The Las Vegas Raiders have a lot of holes on their roster, but with Derek Carr at quarterback, they have among the best situations in the NFL when it comes to his performance and cost-effective contract he’s playing under.
Due to those circumstances, Carr is unlikely to be traded this offseason despite rumors suggesting he could become available, but the Raiders aren’t likely to reward him with a more lucrative payday, either.
According to Vic Tafur of The Athletic, Las Vegas is in no rush to alter the current structure of his contract, which runs through 2022 and is relatively cheap considering the high level of play he’s provided:
“The Raiders aren’t really looking to trade Carr or give him an extension right now. He has improved in his three years with [head coach Jon] Gruden and has a very friendly, pay-as-you-go contract for two more years.”
Carr’s base salary will be less than $20 million in each of the next two seasons. A comparably good quarterback, Dak Prescott, could get franchise-tagged again by the Dallas Cowboys this offseason and make almost twice that in 2021 alone.
Prescott ranked ninth in Pro Football Focus’ grades in 2020 among quarterbacks, while Carr was 10th. During the 2019 campaign, Prescott was just ahead of Carr as they rated 10th and 11th, respectively.
It is true that Prescott has unsuccessfully negotiated a long-term contract with Dallas over the past two years, but he’ll eventually get his due on the open market if and when he hits free agency, or in a tag-and-trade scenario.
The same can’t really be said for Carr, who’s somewhat stuck in limbo.
Think about this from Carr’s perspective. General manager Mike Mayock didn’t really profess a lot of faith in him when he brought in Marcus Mariota as a highly paid backup to push him prior to last season.
Carr responded well with his third straight 4,000-yard passing season under coach Jon Gruden, and second consecutive year of registering a 100-plus passer rating. In other words, it’s not Carr’s fault the team has posted records of 7-9 and 8-8 in those years. It’s Mayock and the personnel department failing to build out a competent defense to compete with the NFL’s best.
Meanwhile, Carr continues to get underpaid for his services. He’ll likely keep doing so as Mayock scrambles to find pieces on defense to help Las Vegas rise in the AFC West and challenge the likes of Kansas City and the Los Angeles Chargers, who are all but certain to be playoff-bound this coming season.
It’s not surprising Carr has had a fairly robust trade market, with teams at least submitting offers for him. The 29-year-old is in the prime of his career and is executing Gruden’s complex system as well as anyone could ask. Unfortunately, it takes a shootout almost every week for the Raiders to even have a chance of winning.
If the front office were smart, it’d reward Carr with some kind of back-loaded contract and secure his longer-term future with the team. Instead, it feels like a carrot dangling sort of situation, where Las Vegas would drop Carr in an instant as soon as a better opportunity presents itself.
No one’s arguing Deshaun Watson or Russell Wilson would be an upgrade over Carr. The Raiders could wind up kicking the tires on a Watson trade, and Wilson submitted a list of preferred trade destinations to Seattle that included Las Vegas. Oddsmakers even have the Raiders as favorites to land the Seahawks signal-caller.
The cost to land either Watson or Wilson would be prohibitive, though, and to reiterate, Las Vegas’ defense is awful to the point that it’s cost the team a playoff spot each of the past two years while Carr has played lights-out.
Should it come to pass that the Raiders would be willing to part ways with Carr, don’t be surprised to see another team pay him what he’s worth and build a championship-caliber team around him.