For a time the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looked primed to land four-time Pro Bowl quarterback Derek Carr, but things shifted this week as the New Orleans Saints jumped in.
The Las Vegas Raiders quarterback met with the Saints this week, which NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport first reported on Tuesday, February 7. Las Vegas “granted permission for that to happen” according to Rapoport.
Carr, who is still under contract with the Raiders, has been linked to other teams for 2023 after his late-season benching where he missed the final two games. Rapoport noted that Carr has a no-trade clause in his contract but “is doing due diligence and no trade is imminent” at this time.
The Raiders have a February 15 deadline to release Carr or pay him a fully guaranteed $40.4 million during the next two seasons according to Rapoport. Carr has a three-year, $121.5 million deal with the Raiders, but the team can take just a $5.6 million cap hit with Carr’s release, per Spotrac.
New Orleans hasn’t enjoyed a stable quarterback situation since the Drew Brees days before his retirement in 2021. The Saints then cycled through Andy Dalton, Taysom Hill, and former Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston over the past two seasons.
Carr Drives NFC South Winner?
It’s only February, but the Saints or Bucs landing Carr would give the other team a leg up on the NFC South going into the 2023 season.
The Bucs won the NFC South in 2021 and 2022 in addition to a sweep of the Saints in 2022, but no team in the division finished above .500. It leaves things wide open for 2023.
New Orleans went 7-10 for 2022, and the Saints could return a solid defense and key offensive players for a division title run in 2023. The Bucs could keep most its nucleus from the Brady era and make another run with a solid starting quarterback.
With that said, if Carr goes to New Orleans, the Bucs might not find a quarterback equal to or better than Carr.
‘Buzz’ Surrounding Carr and Bucs Initially
It appeared momentum of Carr going to the Bucs gained steam during the Senior Bowl last week in Mobile, Alabama, before the Saints stepped in this week
“So, the buzz here at the Senior Bowl, I’m in Mobile, Ala. by the way, the buzz is connecting them [Bucs] with Derek Carr,” Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson said on “You Pod to Win the Game” on February 1. “Like, that’s probably the Derek Carr destination. I only believe that if the Bucs are like, ‘Let’s not reboot completely. Let’s not just nuke it right now and start all over again. Let’s see if we can maybe put this back together again.'”
The Bucs still have substantial talent on the roster with most of the offense intact for next season plus a solid defense that could bring back most of the key players. Tampa Bay has at least seven players who played major snaps on defense to re-sign by March 15. Landing a quarterback such as Carr could help that cause, Robinson noted.
“Look, I think if you’re Todd Bowles, you’re sitting there going, I don’t know if I survive a reboot,” Robinson said. “Any coach in that position is sitting there going ‘I gotta keep trying to win now. I don’t want to do a reboot, because I won’t make it and that will potentially be my last head job in the NFL.'”