Why Did the Raiders Cut Derek Carr, and Why Did the Saints Sign Him?

What led to the breakup between Derek Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders, and why did the New Orleans Saints sign the veteran quarterback this offseason?

Derek Carr spent nine seasons with the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders, helping guide the club to the postseason twice during his run. What led to the Raiders releasing Carr before the 2023 NFL season, and why did the New Orleans Saints prioritize the veteran quarterback during free agency?

Why the Raiders Released Derek Carr

Carr started more games (142) for the Raiders than any quarterback in franchise history — he’s nearly 50 starts ahead of second-place Ken Stabler.

That volume and the current NFL passing era allowed Carr to reach the top of the team’s leaderboards in most statistical categories. No Raiders signal-caller has attempted more passes or thrown for more yards or touchdowns than Carr.

Wins aren’t necessarily a quarterback statistic, but Las Vegas went just 63-79 in Carr’s starts.

That weak performance at the team level — combined with head coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler taking over the Raiders in 2022 — eventually led to Carr’s departure from Las Vegas.

The Contract Extension That Wasn’t

McDaniels and Ziegler gave Carr a three-year, $121.5 million extension in April 2022 that seemingly tied him to the club for the foreseeable future. Carr suggested the new deal gave the Raiders “continuity” on offense after Las Vegas sent first and second-round picks to acquire Davante Adams from the Green Bay Packers that offseason.

But while the pact gave Carr a slight raise for the 2022 season, it gave the Raiders more flexibility and allowed them to cut Carr after the season.

Carr would have seen $40.5 million — his $33 million base salary in 2023 and $7.5 million of his 2024 salary — become fully guaranteed three deals after the Super Bowl.

Instead, Las Vegas made its decision on Carr before the regular season concluded. The Raiders benched Carr before Week 17, turning things over to backup Jarrett Stidham to ensure Carr didn’t lock in any injury guarantees.

While Vegas attempted to trade Carr before those guarantees kicked in, the no-trade clause he secured as part of his extension gave the now-32-year-old tremendous leverage. Knowing he could pick his own team if released, Carr refused to waive his no-trade clause and forced the Raiders to cut him, creating nearly $30 million in cap space for Las Vegas.

Why the Saints Signed Carr as a Free Agent

The Saints were interested in acquiring Carr from the Raiders before Las Vegas released him. New Orleans’ brass met with Carr while he was still under contract with Vegas, and the Saints and Raiders had agreed on trade compensation had Carr been amenable to relinquish his no-trade authority.

However, Carr knew he could likely land a free agent deal that was more attractive than his existing contract with the Raiders, which would have carried over the the Saints in the event of a trade. Carr also had no reason to force his new club to sacrifice a draft pick to Las Vegas to acquire him when he could simply sign with New Orleans once released.

While the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers expressed varying levels of interest in Carr after he was cut, the Saints always appeared to be the frontrunner.

On March 6, roughly three weeks after being released by the Raiders, Carr officially agreed to a four-year, $150 million contract with the Saints that included $60 million in fully guaranteed money. With an average annual value of $37.5 million, Carr is the NFL’s 14th-highest-paid quarterback.

New Orleans had been searching for a long-term option under center since Drew Brees retired after the 2020 season. Jameis Winston thrived in 2021 before tearing his ACL, while Andy Dalton performed above expectations in 2022. But neither was the franchise quarterback the Saints were looking for.

While it remains to be seen whether Carr can deliver the sort of results New Orleans is seeking, the Saints are now committed to him for at least the next two years.

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