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Las Vegas Raiders: Front-runner, best fit, dark-horse suitor for Derek Carr

Derek Carr
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Las Vegas Raiders have until February 15 to agree on a trade deal for Derek Carr before his contract locks in $40.4 million guaranteed over the next two seasons. If the front office doesn’t find a suitable trade partner, it will release him, per The Athletic’s Vic Tafur.

In other words, Carr’s time with the Silver and Black has come to end, which became apparent when he posted his farewell message via social media:

After nine years with Carr as the unquestioned starter, the Raiders will start a new face under center in Week 1 of the 2023 season. Before we speculate about who could replace him, let’s take the first step in highlighting possible landing spots that may appeal to Carr, who has a no-trade clause.

Carr would probably want a club to trade for him with his current contract, which carries a $34.9 million cap hit in 2023, but the ninth-year pro may be able to get a decent deal if Vegas releases him to the free-agent market a month in advance of the new league year.

Realistically, general manager Dave Ziegler should expect trade proposals that include a second-round pick for Carr, who’s been a top 12-15 quarterback with decent numbers and a recent playoff appearance. Nonetheless, it only takes one desperate team to offer a first-rounder. With that said, if a team has to pay Carr a lucrative salary, it’ll probably balk at a request for a Day 1 draft pick.

So, which teams make the most sense for Carr, and what would those clubs offer the Raiders in return? We’ll discuss three landing spots and why he fits with those squads.

Front-runner for Derek Carr: New York Jets

derek carr
Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

If you take a look at the betting odds, the New York Jets have the highest implied probability to acquire Carr at 20.1 percent via bookies.com, which makes sense when you read reports and rumors coming from New York.

According to SNY’s Connor Hughes, the Jets have Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo and Lamar Jackson on their radar to upgrade over Zach Wilson and Chris Streveler.

Last week, the Jets parted ways with Garoppolo’s former passing game coordinator Mike LaFleur, which is a move that may not have any impact on their pursuit of the San Francisco 49ers quarterback in free agency. However, the team’s decision on a new offensive coordinator can attract or repel veteran signal-callers who will look for a new destination in 2023.

Carr would be a significant upgrade over Wilson and Streveler, and he could take that Jets roster to the playoffs. Gang Green has a top-four defense in points and yards allowed, a couple of young talented wideouts in Garrett Wilson and Elijah Moore and a solid ground game if running back Breece Hall fully recovers from a torn ACL, which has kept him out of action since October.

The Jets’ situation may pique Carr’s interest because of the supporting cast in place. Gang Green can offer the No. 44 overall pick to start the trade discussion.

If Carr doesn’t trust in the team’s direction and questions its stability with head coach Robert Saleh possibly on the hot seat going into his third year, he could consider a more stable organization in the NFC South.

Best fit for Derek Carr: New Orleans Saints

Derek Carr
Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Carr makes a great fit with the Saints for multiple reasons. Among the most obvious, he has some familiarity with head coach Dennis Allen, who served in the same position when the then-Oakland Raiders selected Carr in the second round of the 2014 draft.

Even though Allen is a head coach with a defensive background and lost his job with the Raiders four weeks into the 2014 season, Carr can play under a head coach who he’s worked with in the past, which can provide some level of comfort in a major transition period in his career.

Secondly, the Saints finished the 2022 campaign on a higher note than the Jets did. Gang Green lost its final six regular-season games while the Saints went 3-3 in that stretch but won three of their last four contests.

Moreover, New Orleans fielded the ninth-ranked scoring defense and allowed the fifth-fewest yards per game.

Furthermore, the Saints have a steady offensive line group with all five 2022 starters under contract for next season. Rookie first-round tackle Trevor Penning could make a case to start over James Hurst in the offseason. Carr will also have a young budding wideout in Chris Olave, who finished second among rookie receivers in receptions (tied with Drake London at 72) and receiving yards (1,042). By the way, he’ll have a dynamic running back in Alvin Kamara, who can run and catch out of the backfield. Perhaps two-time All-Pro Michael Thomas remains on the roster if healthy.

Though the Saints are about $58.1 million over the cap threshold, they can restructure deals and push financial obligations back a year to make room for a quarterback. The front office did that last year to clear $75-plus million in cap space.

An NFL team that wants a quarterback isn’t going to let cap room get in the way. The Saints will likely recoup at least a first-round pick if they trade head coach Sean Payton in the offseason, so the front office shouldn’t have an issue offering a second-round pick (No. 41 overall) for Carr.

If the Saints go in another direction or stick with quarterback Jameis Winston, another team in the NFC South may consider Carr to replace its soon-to-be free-agent starting quarterback.

Dark-horse suitor for Derek Carr: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Derek Carr
Credit: Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 2022 season ended with a wild-card loss, and Tom Brady will sleep on his future plans. Before the Buccaneers’ loss to the Dallas Cowboys, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport suggested that the 45-year-old quarterback may not return to Tampa Bay, with the Tennessee Titans, San Francisco 49ers and Raiders potentially in the mix to sign him in the offseason.

Though Rapoport said that the Buccaneers would like to have Brady back, they should explore their options. Kyle Trask is their only quarterback under contract beyond the 2022 campaign.

The Buccaneers can also offer a second-round pick (No. 51 overall) to the Raiders for Carr if they’re aggressive in a potential search to replace Brady.

In Tampa Bay, Carr would have a couple of Pro Bowl wide receivers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin with what should be a healthier offensive line with center Ryan Jensen coming off injured reserve (knee) to make his season debut Monday night. Rookie second-round guard Luke Goedeke could become a solid starter in 2023. Perhaps a solid front line will help the Buccaneers get more out of their ground attack, which racked up the fewest yards in the NFL per game in the 2022 term.

According to Scott Reynolds of the Pewter Report, the Buccaneers are expected to fire offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, who called plays for an underachieving 25th-ranked scoring offense, which means the club can pair Carr with a play-caller who’s familiar with him.

In 2021, the Raiders fielded the sixth-ranked passing attack with offensive coordinator Greg Olson calling the plays after Jon Gruden resigned following an investigation into the Washington Commanders that unearthed his misogynistic, homophobic and racially insensitive emails.

Carr has worked with Olson twice in his career (both times with the Raiders). So he shouldn’t have a long adjustment period in the coordinator’s system. Tampa Bay would have to pluck Olson from the Los Angeles Rams coaching staff, which shouldn’t be a problem since head coach Sean McVay permitted his assistants to look for new opportunities before his decision to continue coaching the team in 2023.

If the Buccaneers want to go with a younger veteran, Carr should be atop their list.  As for him, he would have a strong supporting cast on offense, and head coach Todd Bowles, who’s fielded a top-10 scoring defense in six out of 12 years as a lead skipper or defensive coordinator.