Top Potential Landing Spots for Raiders QB Derek Carr in Trade or NFL Free Agency

Brad Gagnon@@Brad_GagnonFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 12, 2023

PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA - DECEMBER 24: Derek Carr #4 of the Las Vegas Raiders throws a pass in the fourth quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Acrisure Stadium on December 24, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gaelen Morse/Getty Images)
Gaelen Morse/Getty Images

After nine up-and-down seasons as the Las Vegas Raiders' quarterback, Derek Carr will be on the move this offseason.

In a social media post Thursday, Carr bid farewell to the team that drafted him in 2014. This comes while the Raiders explore trade possibilities, per Tashan Reed of The Athletic. But it's apparent the three-time Pro Bowler isn't prepared to walk away from the game at age 31.

If the Raiders cut or trade Carr this offseason before Feb. 15, they'll be left with a dead-cap hit of only $5.6 million.

"I once said that if I'm not a Raider I would rather be at home and I meant that, but I never envisioned it ending this way," Carr wrote in part. "That fire burning inside of me to win a championship still rages. A fire no man can extinguish; only God.

"So I look forward to a new city and a new team who, no matter the circumstance, will get everything I have. Winning a championship is what I've always wanted and what I will continue to work towards."

Which new cities and teams make the most sense? Let's break it down.

New York Jets

The Zach Wilson project has failed for the Jets, who are likely becoming impatient but might not be in the mood to use a first-round draft pick on a quarterback for the second time in three years.

They also lack draft capital compared to other quarterback-needy teams in part because they weren't bad while ranking 16th in DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) at Football Outsiders in 2022.

Jets general manager Joe Douglas
Jets general manager Joe DouglasMichael Hickey/Getty Images

That could inspire them to build around a veteran quarterback in an attempt to make some immediate playoff runs with key young cogs Garrett Wilson, Sauce Gardner and Quinnen Williams.

And that dynamic could also put the Jets near the top of Carr's priority list, which is critical because he has a no-trade clause in his contract.

Washington Commanders

Carson Wentz, Taylor Heinicke and Sam Howell posted a combined passer rating of just 84.7 this season for a Commanders team that could have done some damage behind a highly skilled defense if the offense wasn't such a consistent letdown.

Now, because they were still 8-8-1, they're left with the No. 16 pick. But they should have a decent amount of salary-cap space to upgrade under center.

A top-10 defense and an offense with weapons such as Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, Antonio Gibson and Brian Robinson Jr. could also compel Carr to restructure his deal (in the event of a trade) or offer a discount (in the event of a free-agent pact).

This actually makes quite a lot of sense.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

According to UFC President Dana White, Tom Brady nearly joined the Raiders instead of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020. Now, the 45-year-old is set to become a free agent again, and it's entirely possible he'll reunite with former Patriots offensive coordinator and current Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels in Vegas.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles (left) and general manager Jason Licht
Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles (left) and general manager Jason LichtCliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

That would result in a vacancy in Tampa, where the Bucs remain in win-now mode and won't likely want to tear things down. Brady and Carr could essentially swap homes in 2023, but the Bucs are a potential destination regardless of where Brady goes simply because they're competitive and lack the draft capital to land a pro-ready quarterback this offseason.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans have a starting quarterback in Ryan Tannehill, but he'll be 35 next season and things have been pretty stale the last couple of years for him. His 88.7 passer rating in his final four games of 2022 before he suffered a season-ending ankle injury in December doesn't help.

The team is absolutely jacked with salary-cap space ($131.6 million) and might simply want a fresh feel in support of running back Derrick Henry in that offense. And you have to wonder if a trade sending Tannehill to Las Vegas and Carr to Tennessee might be attractive to both sides.

Carolina Panthers

Do the Panthers really believe there's much hope for Sam Darnold, particularly after that 5-of-15 passing performance to conclude another disappointing season? Maybe they're still willing to hold out hope for him or 2022 third-rounder Matt Corral, but they are likely to look for another option this offseason.

Carolina Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer
Carolina Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer Michael Hickey/Getty Images

That probably comes via the draft because they're loaded with early draft capital as well as the No. 9 pick, especially because they're projected to be low on cap space (minus-$4.6 million). But a pursuit of Carr can't be ruled out with a new regime in place.

Indianapolis Colts

It's hard to imagine the Colts are enthusiastic about Matt Ryan returning after the veteran was benched twice during an extremely poor campaign. With that in mind, this is a team with a decent amount of salary-cap space ($19.8 million) and could go after another vet such as Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo or Geno Smith.

But Indy isn't high on this list because it might be tired of cycling through uninspiring veteran signal-callers and because it might want to take advantage of great draft capital (it has the No. 4 overall pick in April's draft) by selecting a blue-chip QB this offseason.

Still, it's within the realm of possibility for the seemingly frustrated Colts owner Jim Irsay.

New Orleans Saints

This one's tricky because, while the Saints have an obvious quarterback vacancy, they're on track to enter the offseason with the worst salary-cap situation in the league and lack a first-round pick.

Saints executive vice president/general manager Mickey Loomis
Saints executive vice president/general manager Mickey LoomisSean Gardner/Getty Images

That could lead to a painful 2023 campaign for a team that might have to face a rebuild soon, if not now.

Still, if the quarterback carousel spins in favor of guys like Garoppolo, Brady and others, and Carr is left with just one option, he could take a bridge deal in New Orleans.

Green Bay Packers

It's entirely possible Aaron Rodgers will call it quits or otherwise move on after a painfully disappointing age-39 campaign in Green Bay, but the Packers are still a talented team that ranked 12th in DVOA in 2022. They might not be prepared for a rebuild, and they lack the draft capital to add an immediate-impact rookie signal caller in April.

That could instead put Garoppolo, Brady and Carr on the radar. And Carr might be the cheapest of the three options for a team with extremely limited cap space (minus-$14.9 million).

Salary-cap info via Spotrac.