Raiders QB Derek Carr had one of the best seasons of his career in 2021, leading the Raiders to the playoffs despite facing historic levels of adversity in the locker room and losing two of his primary weapons for extended periods of the season in TE Darren Waller and former WR Henry Ruggs III. Carr will be entering the final year of his contract in 2022 and his contract situation will be the biggest question that the Raiders’ new regime will have to answer.
“Now that we’ve experienced (making the playoffs), you get out there and play and you’re like, ‘oh my gosh, this is not different,'” Carr said after the playoff loss to the Bengals. “You don’t know until you play it… You get a taste of it, it did something to my heart, man.”
As Raiders owner Mark Davis searches for his next general manager and head coach, here are some of the options that the team has with regard to Derek Carr’s future with the team.
Franchise Tag in 2023
Carr is owed $19.8 million in 2022, according to spotrac. That is the price tag the Raiders will have to pay Carr in 2022 if both parties stand their ground and Carr plays out the year as a Raider.
In 2023, the Raiders could use the franchise tag to put Carr on another one-year deal, buying the team some time to stay competitive while they continue to evaluate their options at the quarterback position. Per the CBA, the Raiders would be able to place yet another franchise tag on Carr in 2024. The team would take big cap hits in both seasons but would be able to retain Carr’s services over the next two seasons without a long-term commitment.
Contract Extension Before 2023
If the Raiders want to retain Carr and avoid the franchise tag route, the team will need to come to terms with the eight-year starter sometime before next year’s franchise tag deadline. If the Raiders opt not to franchise tag their franchise quarterback and fail to come to an agreement on a contract extension, Carr will be an unrestricted free agent in 2023.
Carr is currently finishing the five year, $125 million contract extension that he signed in 2017. If the Raiders were to sign Carr to a big extension, they could be looking at a deal similar to that of the Tennessee Titans and QB Ryan Tannehill, who signed a four-year, $118 million contract in 2020. Tannehill was slightly older at the time of his signing than Carr is now, and the $30 million per year salary would be a nice raise for Carr at this point in his career.
Locking up Carr would allow the new regime to focus on surrounding him with weapons, building the offensive line, and continuing to improve the defense to get the team back to the playoffs.
“There was this feeling (in the locker room) of, ‘Yeah, we’re upset. But we can really do this,'” Carr said. “The brotherhood is just different… Were we the most talented team in the world? No, probably not. But this is the closest, best team I’ve ever been on.”
Release or Trade
The Raiders find themselves in a very comfortable situation if they elect to move on from Carr either this offseason or after 2022. The Raiders can release Carr at any point with no dead cap penalty. However, if the Raiders make that franchise-altering decision to let go of Carr, they will need a plan for the team’s future at the quarterback position.
The Raiders may be one of the few teams with the flexibility to make a serious run at Packers QB Aaron Rodgers via trade. If the Raiders are willing to part with a bit of draft capital, the team could pursue a deal similar to the Los Angeles-Detroit trade last offseason that saw the teams swap Matthew Stafford for Jared Goff and draft picks. While Green Bay has QB Jordan Love waiting in the wings, the Packers could buy Love another year of development while Carr plays out the last year of his deal while the Raiders make a Super Bowl run.
It must be noted that Texans QB Deshaun Watson remains on the trade block, but with the uncertainty surrounding his future in the NFL, the possibility of Watson ever being a Raider seems very slim. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson has been rumored to be unhappy and may also be on the move this offseason.
Finding the Future in the Draft
Walking onto a Vegas stage and shaking Roger Goodell’s hand as the Raiders’ first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft would be a storybook start to a career as the team’s next franchise QB – if only it were that simple. Mock drafts project quarterbacks to be available throughout the first round of April’s draft in Vegas, but mixed reviews of the 2022 quarterback draft class have tempered expectations.
Experts project QBs Kenny Pickett, Matt Corral, Sam Howell, and Malik Willis to be potential first-round picks in some order, with some mock drafts leaving one or even two of these prospects out of the first round. Other quarterback prospects such as Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder and UNR’s Carson Strong are occasionally discussed as first-round options.
The new Raiders regime could take a shot at one of these quarterbacks with the 22nd overall pick of the draft, or if they fall in love with one of them, make an aggressive trade to move up in the draft to get their guy. If the Raiders take that route, they have the luxury of either releasing Carr for no cap penalty, trading him to recoup value, or paying him to play out the final year of his contract as a mentor to the team’s future starter.
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