Derek Carr, whose time with the Raiders has long come to a close, will officially be off the franchise’s books in the coming days.
Las Vegas is ready to move on from the ninth-year veteran who in 2023 made his fourth Pro Bowl appearance (as an alternate). The most pressing question following the Raiders’ decision to part ways with Carr was whether it would trade him or cut him.
It appears it will be the latter, as Carr has exercised the no-trade clause in his pricey contract extension. That has severely (read, completely) limited Las Vegas’ ability to navigate with other teams who could do with an upgrade at quarterback. It appears Carr would rather take a salary cut than not control his own destiny moving into the next stage of his career.
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The Sporting News breaks down Carr’s contract details and how they have informed Las Vegas’ impending move with the soon-to-be former Raider:
Derek Carr contract details
Carr in April 2022 signed a three-year, $121.5 million contract extension with the Raiders, which included $24.9 million guaranteed at signing (a $7.5 million signing bonus and $17.4 base salary for the 2022 season). However, the remaining $40.4 million in guarantees, which would be paid out over the 2023 and 2024 seasons, only become available after Feb. 15, 2023 — or if Carr became injured at any point of the 2022 season.
Once it was apparent the Raiders were going to move on from Carr — they benched him for Jarrett Stidham in the last two games of the season — it no longer made sense to keep him beyond that date, or risk his getting injured.
Below is his contract rundown, per Spotrac:
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Why Raiders are likely to release Derek Carr
The Raiders would prefer to trade Carr so they can get something in return for him while simultaneously getting another team to take on the remainder of his contract. Las Vegas certainly isn’t hurting for teams in need of a solid upgrade at quarterback, either.
That said, Carr has enforced his no-trade clause, even telling the Saints he would not accept a trade to the franchise. He also told the Raiders he would not extend the Feb. 15 deadline to help them facilitate a trade.
“I don’t think that would be best for me,” Carr said on Feb. 2.
Even if the Raiders did trade Carr before Wednesday, the deal would not be official until March 15, meaning a team could renege on the deal or otherwise try to modify trade arrangements. By forcing the team to cut him — and losing out on guaranteed money in the process — Carr can instead reach out to teams immediately as a free agent, negotiating his own contract and ensuring he goes to a team that would best set him up for success.
With Carr’s stance cemented just days prior to the Wednesday deadline, the Raiders will almost certainly cut him to avoid paying $40.4 million to a player who won’t play another meaningful snap in Las Vegas. In so doing, they also avoid a $34.9 million cap for 2023, good for ninth-highest in the NFL.
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Derek Carr potential landing spots for 2023
Several teams are in need of a quarterback in 2023, including the Saints, whom Carr visited before telling them he would not accept a trade. Here’s a rundown of some teams that could potentially make a run at Carr:
The Jets have said multiple times they are looking for a veteran quarterback to take over in 2023, not only to lead an offensive unit with some key pieces in place, but also to mentor former No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson. The Jets reportedly are going all-in in trying to land Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, however — and still must navigate their salary cap difficulties, as they are roughly $3 million over following Super Bowl Sunday.
Indianapolis has tried several times in recent years to implant a veteran quarterback into the roster, with next to no success from the likes of Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan. Carr would be an upgrade, but it’s possible the Colts, who have the No. 4 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, instead trade up to grab one of Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud.
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Tampa Bay is an attractive option for any free-agent quarterback, with two Pro Bowl receivers in Chris Godwin and Mike Evans — not to mention a decent offensive line — all under contract. With Tom Brady well and truly retired, Carr would not only be the top quarterback in Tampa Bay ahead of Blaine Gabbert and Kyle Trask, but also the entire NFC South.
The Buccaneers currently sit at $55 million over the cap, per Spotrac, meaning several players on the roster would need to undergo contract restructures just to have enough money for Carr.
New Orleans is in perhaps the worst position to land an upgrade at quarterback in free agency, ranking last in salary cap space at minus-$57.4 million, per Spotrac. The team managed to get a (late) first-round pick by trading Sean Payton to the Broncos, but there might not be enough in New Orleans — even with NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate Chris Olave on the roster — to interest Carr.
One thing New Orleans has going for it is coach Dennis Allen, who was the Raiders’ coach when Carr was a rookie in 2014 (he only lasted four games into the season before he was fired). That familiarity might come into play, but New Orleans still has a lot of other things to work out to become a potential landing spot for Carr.