Derek Carr Might Not Be the Upgrade the Saints Think They’re Paying For

Derek Carr is heading to New Orleans. The veteran quarterback, released by the Las Vegas Raiders last month, has reportedly agreed to a four-year contract with the Saints. It’s the start of Carr’s second act, but also the start of a new act for this franchise, which is making its first multi-year starting quarterback commitment since Drew Brees retired after the 2021 season.

The total deal is reported to be $150 million, including $100 million in guarantees, which seems rich for a team that was already $18 million over the 2023 salary cap even before the deal was announced. But as New Orleans has proven time and time again over the past decade, the cap can be manipulated when needed. This manipulation may require some difficult financial decisions – like letting Marcus Williams go to free agency a year ago and most likely letting wide receiver Michael Thomas do the same next week – but it also allowed the Saints to make bold additions to the roster, seemingly , every time. off-season. The new year in the league doesn’t start until next Wednesday, and the team will already be on the board with the best veteran QB available on the open market when Carr’s deal is formalized.

Because of this ability to sidestep the limited-limit situation and make high-profile additions every year, it can be hard for anyone not paying close attention to recognize the real problem created by Mickey Loomis’ chaotic GM brand when building the lineup. This will never limit his ability to attract talent to New Orleans, but it has prevented the Saints from starting over after the Brees era came to an end a couple of years ago. Breeze has been retired for two years, and Sean Payton is now coaching another team, but for some reason still feels like their team. It’s possible Carr’s arrival will change things, but it will take some wins to do so, and judging by the state of the roster, the cap situation, and the justified skepticism of Dennis Allen and his coaching staff, this doesn’t look like an alliance destined for success or longevity.

It’s not like trading the Rams for Matthew Stafford. Or the Bucks signing Tom Brady. These teams have provided their new quarterbacks with deep and talented lineups. With a long list of free agents and some serious work to be done to get back on the plus side, the Saints, who finished 7th-10th in 2022 and finished 19th in the DVOA, will lose some talent over the next month or two. Marcus Davenport, David Onyemata, Shai Tuttle and the aforementioned Thomas should be free agents. Jarvis Landry, Bradley Robey and Mark Ingram will also need new deals, but I’m not sure how much these potential losses will matter. For SpotracThe Saints are currently ranked 27th in the cap, and according to Tankaton cost table they rank 21st in terms of draft capital. The Raiders team that Carr left may be in better shape than his new one.

And it’s fair to wonder if the Saints are getting a significant improvement over the quarterbacks who were on the roster. Jameis Winston, now expected to be fired to make room for Carr’s signing, and Andy Dalton, who will become a free agent next week, have both outmaneuvered Carr in recent seasons. Winston outperformed Carr in 2021 when Winston ended his injury-shortened season with a second-best EPA per game ranking. according to And Dalton was statistically better in some ways last year when he finished sixth in the PFF passing score despite playing with a terrific supporting lineup. Over the last two seasons since Brees retired, the Saints quarterbacks have matched Carr’s performance and done so with a smaller supporting lineup than the one Carr worked with in Las Vegas, with Davante Adams (in 2022), Hunter Renfrow, Darren Waller and Josh Jacobs. .

Carr vs. QB Saints, since 2021

passerby Yards per return EPA for return Success rate
passerby Yards per return EPA for return Success rate
Holy QBs 6.4 0.00 45.0%
Derek Carr 6.6 0.05 44.3%

Data via TruMedia

I would still prefer Carr over Winston and Dalton in a vacuum, but I don’t think the gap between the new New Orleans guy and the guys he’s replacing is that wide, especially since Carr’s own performance has been declining for a long time. for four years now. In 2022, he posted his worst EPA drop average since 2018, the highest off-target shot in four years, and the highest interception of his entire career, according to TruMedia. The Saints certainly didn’t buy Carr too expensive.

The question that will determine whether this partnership will be successful is obvious: how much will adding Carr move the needle for the team whose needle needs to move? a lot of? He’s a quarterback and quite talented at the same time, so it feels like must make a big difference – after all, the NFL is a league run by quarterbacks. But there’s also plenty of strong evidence that this won’t happen, and that Carr’s best football is probably behind him. The signing is more like a cosmetic band-aid than anything else, describing all the important steps this team has taken over the past few years. This helps create the illusion that the Saints are going for it, when in reality they are just running in place.


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