thankfully, it’ll be four more.”

Now, we’ll find out if he still feels that way.

Derek Carr not done in Las Vegas?

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas Raiders
Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

While most pundits expect the Raiders to move on from Carr, Fowler points out that the team could retain him:

Carr would likely have to rework his contract to stay with the Silver and Black beyond the 2022 season. Perhaps the Raiders cut and re-sign him to a lesser contract — one that won’t cost the team nearly $35 million in a cap hit.

Essentially, Carr could become the bridge-gap quarterback for his successor, whom the team could select with a top-10 pick in the first round of the 2023 draft.

While this seems like a far-fetched scenario, Carr has a no-trade clause that adds another layer of difficulty to get a deal done. On one hand, the Raiders have the freedom to move on from him, but he has some leverage in trade negotiations. In the worst-case scenario, Vegas cuts him and then he eventually signs with another team, which means no draft capital in return (for Vegas) despite his decision to play for another club.

Carr’s future plans will impact how the Raiders move forward with their quarterback situation within the next seven weeks. Is he ready to start a new chapter with another team? Does he still want to work something out with the Raiders? Or is he content with walking away from the NFL altogether?

Maurice Moton covers the Raiders for Sportsnaut. You can follow him on Twitter at @MoeMoton.