It’s no secret that the Jets will be looking to add a veteran quarterback this offseason, and owner Woody Johnson confirmed on Thursday that he’s prepared to spend big if necessary, calling this “the missing piece."
The Las Vegas Raiders, meanwhile, have reportedly started the process of exploring the trade market for Derek Carr, who would instantly become one of the best veteran options on the market.
Should the Jets try to make a deal? Let's break down the pros and cons...
Talent and production
Carr has been voted to the Pro Bowl three times and although it’s worth noting that the last of these was back in 2017, his numbers have remained consistent throughout his career. His career passer rating is 91.8, which would be the best in Jets history.
The Jets haven’t had a passer throw for over 4,000 yards since Joe Namath was the first quarterback to achieve this 56 years ago. Carr, however, did this four straight times from 2018 to 2021 and probably would have done it in 2022 if he wasn’t benched for the last two games.
In recent years, it’s been rare for a top quarterback to become available without some kind of age, injury or off-field concern. It’s been clear since the end of December that the Raiders are set to move ahead without the veteran and so it will hardly be surprising to see teams lining up to determine the cost. The only question is whether Carr will be keen on the Jets as a potential destination.
Age and Durability
Carr is 31 years old which, in an era where top quarterbacks are sometimes able to keep playing into their 40s, means that he could still be capable of playing at an elite level for many years to come. This would not, therefore, be the kind of short-term move that signing Brett Favre, Josh McCown or Ryan Fitzpatrick was for previous Jets regimes.
Carr has also been fortunate enough to avoid serious injuries since entering the NFL. Carr has started at least 15 games in every single season of his career, and much of this is due to how well he navigates the pocket, anticipates pressure, and gets rid of the ball quickly when required.
Carr’s current contract pays him over $40 million per season, which ranks seventh among quarterbacks. The Raiders need to make a move before Feb. 15, because that’s the date on which his 2023 salary and part of his 2024 salary become guaranteed. The Jets can afford this, and it’s a reasonable price to pay for a top-level quarterback, but at the same time it will eat into their available resources and make it harder for them to do things like bolster the offensive line depth to ensure he is adequately protected.
If the Jets are to trade for Carr, there’s also the question of trade compensation. The Raiders would like to get something back for him, but it’s entirely possible teams will simply wait them out and see if they release him outright before those guarantees can crystallize. They’ll be hoping for a bidding war from desperate teams who don’t want to risk losing him if he hits the open market.
Cold Weather Concerns
One major concern surrounding Carr’s career is that he has played high school, collegiate and pro football in warm weather environments and therefore might not be comfortable with a move east. Carr doesn’t have a lot of experience in cold weather games, but his numbers at the NFL level when faced with such conditions have been concerning. Carr has lost all seven of his regular season games when the temperature has been lower than 37 degrees, and his statistics have been poor.
In defense of Carr, his only postseason appearance was also a cold weather game, and he fared better in that one than he had in those other seven regular games, passing for 310 yards. The Raiders still lost, 26-19, to the Cincinnati Bengals, though.
That brings us neatly onto another concern with Carr. Although he posted excellent numbers throughout his Raiders career, he only led his team to the postseason twice and he missed the postseason on the first occasion in 2016 due to an injury in the season finale.
That means the aforementioned Bengals game is the only playoff game he’s ever played in, and it is also a concern that he’s only won 44 percent of his career starts. If the Jets get Carr and he leads them into the postseason, it’s going to be unfamiliar territory for him.
An Even Bigger Fish
If the Jets are in a position to trade for Carr, it would make a lot of sense to do so. However, what if someone like Lamar Jackson or Aaron Rodgers hits the market? Would the Jets lock down a deal for Carr if it meant missing out on potentially acquiring someone even better? Jackson is younger than Carr and perhaps yet to reach his full potential, while Rodgers has had more postseason success and is more comfortable in a cold weather environment.
With the Raiders needing a resolution before the middle of February, the Jets might find themselves in a situation where they will need to decide whether to pull the trigger on a Carr deal and risk taking themselves out of the mix for a player who could be considered an even better fit. Of course, this would be even riskier because they could be left out in the cold altogether if these other options are snapped up by other teams and it’s too late to revisit a Carr deal.
Opportunities to trade for a quarterback like Carr don’t come around too often, and the Jets are in a position now where they have the means and motivation to strongly consider such a move.
As noted, they may seek to wait out the Raiders and see if he’s released instead and will also have other potential options they’ll be considering. So the choice isn’t as clear-cut as it could be.
However, if they do make this move, it will fill their most important hole with a reliable and established performer who will be motivated to succeed with his new team.