Derek Carr landing spots: 5 potential team fits for 2023

Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) calls a play in the first half against the Kansas City Chiefs at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: ​Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

• The Saints are still a viable landing spot: Despite trying to trade for Carr to no avail, New Orleans remains a clear top landing spot for the now-released signal-caller.

• Buccaneers, Commanders, Jets offer intriguing supporting casts: All three squads boast impressive offensive weapons that could entice Carr to join them in free agency.

Estimated Reading Time: 7 mins

New Orleans Saints 

Prior to Carr’s release, the Saints and Raiders had reportedly agreed to the framework of a potential trade that could have landed the veteran passer in New Orleans, but Carr's camp seemingly wanted a release. And now with Carr no longer tied to an unwieldy contract, the Saints will have some avenues to sign him, which could include moving on from Jameis Winston and Michael Thomas

Although the Saints were largely unimpressive on offense this past season, ranking 22nd in scoring (19.4 points per game) and 19th in total offense (333.8 yards per game), it’s understandable why this would be an exciting fit for both Carr and New Orleans. The Saints possess a pair of young, playmaking receivers in Chris Olave (83.0 PFF receiving grade) and Rashid Shaheed (78.6 PFF receiving grade) who could excel with more stability under center. Both played outstanding football in 2022, with Olave surpassing 1,000 yards receiving and Shaheed ranking second in the NFL in yards per route run (2.59), behind only Tyreek Hill.

After a middling debut as an offensive play-caller, longtime Saints assistant and current offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael returns, hoping to find some consistency after a 2022 season filled with injuries along the offensive line and subpar play on the ground. Unfortunately, that challenge will persist this season regardless of who is under center, as running back Alvin Kamara could face a suspension. Adding Carr would help alleviate pressure on the offense if it again struggles running the ball, as Carr can make throws his predecessors couldn’t.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Saints return a strong unit that ranked in the top 10 in EPA per play allowed and success rate. Anchored by elite talents in Cameron Jordan and Demario Davis, this defense provides extra appeal that only a couple of other teams in the mix for Carr can match.

New York Jets

Oddly enough, the Jets might be the most complete team in the market for a quarterback this offseason. After starting four different quarterbacks last season and still managing to secure seven wins and a chance at a playoff berth in the AFC, New York clearly has a strong roster and an obligation to find answers under center. Carr, even in a down year, would provide an immediate upgrade over Zach Wilson, who finished the season as the league’s lowest-graded passer. In 2022, these two passers were separated by 22 PFF passing grade points (Wilson 43.1, Carr 65.4).

The Jets' roster is as strong as it’s been in more than a decade, and Carr would be entering a situation with a strong foundation of young talent in place. A pair of Jets rookies were awarded hardware at the 2022 NFL Honors, which indicates this roster is further along than it's given credit for. An offense spearheaded by Offensive Rookie of the Year Garrett Wilson (85.9 PFF receiving grade) with high-ceiling players like Breece Hall, Elijah Moore and Zonovan Knight — among others — would be a strong group to contend with in this market.

The strongest argument in favor of Carr picking New York centers on Robert Saleh and his stout defense. After finishing the 2022 season allowing the second-fewest points per game (18.6) and the sixth-lowest EPA per play, the Jets' defense is among the league’s best and has the talent to lead this team to the playoffs and beyond, even with middling quarterback play. Headlined by Defensive Rookie of the Year Sauce Gardner (90.0 PFF coverage grade), this unit has the pieces to match up with the best offenses in the league. New York just needs the other side of the ball to hold up its end of the bargain.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Looking to reload quickly following Tom Brady’s retirement, the Buccaneers are another team in the mix to procure Carr’s services. Although this team struggled to meet expectations this past season, the roster has plenty of talented and experienced weapons to retool with. After all, Tampa Bay isn’t far removed from a championship run in 2020, and a refresh of the roster could go a long way if highlighted with a veteran quarterback. Carr may be a downgrade from Brady, but the fall could be much worse. Carr has provided a solid floor from which to base his future projections, dipping below a 65.0 PFF pass grade only once in his nine-year career — and that came in his rookie campaign.

This Bucs offense still possesses one of the most lethal receiving duos in the league in Mike Evans (77.0 PFF receiving grade) and Chris Godwin (75.9 PFF rec grade). Pair that with a strong pass-protecting offensive line anchored by powerhouse tackle Tristan Wirfs (83.1 PFF offensive grade), a unit that allowed the fewest sacks (25) and the lowest pressure percentage in the NFL (21.0%) in 2022, and it becomes simple to see the allure of this team.

The biggest issue in Tampa Bay stems from the almost nonexistent run game this team suffered through this past season. Even with a former highly touted back in Leonard Fournette, this offense was never able to find a foothold in the ground game, finishing the season without a single back surpassing 4.0 yards per carry. It was such a detriment to the offensive game plan that the team would often be left to abandon the run altogether in favor of 50-plus pass attempts from Brady. That could spell a tough transition for Carr, who relied heavily on All-Pro back Josh Jacobs (91.9 PFF rushing grade) this past season.

Carolina Panthers

The last of three NFC South teams vying for Carr’s services, the Panthers may not be the strongest roster in this race, but they have some selling points. A new coaching staff headed by Frank Reich, who was seen by many around the league as the best option available on the coaching market this offseason, is chief among them. To fill out the staff, Carolina hired former Broncos defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero for the same role and former Rams assistant head coach Thomas Brown to head the offense. That’s a quality pairing that has enjoyed notable success in their roles in recent years, in addition to a deep staff that includes veteran coaches like Jim Caldwell, Duce Staley and Dom Capers. 

The roster itself may not be as strong as some of the other teams on this list, but one could argue that the Panthers pulled the most out of what they had last season, winning four of their last six games. Over that span, Carolina took a fairly conservative approach to its offense, oftentimes throwing the ball fewer than 25 times per game with Sam Darnold under center. But they still managed to stay very productive, ranking in the top five in offensive EPA per play (0.038) to close out the season, ahead of both the Eagles and Bills. 

Running backs D’Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard have proven capable of providing a strong presence on the ground, but a more consistent passer to feed ultra-talented wide receiver D.J. Moore has been a dire need for this offense for a while now. Adding a veteran signal-caller like Carr to help balance out the game plan could go a long way to maximizing the talent they have on the roster — an addition that could be the difference in who wins the NFC South.

Washington Commanders

Washington is one of the most intriguing options for Carr this offseason, due in large part to the recent addition of offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. The Andy Reid protégé is fresh off a Super Bowl victory and should bring an abundance of creativity to this underrated offense. Bieniemy is also very familiar with Carr and his game, after seeing him twice a year in the AFC West.

The Commanders started three quarterbacks this past season — Carson Wentz, Taylor Heinicke and Sam Howell – but none were able to take full advantage of their supporting weapons. This offense struggled to produce, finishing near the bottom of the league in both points per game and EPA per play — ranking 24th and 25th, respectively. Luckily, Washington can part ways with Wentz for minimal cap costs, while Heinicke is scheduled to be a free agent. That makes for a simple enough transition to bring on Carr to lead the team, while Howell, the projected starter currently, develops as the backup. 

This offense is already flush with playmakers. A receiving corps consisting of Terry McLaurin (83.0 PFF receiving grade), Jahan Dotson (74.0) and Curtis Samuel (70.2) is perhaps one of the strongest groups in the NFC, if not the entire NFL. The depth of talent doesn't stop there, as this running back room is similarly stacked, sporting a combination of Brian Robinson Jr. (82.5 PFF offensive grade), Antonio Gibson (76.3) and J.D. McKissic (54.2).


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