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What’s Next for Derek Carr & the Las Vegas Raiders?

After being benched for the rest of the season, Boardroom looks at what the future holds for Derek Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders.

For all intents and purposes, the Derek Carr era with the Las Vegas Raiders ended Wednesday when the team announced the 31-year-old would be inactive for the team’s final two regular season games despite still being alive in the AFC wild-card race. Jarrett Stidham will start Sunday against San Francisco.

After nine seasons in Oakland and Vegas, it appears that Carr’s played his final Raiders game with a resolution likely coming this offseason that will almost certainly see him suiting up for a different team in 2023. While he’s missed a total of three games during that nine-year span, the Raiders reached the playoffs just twice during his tenure, both wild card round losses.

Why bench him now?

Carr is about to finish a five-year, $125 million contract with the Raiders, but he inked a three-year, $121.5 million extension back in April to ensure he’d remain in silver and black. However, Raider management negotiated a potential out after 2022, where the team would only incur a $5.625 million dead cap hit if they cut or trade him by Feb. 15, three days after the Super Bowl. If Carr either would’ve gotten hurt during the final two games of this season or remains on the team after Feb. 15, his $33 million salary for 2023 and $7.5 million of his 2024 salary becomes fully guaranteed.

What happens next?

While Carr could restructure his contract with the Raiders to make his contract more palatable to management, benching him like this means they’ve likely gone to a place of no return. This comes just over nine months after Las Vegas sent first- and second-round picks to Green Bay to acquire superstar wide receiver Davante Adams, Carr’s college teammate and close friend from Fresno State. Sitting Carr means that the Raiders will either have to cut or trade Carr by Feb. 15, with any trade not becoming official until the first day of the new league year in March.

Yet, Las Vegas has little leverage in trade negotiations due to clever negotiation on Carr’s side. While the Raiders got the opt-out after 2022, Carr has a full no-trade clause, blocking any team he doesn’t want to go to over the next six weeks. The ball is now in owner Mark Davis’ court to try and negotiate a trade that will take Carr’s remaining salary off the books before $40.5 million becomes fully guaranteed.

Where might Carr go?

The fun part of this exercise is speculating which team Carr will play for next season. There’s certainly no shortage of teams in need of a starter in 2023, especially a proven commodity in Carr who can help a team lacking a quarterback gain instant competence and respectability at the position.

Here are some landing spots that make sense, and maybe one or two fun ones for good measure:

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Washington Commanders

Ron Rivera benched starter Taylor Heinicke in favor of Carson Wentz, who’s in a similar situation to Carr after the season. Washington can cut Wentz after the season with no dead cap money in search of a more stable situation. Replacing Wentz with Carr could make a lot of sense via trade if the price is right.

Indianapolis Colts

Matt Ryan was benched for Nick Foles for the rest of the season, and he may have played his final game in Indy. While the $12 million in 2023 salary became fully guaranteed when he was acquired from Atlanta in March, if he’d suffered an injury that carried into 2023, he would’ve been owed an additional $7.205 million plus a $10 million roster bonus. While it would be expensive, dumping Ryan for Carr next season is an option Indy will consider.

New York Jets

The Zach Wilson era has already gone up in flames for Gang Green, and it appears unlikely that the second overall pick in the 2021 draft will remain on the team next season. With Mike White and Joe Flacco out of contract after the season, Carr could emerge as a viable Jets option.

New Orleans Saints

While the injured Jameis Winston is still under contract for next season, New Orleans could elect to cut him and take on $11.2 million in dead money or keep him for $12.8 million and pursue Carr anyway. Andy Dalton is a free agent after the season and didn’t exactly light the world on fire this season.

Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, Houston Texans

After cutting Baker Mayfield and starting Sam Darnold, Carolina will have a clear QB need once Darnold hits free agency after the season, opening things up for a possible Carr trade. And while Atlanta clearly views Desmond Ridder as the future at the position, the team could cut Marcus Mariota before he earns a $3 million roster bonus on March 19 to pursue Carr. The Falcons, though, appear unlikely here. Same for Houston, which seems to trust Davis Mills moving forward despite benching him earlier this season.

New York Giants, Seattle Seahawks

Both teams have made surprising pushes to playoff contention this season led by two QBs who hit free agency after the season, Daniel Jones and Geno Smith. But if they’re unable to come to terms with either signal-caller for some reason, Carr wouldn’t be the worst fallback option for either team.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Green Bay Packers

Let’s have some fun replacing a legend, shall we? If Tom Brady doesn’t come back to Tampa next season — certainly possible — Carr could plug in and keep the Bucs afloat in 2023. The Packers would be the most ironic option if Aaron Rodgers retires or is traded. Carr going to Green Bay right after Adams was dealt would be a rather cruel and juicy twist of fate, wouldn’t it?

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