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The Derek Carr benching and his subsequent excused absence on Wednesday has all the earmarks of a grand conspiracy by the Las Vegas Raiders.
Let’s break it down. Because this is some John Le Carre’ double agent spycraft stuff right here:
The Raiders turned to the future even as their playoff hopes for 2022 remain slim but alive. They protected themselves from a Carr injury that might cost them $40.4 million if the quarterback had played and gotten injured in the season’s final two games.
The Raiders are insuring Carr is healthy so they don’t have a Jimmy Garoppolo situation on their hands. It is, after all, hard to trade an injured player.
And the Raiders fully intend to trade Carr.
Raiders Reason For Benching Doesn’t Jibe
They didn’t talk about it, but in deed the Raiders are trying to improve their slot in next April’s draft by, you know, making this and other moves that look very much like tanking.
The stated reason Josh McDaniels gave for the benching Carr the remainder of the season was different. That, McDaniels said, was so he could “see a guy we haven’t seen play in a situation like this against a couple of good teams.”
The guy McDaniels can now see is backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham. He’s played 11 games in three NFL seasons — two years in New England and this year in Las Vegas.
All three of Stidham’s years was with McDaniels as the offensive coordinator or head coach.
Guess McDaniels was looking elsewhere when Stidham was playing and practicing all that time.
Are Raiders Tanking To End Season?
Anyway, the Raiders and Carr agreed he’d be excused from all club activities the rest of the season. So the expectation is he may not show up to the team facility.
The Raiders also placed edge rusher Chandler Jones and linebacker Denzel Perryman on injured reserve on Wednesday. They’re now done playing for the season as well. (If you’re going to diminish the offense, might as well do it on defense, too).
So, yes, the Raiders are setting themselves up for the offseason. That will start with a Carr trade and culminate with the draft.
Las Vegas has plans for the draft will depend on how well the Carr benching sucks the life out of some veterans in the locker room the next two weeks.
“I don’t think anybody is excited about it in here,” receiver Davante Adams told reporters.
The remaining Las Vegas players may now beat out the Carolina Panthers in a chase for a better playoff spot. That’s because the Panthers are chasing an NFC South title.
While the Raiders are chasing their starting quarterback out of their building.
The point is the Carr benching is weak sauce from a competitive standpoint but could help Vegas come draft day.
Trade May Be Best For Derek Carr
This is the part where I must tell you the Raiders say they’re not sure what direction they’re taking with Carr this offseason.
“I’m not going to sit here and predict the future,” McDaniels said. “There is a lot to be sorted once the season is over.”
OK. But they’re trading him.
The blessing for Carr is this unbecoming saga may all work out for his good.
Because he has a no-trade clause, Carr can help pick his next team if he wants to continue playing.
Carr threw for nearly 5,000 yards last season. That came amid one crisis after another, including the resignation of coach Jon Gruden and firing of general manager Mike Mayock. So whatever his flaws, there will be teams interested.
The New York Jets immediately come to mind. They have the No. 4 scoring defense in the NFL this season. The unit is young and is likely to improve.
Teams That Makes Sense For Derek Carr
The Jets have a hard decision to make with Zach Wilson. He’s been benched twice this season. But New York could conceivably keep Wilson on his rookie contract and add Carr as the veteran starter. Or move on from Wilson altogether.
Carr, by the way, would probably welcome playing for a team with a strong defense. The Raiders have been 32nd in scoring defense twice, 30th once, and never been better than 20th in Carr’s nine seasons.
Other teams that could conceivably be interested in Carr are the New York Giants, Atlanta Falcons and Indianapolis Colts.
The Colts will be moving on from Matt Ryan after the season. The rest of their squad could be competitive if the offensive line improves and the quarterback position delivers.
The Falcons currently hold the No. 6 spot in the draft but that probably won’t get them one of the top three quarterbacks in the draft if the teams ahead of them pick a quarterback or trade out of their spot to teams wanting a QB.
And, of course, the Giants are not tied to current starter Daniel Jones beyond this season. They have been good enough this season to compete for a playoff spot but that also means their first-round pick will come later in the round.
Coach Brian Daboll has improved Jones substantially this year. He helped develop Josh Allen in Buffalo. Maybe Derek Carr could be his next assignment.