From the moment the Raiders benched quarterback Derek Carr with two games to play in the 2022 regular season, it became clear that they did it to avoid owing him $40.4 million as of February 15, the third day of the 2023 waiver period.
Carr won’t be back. We already knew it. On Thursday, he said so.
The question now becomes whether he’ll be traded or released. The answer should be easy. Carr should be released, after making it clear to the team that he’ll do nothing to cooperate with any effort to trade him.
He has a no-trade clause. If they ask him before February 15 whether he’ll waive it, he should refuse to do so. Actually, he should refuse to even answer the question.
Why would he want to be traded? Some would say that’s the only way he’ll get his $40.4 million in guarantees. But that’s wrong. Any team that would assume Carr’s contract and give the Raiders value for it would pay Carr at least that much as a free agent. A new team would pay him more if they didn’t have to send a draft pick or a player or both or whatever to get Carr.
Some would say Carr will cooperate with the Raiders, that there’s no bad blood. First, there’s definitely bad blood. They’re dumping him, after he made it clear he never wanted to play for any other team.
Second, and more importantly, it’s regarded as bad form for a team to cut a player before the vesting of guarantees that become due in the days after the commencement of the annual waiver period. That’s a device aimed at managing the funding rule and the escrow requirement. If/when the moment of vesting will be used as an opportunity by the team to decide whether to keep or cut the player, the deadline comes in the days after the start of the league year.
Really, why would Carr have replaced the last year of his latest contract with a raise of roughly $5 million for 2022 if he didn’t think the team would keep him for 2023 and 2024?
As it stands, the team has the right to cut him before the 2023 and 2024 guarantees become due — and he has the right to insist on being cut.
He should. It’s simple. It’s clear. It’s obvious. If he doesn’t do it, he’d be doing the team a favor that few if any teams ever do for any of their players.
That said, Carr could go along with the effort to trade him for now, if only to give his agent a head start on gauging the market, once Carr is released. However it plays out, Carr should never agree to a trade.
Worst-case scenario? The Raiders would keep him and owe him $40.4 million. And they won’t. He’ll be free, a month before the unrestricted free agents become available.