Cut, trade or keep Derek Carr? Weighing Raiders’ options with QB

first_imgDerek Carr is guaranteed $19.9 million 2019. That’s the only thing certain about the quarterback’s future, in Oakland or elsewhere.The Raiders saw another shaky season from Carr in 2018, one of many indications he and coach Jon Gruden don’t click. It’s clear that Carr’s play hasn’t aligned with the five-year, $125 million deal he signed in the summer of ’17. At the Senior Bowl, Gruden also worked with N.C. State’s Ryan Finley and gushed about the top quarterback prospect on the South team, West Virginia’s Will Grier.It may make the most sense for the Raiders to take the best available players in the first round before taking Grier or Finley in the second round, given how much they are already committed to paying Carr (barring a trade). That would push Carr to see if he can bring out his best with Gruden while also giving him the comfort to know the job is still his to lose.That’s lining up as the best road to take with Carr in 2019. If it doesn’t work out again, the Raiders need to be ready to make the delayed decision and cut him before this time in 2020. What happens if the Raiders just keep Derek Carr?Carr did show some improved play in November and December in his first season under Gruden. But it did nothing to secure his place as the team’s unquestioned starter in 2019 and beyond.In Carr’s defense, the team did move his two favorite wideouts, Cooper and Michael Crabtree. He also adjusted well in  making tight end Jared Cook and wide receiver Jordy Nelson his new go-to guys by the second half of the season. There wasn’t much more help in the passing game, and the once-sturdy offensive line allowed 51 sacks on Carr, way more than in any of his previous four seasons.That said, Carr showed he has probably hit his ceiling as a passer, which is average given how high the level of quarterback play has been raised around the league. Gruden will expect a lot more from the position, and he and his offensive staff just got a good look at Duke’s Daniel Jones and Missouri’s Drew Lock while coaching the Senior Bowl.The Raiders hold the keys to the first round of the draft. They could load up defensively to address all three levels. They can upgrade at all three skill positions to boost Carr’s chances for success in the second year of the system. Getting a mix early for both of those plans also makes sense.The latest buzz has them thinking about Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray, using some combination of the No. 24 and No. 27 overall picks to slide into the right position to take him. That plan only makes any sense if they can move Carr by draft time.The Raiders look like they are headed toward omitting to Carr — with a caveat.MORE: Carr wants to ‘mess up the draft’center_img MORE: Raiders close to deal to play in Oakland ColiseumWhile Gruden had no problems moving stars Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper in the fall, the team has been more hesitant to part ways with Carr because, for now, it doesn’t have any fallback plan in place at the game’s most important position. That said, Gruden and new general manager Mike Mayock have three first-round picks to draft another potential franchise quarterback after dealing Mack and Cooper.So what can the Raiders do with Carr? Here’s looking at the three roads they can take with him — and which one they should follow:Can the Raiders still cut Derek Carr?When the Raiders kept Carr on their roster beyond Feb. 6 to lock in his base salary for this year, they passed on the first opportunity to save them $15 million in cap space after eating $7.5 million in dead money. Buying that time to make a final decision on Carr, Oakland officials lost the chance to cut him for ’19.Doing so now would be ridiculously detrimental, as the Raiders would end up, after a whopping $27.4 million in dead money, spending $4.9 million toward the cap, per Doing so after June 1 would mean spending $22.4 million in dead money to get only $100,000 in cap relief for ’19.If a Carr cut is coming, it would only be when the waiver system begins in 2020, or a day after Super Bowl 54. That’s when the dead money drops to $5 million and the net cap savings goes up to $16.5 million. Consider this road closed for the short term.What would the Raiders get by trading Derek Carr?The good news is the Raiders can still get the pre-Feb. 6 break on Carr — $7.5 million in dead money, $15 million in cap savings — if they find a trade partner for him. So the question turns to the potential compensation for him in personnel commodities.The Raiders netted two first-rounders from the Bears for Mack. The Cowboys gave up a first-rounder for Cooper. Mack, however, was the No. 5 overall pick in ’14, while Cooper was the No. 4 overall pick in ’15.Carr was the high second-rounder in Mack’s draft class. At this point, expecting a first-round pick in exchange for Carr still seems high.Last year, the Redskins sent a third-round draft pick and a third-round drafted player, cornerback Kendall Fuller, to the Chiefs for Alex Smith. This year, the Broncos are sending a fourth-round pick to the Ravens for Joe Flacco.MORE: Free agency 2019: Top players by positionThe major difference between those quarterbacks and Carr is age. Smith was 33 and Flacco is 34. Carr turns only 28 in March, and the team that would be interested in trading for him would also be hoping to get him in his prime, with a contract that suddenly looks rather reasonable in the ever-inflating quarterback market.The Broncos were off the table for Carr before they picked Flacco to upgrade over Case Keenum, given they are the Raiders’ division rivals. The Redskins likely don’t want to invest big at quarterback again, and will likely sign a second- or third-tier free agent as a stopgap with possibly a rookie draft pick, too.The Jaguars, Dolphins and Giants remain as the three most likely suitors, but they also are all well positioned to get their quarterback of choice in the draft. To make a move with the Raiders, those teams also need to think Carr, at similar cost, is a legitimate upgrade over the disappointing respective options they have now in Blake Bortles, Ryan Tannehill and Eli Manning.Selling Carr is the best scenario for the Raiders, but the market may not be positioned to oblige.last_img

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