The New Orleans Saints have emerged as the front-runners to sign former Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and an agreement could be reached as early as Monday, league sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The Saints, who finished 7-10 last season, were among three teams, including the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers, to have pursued Carr for several weeks after the Raiders allowed the veteran quarterback to talk to teams to possibly facilitate a trade.
Carr, 31, visited New Orleans and met with several members of the organization over two days in early February. He also met again with the team last week at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.
Carr declined to waive a no-trade clause in his contract and was released by the Raiders on Feb. 14 — just before a deadline that would have guaranteed $40 million of his contract over the next two years. The release allowed him to immediately sign with any team instead of waiting until the official start of free agency.
Last season he finished with 3,522 passing yards (the third-lowest mark of his nine-year career), 24 touchdown passes, 14 interceptions (tied for the most in a single season), a 60.8% completion percentage (a career low) and an 86.3 passer rating (a career low).
Carr’s history with Saints coach Dennis Allen dates to 2014, when Allen was in his third season as coach of the then-Oakland Raiders. Allen was involved with selecting Carr in the second round of the 2014 draft and made the decision to start him right away as a rookie.
Allen was fired by the Raiders just four games into the 2014 season, but Carr remained with the team for nine seasons, going 63-79 while completing 64.6% of his passes and throwing for 35,222 yards, 217 touchdowns and 99 interceptions.
“[Allen] and I have a great relationship still to this day,” Carr said in October before the two teams played. “And I still talk to him and things like that — obviously not this week and all those things – but we’ve always kept in contact, we’ve always been close.”
Carr made the Pro Bowl four times and helped the Raiders make the playoffs in 2016 and 2021. He stepped away from the team for the final two games of the 2022 season after being benched in what was described as a “mutual decision.”
The Saints made sense as a landing spot for Carr after they went into the offseason with an uncertain future at quarterback. Andy Dalton, who started 14 games for the Saints in 2022, will be a free agent.
The Saints have Jameis Winston under contract for one more year, but Carr’s signing could facilitate his release. Winston is due $12.8 million in base salary in 2023 and started only 10 games in the last two seasons after winning the starting job over Taysom Hill in 2021.
Winston tore his ACL seven games into the 2021 season and spent the rest of the year on injured reserve. He signed a new deal in 2022 after the Saints failed to acquire Deshaun Watson.
Winston fractured his back and injured his foot at the beginning of last season and was inactive in Weeks 4 and 5. He never regained his starting job.
The addition of Carr should help improve an offense that dropped into the bottom half of the league in points and total yards after the retirement of Drew Brees prior to the 2021 season.