Potential Trade Packages, Landing Spots for Raiders QB Derek Carr
The NFL's quarterback carousel got its first spin of the 2021 offseason when Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff were swapped over the weekend. We're likely to see more movement when free agency begins March 17, as Dak Prescott, Jameis Winston, Jacoby Brissett, Mitchell Trubisky, Ryan Fitzpatrick and others are slated to hit the market.
However, some NFL teams may not want to wait until March to give the carousel another whirl. The Las Vegas Raiders, for example, could try moving quarterback Darek Carr in an attempt to acquire disgruntled Houston Texans signal-caller Deshaun Watson.
At the very least, Las Vegas is likely to take calls about Carr's availability. It would be foolish not to. Whether the Raiders receive a reasonable offer for Carr and pull the trigger on a deal is another matter.
What might a reasonable trade package for Carr look like? Which teams might be inclined to make one? That's what we're going to examine here.
On Carr, Watson and the Raiders
Before we get into the potential suitors and trade packages for Carr, it's worth diving into his current situation. This will help provide context as we dig further into trade scenarios.
It seems that Carr has been the focus of trade speculation pretty much ever since Jon Gruden took over as head coach in 2018. The latest rumor comes from Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, who has reported that Las Vegas could move Carr in an attempt to secure Watson.
"Several NFL insiders expect the Raiders to field calls from teams inquiring about Carr's availability," Bonsignore wrote. "... Increased demand for his services, insiders say, could create a scenario in which a three-team trade allows the Raiders to acquire Watson."
Per Bonsignore, one insider believes that Las Vegas could get two first-round picks for Carr, which then could be flipped in an offer to Houston for Watson.
It's worth noting that Carr had a solid season in 2020—he ranked 11th in passing yards, 11th in passing touchdowns and 10th in passer rating among full-time starters—and that he'll turn only 30 in March. However, Watson, who is only 25 and already has three Pro Bowls on his resume, should be viewed as an upgrade.
Watson is seeking a new home away from the Texans as soon as possible.
"He just wants out," a source close to Watson said, per Jenny Vrentas and Greg Bishop of Sports Illustrated.
While Bonsignore didn't name sources, and nothing official has come from the Raiders, it is plausible that the right offer could land Carr—and that Las Vegas, in turn, would then pursue Watson.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Watson has officially requested a trade from the Texans.
"He actually did it weeks ago. Their new head-coaching hire, David Culley, has not and will not alter Watson's thinking," Schefter tweeted last week.
If the Texans believe that there is no way to mend fences with Watson, then they may be interested in directly doing a deal with Las Vegas that involves Carr. While Carr isn't the elite signal-caller that Watson is, he's at least an above-average quarterback on a reasonable contract through 2022.
Seeing as how the Detroit Lions got two first-round picks, a third-round pick and Goff for Stafford, the Raiders would likely have to start with a similar package for Watson.
The Raiders may have to surrender Carr, first-round picks in 2021 and 2022 and additional compensation. Watson should be viewed as more valuable than Stafford because of his age, but Las Vegas' next two first-round picks are more valuable than the 2022 and 2023 first-rounders that were surrendered in the Stafford deal—teams typically value future picks less than those in the current year.
"Different teams are going to value future picks differently, so it's hard to create a standard value for them. I typically use the last pick of that round in the current year as my value (so a 2021 first-round pick would be worth the value of the No. 32 pick in 2020)," CBS Sports' R.J. White wrote.
It's worth noting, though, that both Las Vegas and Houston would have some cap-juggling to do to make this one work financially. The Raiders and Texans are projected to be over the salary cap this offseason.
The Trade: Raiders receive Watson. Texans receive Carr, 2021 first-round pick, 2022 first-round pick and 2022 second-round pick.
If getting a deal done directly with Houston isn't an option, the Raiders may consider getting what they can for Carr and then using those picks in an offer for Watson. The Chicago Bears could be willing to part with some premium draft capital to play along.
The Bears brought back both head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace for 2021. However, they could be on a short leash after failing to develop quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and producing only eight wins in 2020. Carr would be a clear upgrade over Trubisky—who is scheduled to become a free agent—and could help Nagy and Pace stay employed beyond 2021.
These two teams have done business in the past too. Pace helped orchestrate the trade that brought pass-rusher Khalil Mack to Chicago from the Raiders. Part of that package included two of the Bears' first-round draft selections.
Would Pace send a pair of first-round picks to Las Vegas to land Carr? Possibly. However, it's worth noting that Chicago would have to finagle the financials, as the Bears are projected to be more than $10 million over the cap.
The Trade: Raiders receive a 2021 first-round pick and a 2022 first-round pick. Chicago receives Carr and a 2022 third-round pick.
The Indianapolis Colts are a playoff team without a quarterback following the retirement of Philip Rivers. Indianapolis' playoff window is wide-open for now, but it could be slammed shut without a high-end signal-caller under center.
That's where Carr enters the equation.
He could help keep the Colts' Super Bowl window open for at least the next two seasons at a reasonable price. His cap hit in 2021 will be just over $22 million, which would allow the Colts to continue building their roster in the offseason.
Unlike the Raiders, Texans and Bears, the Colts are in a fantastic situation as it relates to the salary cap. They're projected to have more than $68 million in available cap space, so they could easily afford to take on Carr's salary and still add a key free agent or two alongside him.
Because the Colts are in such good shape capwise, they might be willing to offer a pair of first-rounders straight up for Carr. While a team like Chicago might want more in return for absorbing Carr's contract, that shouldn't be an issue for Indianapolis.
The Trade: Colts receiver Carr. Raiders receive a 2021 first-round pick and a 2022 first-round pick.
Washington Football Team
The Washington Football Team could also be without a starting quarterback in 2021. Dwayne Haskins Jr. is long gone, Alex Smith's future remains undecided, and playoff standout Taylor Heinicke is set to be a free agent.
"One person familiar with the situation said the WFT offer included more immediate help than what Lions landed," Standig tweeted. "Detroit went another way."
By "immediate help," Standig might be referring to 2021 draft picks. The Lions got 2022 and 2023 first-round picks from the Rams along with a 2021 third-rounder and Jared Goff.
If Washington believed it could chase a title now with Stafford—and without some of its draft picks this year—it might feel similarly about Carr. The WFT could offer up more of its draft capital to entice the Raiders to pull the trigger on a deal. The extra third-round pick that Washington received in the Trent Williams trade could help there—with the team moving the second of its two third-rounders (83rd overall).
Washington is projected to have more than $33 million in cap space, so it shouldn't be difficult to fit Carr's contract in.
The Trade: Washington receives Carr. Raiders receive 2021 first-round pick, 2021 third-round pick and 2022 first-round pick.
New England Patriots
"Stafford told the Lions they could send him anywhere but New England," Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston wrote.
New England never had a shot at Stafford, but it could be a player for Carr. Armed with more than $54 million in projected cap space, the Patriots have the room to take him on. They also have the need.
Tom Brady is about to play in the Super Bowl for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Cam Newton experiment was largely a failure. And the Patriots seem to have little faith in 2019 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham. Even when Newton struggled, Stidham stayed on the bench.
Given New England's questionable recent history of first-round draft choices—Isaiah Wynn and Sony Michel have been fairly average, while N'Keal Harry hasn't even been that—parting with a pair of first-rounders may not seem like a steep price.
The Patriots might even throw in Stidham as a developmental prospect, if for no other reason than to quiet the local media about his place in the pecking order.
The Trade: Patriots receive Carr and a 2021 fourth-round pick. Raiders receive a 2021 first-round pick (No. 15 overall), a 2022 first-round pick and Stidham.
Cap and contract information via Spotrac.