Should the Falcons target Derek Carr in a trade?

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In a somewhat shocking development, Derek Carr has been benched by the Raiders in favor of Jared Stidham for the team’s final two games. Carr has also left the team in order to avoid causing a distraction. There has been no confirmation of where the team will turn once the season is over, but all signs point to the Raiders shopping him this offseason, and the Falcons have to be one of the many teams that will contact Las Vegas about their asking price.

Derek Carr’s contract situation is a bit awkward, though, as explained by Pro Football Talk:

As mentioned here, once or twice, Carr has $40.4 million in injury guarantees that become full guarantees on the third day after the 2023 waiver period. By benching Carr, the Raiders are hoping to ensure that Carr will be able to pass a physical before the day the injury guarantees convert.

The easiest and cleanest out would be to cut Carr before the guarantees shift from injury to full. Trading Carr become much more delicate.

First, the Raiders would have to find someone willing to take on a contract that includes $40.4 million in full guarantees, with $32.9 million due in 2023 and another $7.5 million applicable to 2024. Second, the Raiders would have to trust that the team that does an unofficial — and completely unenforceable — trade with the Raiders won’t back out after the guarantees vest.

By rule, either team can refuse to proceed with any trade before both teams communicate it to the league office. Until that happens, there’s no binding agreement.

The Raiders don’t have a ton of leverage in trade negotiations, given Carr’s $40 million becomes guaranteed for next season on the third day after the 2023 waiver period. If Las Vegas’ asking price in terms of draft capital is too high, teams can just wait for the Raiders to release Carr because there’s almost no chance he returns as the quarterback next season.

$40 million over the next two years is expensive, but it’s about market value for a quarterback of Carr’s caliber, even if he is having a bit of a down year for his standards, throwing a league-high 14 interceptions.

There won’t be a ton of teams able to take on that kind of contract without some maneuvering, but the Falcons are one of them. Assuming they cut bait with Marcus Mariota, the team is expected to have around $90 million in cap space this upcoming offseason.

I know a lot of fans would be hesitant to take on Carr and his contract while giving up draft assets in the process, but I don’t think it would take too much capital to land him, and it would probably make the Falcons the favorite to win a weak NFC South next season. They also aren’t committed to him for a lengthy period, unless they choose to extend him based on his performance.

Carr was Pro Bowler from 2015-2017, even finishing third in the MVP race in 2016, which happened to be the year Matt Ryan took home the award. However, Pro Bowls shouldn’t define any player’s success in the NFL. The game is all for show and continuously leaves deserving candidates at home. Carr’s best seasons — as far as passer rating is concerned — actually came in 2019 and 2020, when he finished with a passer rating north of 100.

Coming into 2022, many people were talking about Carr as a top ten quarterback. He has plenty of talent and will be just 32-years-old next season. The Raiders are a dysfunctional franchise, especially under Josh McDaniels. Carr would be a tremendous upgrade at the position for the Falcons, and I’m not sure Arthur Smith and this rushing attack need a Patrick Mahomes to be successful; just look at what Smith was able to accomplish with Ryan Tannehill in Tennessee.

I’m not hellbent on the idea of trading for Derek Carr this offseason. It’s probably best for the Falcons to continue allocating resources and building the roster around the quarterback position, but I also wouldn’t be shocked if Atlanta pulled the trigger on a deal. They were in on Deshaun Watson last offseason, and there will start to be pressure on Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot to be more competitive as they enter their third year with the organization. Still, acting as if Carr is enough to push this current roster over the top is foolish, and acquiring him could halt what has been a steady rebuilding process over the last two years.

Photo: Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire

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