At 10:18 a.m. on Monday, March 6, NFL quarterback Derek Carr tweeted out a simple message: “Who dat,” apparently confirming reports from earlier in the day that the veteran free agent will sign a contract with the New Orleans Saints.
A few hours later, NFL insiders Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo further confirmed the signing and reported the terms of the new deal — four years, $150 million, $100 million guaranteed total, $60 million guaranteed at time of signing. The deal is paced out with more money, bonuses and guarantees in years three and four to aid the Saints, who are dealing with a dire salary cap situation, around $18 million over at the time of signing.
All of this comes after the Las Vegas Raiders’ release of Carr on Feb. 14. For the Raiders, the team that selected him in the second round in the 2014 draft, Carr was a reliable franchise centerpiece, making four Pro Bowls in nine seasons and putting up far and away the best counting stats and most win shares among the quarterbacks of his class so far. He’s missed only four games in his career, and he’s had the unenviable task of leading mostly bottom-of-the-pack rosters this era.
This move reunites current Saints head coach Dennis Allen with the passer he helped choose when he was coaching the Raiders at the time. Allen, a defense-focused coach who had to that point produced the 28th and 29th defenses in points allowed in consecutive years for the Raiders, was fired four weeks into Carr’s tenure. After being brought on staff in New Orleans, Allen started as Sean Payton’s defensive coordinator and was promoted to head coach upon Payton’s retirement after the 2021 season after Allen crafted some top 10 defenses from 2019-2021.
In 2021, Carr had a career year by most metrics, managing to maintain his efficiency even as his coaches increased his load in the offense and the roster and management around him suffered scandal after scandal. His head coach at the time, Jon Gruden, resigned after Week 5, but Carr stepped up, finishing the season with a 10–7 QB record, including four straight wins with two game-winning drives at the end of the season to lead the Raiders to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
Last season was considered a disappointment by the franchise, fans and media, though, as the Raiders missed the playoffs and Carr netted a 6–9 QB record despite an offseason trade for superstar wide receiver and former college teammate Davante Adams. Eventually, pressure mounted for the franchise to move on.
The Saints have also added a no-trade clause to Carr’s contract, according to Garafolo. This clause was included in his last contract, and was the driving force in the Raiders’ decision to ultimately release him, as Carr was able to turn down any and all trade offers the Raiders received about him. The Raiders were committed to moving on without him, though, even without any compensation from another team.
The signing also has implications for other NFL teams, as the Carolina Panthers and New York Jets were both considered suitors for Carr’s services, per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN. The Jets in particular are in need of a starting-caliber quarterback, as their 2022 season saw the benching and alienation of 2021 second overall pick Zach Wilson and up-and-down play from backup Mike White. The Jets will have to look elsewhere, such as the Aaron Rodgers situation, for additional talent.
Some serious changes will still need to be made to the Saints’ roster, like cuts, trades and restructuring of existing deals before March 15 rolls around, when the cap goes into effect, but with a very talented core of receivers featuring the likes of Alvin Kamara, Chris Olave, and Michael Thomas, along with a respectable veteran defense, this move helps solidify New Orleans as the favorite to win the NFC South and puts the franchise in position to develop their passer of the future.