NFL News & Analysis

NFL Rumor Roundup: What a Derek Carr trade could look like for Raiders, top 2023 NFL Draft, free-agent QBs, more

Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) warms up before a game against the Indianapolis Colts at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

• Struggling Raiders have options: They could trade away Derek Carr and then target a quarterback in a strong free agent class, or they could aim to draft a signal-caller.

• The 2023 free agent QB class: If the Raiders were to cut ties with Carr, the free agent class includes Geno Smith, Daniel Jones, Taylor Heinicke, Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Teddy Bridgewater, Jacoby Brissett, Andy Dalton, Tyler Huntley, P.J. Walker and Gardner Minshew.

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DEREK CARR’S CONTRACT MAKES HIM AN EASY SCAPEGOAT IN LAS VEGAS

The Raiders “committed to” quarterback Derek Carr with a three-year contract extension this offseason worth $120.5 million with $24.9 million guaranteed at signing. Only his $17.4 million 2022 salary and a $7.5 million signing bonus were fully guaranteed. His $32.9 million 2023 salary and $7.5 million of his $41.9 million 2024 salary are currently guaranteed for injury. Those become fully guaranteed three days after this season’s Super Bowl.

If head coach Josh McDaniels is retained for the 2023 season despite Las Vegas’ early-season struggles — which is the current expectation — it wouldn’t be surprising to see someone fall on the sword. And there has been speculation around the NFL that it could be Carr via a trade.

These are the Raiders’ options after the season with his current contract: 

  1. Keep Carr. They wouldn’t be able to cut him since his salary is fully guaranteed, but at his best, he’s been a top-10 quarterback in the NFL. McDaniels liked Carr even before he got to Las Vegas. Carr has underperformed this season, however, as PFF’s 23rd-ranked quarterback in PFF grade.
  2. Trade Carr. The Raiders would be wise to find a trade partner before the Super Bowl so as to ensure they wouldn’t be stuck with his $32.9 million salary in 2023. If they can’t agree to a trade before the Super Bowl, it might become too risky to keep him knowing his money becomes guaranteed.
  3. Cut Carr before the deadline when his contract becomes guaranteed. This seems like perhaps the most unlikely option, because quarterbacks are hard to find, and the Indianapolis Colts received a 2022 third-round pick plus a 2023 conditional third-round pick for Carson Wentz this offseason.

“I do think someone will trade for him, but the price will be driven down by the remaining term and that $40 million guarantee they will inherit,” a league source said.

The source predicted Carr could garner a second-round pick plus. It will be interesting to see if teams are as willing to trade for veteran quarterbacks this offseason given the lack of success those acquired via trade — such as Wentz, Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson and Baker Mayfield — have had this season.

One organization identified by another league source as a team to watch for Carr is the Houston Texans, who currently own the top pick in the 2023 NFL Draft with a 1-7-1 record. The Texans rank 30th in expected points added (EPA) per play against through Week 10. They’re 26th in EPA per run play against and 29th in EPA per pass play against. 

They could either use the top pick, assuming they hold on to the spot, on a defender or trade it to a team seeking a rookie quarterback and fill their need at signal-caller via a Carr trade instead. They also have a second first-round selection — currently No. 9 overall — from the Cleveland Browns as part of the Deshaun Watson trade. Having two top-10 swings at a quarterback certainly could entice Houston to draft its future signal-caller rather than filling the position by trading for Carr. Cleveland’s record should improve, however, when Watson returns, which would push that pick down the board.

Carr said this season that he was “heartbroken” when the Texans, who selected his brother, David Carr, first overall in the 2002 NFL Draft, passed on him twice in 2014. But Derek Carr still speaks glowingly of the Texans’ organization, and he would be an upgrade over their current starter, Davis Mills, who has played better in his second season but hasn’t taken a significant step forward.

There could be many more teams looking for starting quarterbacks this offseason, including the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Commanders. And there are only so many starting-caliber quarterbacks available in the 2023 NFL Draft.

The Raiders currently own the second overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft based on their 2-7 record. They certainly would be in the market for a quarterback — perhaps Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud? — if they’re picking near the top of the order. Their other option would be to sign a quarterback in free agency who McDaniels is already familiar with … like Jimmy Garoppolo or Tom Brady.

It would be hard for the Raiders to justify benching Carr unless they were transparent about their decision, but it might make sense once they’re completely out of playoff contention. The Raiders wouldn’t want to trigger Carr’s injury guarantees if they believe they’re going to part ways with him this offseason anyway. Patriots 2019 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham is Carr’s backup. He played well in the 2022 preseason and came with knowledge of McDaniels’ system.

There already have been effort question marks in Las Vegas this season. It seems hard to believe benching Carr would improve the situation.

OTHER VETERAN QB OPTIONS

Beyond Garopplo and Brady, the quarterback free-agent market is actually pretty fruitful. Lamar Jackson won’t actually hit the open market, but he’s included in the group with Geno Smith, Daniel Jones, Taylor Heinicke, Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Teddy Bridgewater, Jacoby Brissett, Andy Dalton, Tyler Huntley, P.J. Walker and Gardner Minshew for those teams looking for a new face at quarterback.

Most of those players would only be bridge starters, but it’s a solid group with plenty of starting experience.

POTENTIAL 2023 FIRST-ROUND QBS

It’s still early in the pre-draft process, but we asked a high-ranking personnel executive how many quarterbacks he foresees going in the first round at this point. He said two or three with Stroud, Alabama’s Bryce Young and Kentucky’s Will Levis as the top options. Opinions are mixed around the NFL on whether Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker will go in the first round. Hooker will be 25 years old in January, but he’s been phenomenal this season as PFF’s fifth-highest-graded quarterback in the FBS.

REGRETTABLE TRADES

Four of the top 10 picks in the 2023 NFL Draft are currently held by teams who acquired those selections via trade.

The Philadelphia Eagles are currently set to pick fourth with a selection acquired from the New Orleans Saints in a 2022 draft-day trade. The Seattle Seahawks are set to pick seventh with a selection acquired from the Denver Broncos in the Wilson trade. The Detroit Lions are set to pick eighth with a selection acquired from the Los Angeles Rams in the Matthew Stafford trade. And the Texans are set to pick ninth with a pick acquired from the Watson trade.

Time will tell how the Watson trade pans out. But the Saints have to be kicking themselves for trading a pick that could have netted themselves their quarterback of the future, though wide receiver Chris Olave does look great so far. Wilson is currently grading out as a bottom-third quarterback halfway through the 2022 season. Stafford won the Rams a Super Bowl, but the Lions have to be feeling good that their own pick — 11th overall — currently is lower than Los Angeles’ selection.

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