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7 potential destinations for Derek Carr, ranked

Panthers, Saints, Jets among potential landing spots for Derek Carr

Las Vegas Raiders v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Gaelen Morse/Getty Images

With Super Bowl LVII in the rear-view mirror, the NFL enters everyone’s favorite part of the season: The offseason. The NFL Scouting Combine is weeks away, as is the start of free agency.

As noted by our own James Dator a few months ago, the impending offseason may be more intriguing than ever. Why? Because we might see unprecedented quarterback movement. Several teams are in the market for quarterback upgrades this year, and quarterbacks such as Lamar Jackson, Daniel Jones, and Aaron Rodgers might be on the move.

Along with Derek Carr.

Prior to Super Bowl LVII, reports indicated that a deal was in place to trade Carr from the Las Vegas Raiders to the New Orleans Saints. But Carr apparently did not waive his no-trade clause, and given that the team owes him a $40.4 million contract guarantee over the next two years if he is still on the roster after Wednesday, that means that in a few hours he will likely be released by Las Vegas.

Where might he land? Let’s rank seven potential destinations.

7. Carolina Panthers

Thanks in part to a weak NFC South this past season, the Carolina Panthers made a surprising playoff push down the stretch with Sam Darnold at the helm. Since missing out on the playoffs, the organization has put together quite a coaching staff. Carolina hired Frank Reich as their head coach, added former Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero in the same role in Carolina, brought in Josh McCown as their quarterbacks coach — and you could make the case he served as a backup QB/QB Coach in New York with the Jets alongside Darnold — and just added Jim Caldwell as a senior offensive assistant.

All of this screams, to me at least, that the Panthers are going to draft a rookie, and use Darnold as the potential bridge. That, likely, takes Carr out of their plans.

6. Washington Commanders

Cleveland Browns v Washington Commanders Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Judging by the conversations each morning among the suburban Maryland dads at the school bus stop, the Washington Commanders have a lengthy to-do list. Finding new ownership is up there, as is deciding where their next stadium will be built.

Fixing the quarterback position is up there as well.

The Carson Wentz experiment seems to have ended poorly, with reporting in recent days that Wentz and the Commanders will part ways, and indications are that the organization is heading into 2023 with designs of Sam Howell as QB1. That, coupled with the fact that Washington does not pick in the first round until the 16th selection, probably takes the Commanders out of the rookie quarterback market.

From Washington’s perspective, Carr would offer an upgrade over the current state of their quarterback room. Howell showed flashes in limited action at the end of the season, enough to convince the organization that he deserved a shot. But this is the classic Family Guy mystery box dilemma.

Howell could be good, he could even develop into Derek Carr!

The bigger question is this: Would Carr want to head to Washington? It would seem that he has better options out there.

5. Las Vegas Raiders

We have seen this before, most recently last year, when the San Francisco 49ers and Jimmy Garoppolo were reportedly headed for a divorce, before Garoppolo returned with a new contract.

Given how this relationship ended, however, it seems unlikely. Let’s move on.

4. Houston Texans

Would Carr be interested in picking up where his brother David left off? And would the Houston Texans be interested in a veteran over a rookie?

Last fall it surfaced that Carr hoped the Texans would have drafted him. “When I was getting drafted, I wanted to go there,” Carr said back in October. “They didn’t pick me first [overall], but 33rd? I was like, ‘Maybe 33rd?’ They didn’t want me so I was kind of a little heartbroken over that. But it is what it is.”

Could this offseason provide an opportunity for Carr to play for the Texans? There could be some sticking points, as the Texans are in the midst of a rebuild, and there are other teams that are closer to contending than Houston. But the Texans have cap space at their disposal, and with five picks in the top 75 of the draft, they could bolster the roster with a host of incoming talent after adding Carr at quarterback.

3. New Orleans Saints

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at New Orleans Saints Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

There is a reason that the Saints were first in the mix for Carr’s services this offseason, and it is head coach Dennis Allen. Allen was Carr’s first NFL coach, as he was the head coach of the Raiders when the organization drafted Carr out of Fresno State. Earlier this year, when the Raiders and the Saints squared off, Carr spoke at length about his relationship with the coach:

“DA [Dennis Allen] and I have a great relationship still to this day, And I still talk to him and things like that — obviously not this week and all those things, but we’ve always kept in contact, we’ve always been close. I love him, I loved having him. Obviously I didn’t know what had gone on before I got here, so all of a sudden, boom it’s four games, boom, he’s gone. I’m like, ‘What the heck. Is this how it’s supposed to go? Like what is going on?’ And come to find out all the cap problems and this and that and all the things that he had to try and work through, it’s tough. And then you see him leave, and all the success that he’s had as a defensive coordinator. So to see him get another chance at being a head coach, I was so happy for him, because I loved him.

“He’s a brilliant mind, really smart, cerebral, can break down an offense, can really put pressure on quarterbacks, make it hard on them. From a quarterback perspective as a defensive coach, I had a great relationship with him. We had open communication for the short time that we had, and I’ll never forget it. I mean, he gave me my chance in this league, and I’ve told him 100 times and I’ll tell him 100 more times how thankful I am for the chance that he not only drafted me, but to trust me when he asked me if I was ready to start. And obviously the rest is history. So it’s crazy that it’s almost been 10 years now, that it’s been that long, but him and I, we’ve always stayed close, again obviously except this week.”

Again, the Saints and the Raiders reportedly had a deal in place to move Carr prior to the impending deadline, but the quarterback declined to waive his no-trade clause. This could just mean that Carr wanted to take some time to assess his options, but the relationship between Carr and Allen seems to be a card in New Orleans’ favor.

The cap space situation would need some work, though.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

With Tom Brady’s retirement, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a roster that just made the playoffs — yes, due in large part to the aforementioned down year in the NFC South — and a hole at the quarterback position. The other two quarterbacks on the roster this season? Blaine Gabbert, who is a free agent, and Kyle Trask, who Tampa Bay drafted in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

So you have a playoff roster and a division in the middle of a down cycle, two factors that could be appealing for Carr. The negative side of the ledger? The Buccaneers have yet to hire an offensive coordinator, and Tampa Bay has a tough cap situation to navigate as well. In fact, the moves that the organization might make to get under the cap could diminish that roster even more. And with Brady filing retirement papers now, the Buccaneers are actually in a more difficult position. Had he waited until June to file, the team could have spread out his cap hit.

Instead, the bill is coming due now, and the Buccaneers are on the hook for $35 million in dead money:

The fit makes sense now, but will it still once the Buccaneers are in compliance with the cap?

1. New York Jets

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Jets Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

This, at least from my curious vantage point, makes the most sense.

The Jets were competent quarterback play from being a playoff team a season ago. They landed both the Defensive Rookie of the Year and the Offensive Rookie of the Year in last years draft in Sauce Gardner and Garrett Wilson. Frankly, had Breece Hall not been injured at the end of October, he might have won Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.

Carr is certainly a polarizing quarterback, but he offers competent quarterback play.

Head coach Robert Saleh indicated recently that the team is going down the veteran quarterback path. The Jets have been linked to Aaron Rodgers due to the hiring of Nathaniel Hackett, as well as Ryan Tannehill, given their recent hire of Todd Dowling.

But I think if you’re Carr, you try and find a way to New York.