Is 2021 a make or break season for Derek Carr in Las Vegas?

Is Derek Carr in his last year in Las Vegas?

By: Reese Nasser

Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has had a long, yet relatively uneventful career up to this point. There have been moments where he has appeared to become a top-tier quarterback, but it has never lasted. 

In his seven seasons of being the QB1 for the Raiders, they have all ended the same. He has yet to play in a playoff game and has only had a double-digit win season once. 

The lone double-digit win season for Carr came in 2016. He played arguably the best football of his career, throwing 28 touchdowns and nearly 4000 yards. He also held onto the ball in a way that he has never been able to, throwing just six interceptions. 

Carr was also the very definition of clutch in 2016. He led the Raiders one seven game winning drives and was the reason that they were in a position to make a playoff run. After leading the then Oakland Raiders to a 12-3 record, tragedy struck. Carr broke his fibula in the fourth quarter of a week 15 game against the Indianapolis Colts. This injury ended Carr’s season and any chance that the Raiders had of a postseason run. 

Since that 2016 season, the Raiders have been arguably the most average team in the NFL. They have remained largely in the middle of the pack in regards to the rest of the league. Carr’s career record of 47-63 is very fitting for the organization as a whole. 

Carr’s 2020 season saw him turn in yet another performance that caused people to question whether he crossed into elite territory. The Raiders finished with an 8-8 record, but Carr was one of the top passers in the NFL. He threw 27 touchdowns to just nine interceptions and surpassed 4000 passing yards for just the third time of his career. 

But even with his performance, the Raiders still managed to be just mediocre. Carr has had seven seasons to bring the Raiders over the hump, and he has still not done it. With just two years remaining on his contract, Las Vegas has to decide if Carr is who they wish to continue to build around. 

The quarterback is just 30 years old and a team looking to find a new franchise QB could look to Carr to be that guy. The Raiders could look to trade Carr and get a hefty return through either draft picks and/or promising young players. He also has one of the top arms in the NFL and has shown that he is not afraid to sling the ball. 

So does that technically make this a make or break season for Carr? In a way, yes. But that doesn’t fully explain just how important this season could be for the franchise as a whole, even outside of Derek Carr. So let’s take a look at why exactly this is a make or break season for Carr. 

The State of the Franchise 

While this will be the Raiders second season in Las Vegas, it will be the first for the fans. The expectations for this team will be unreal. They have a new stadium and a whole new city to impress. 

They also don’t necessarily have a roster that is built to win a lot of games in 2021. They are fairly young at many important positions. The receiving group isn’t great, with second-year receiver Henry Ruggs being the WR1 on this roster. A duo of Ruggs and breakout tight end Darren Waller may not be enough to get this team into the playoffs, especially when looking at how good the AFC is. 

The defensive side of the ball is also young, especially the secondary. If the defense struggles, the Raiders may find themselves in a position where they are forced to fight their way back into games. 

When looking at the success of other teams in recent years that have moved cities, near instant success will be what the fans want. Look at the success of both of the Los Angeles teams. The Rams and Chargers both moved cities and have both found success in Los Angeles. 

Both Los Angeles teams, even though the rosters are drastically different, are both in very good positions. Las Vegas could look at both teams as a template to build. 

The Chargers are one of the most exciting teams in the NFL, and are being led by second-year quarterback Justin Herbert. 

The Raiders could look to assemble a roster somewhat resembling that of the Chargers. They could start this process by moving on from Carr and finding a young quarterback. 

Or they could build like the Rams, who have a veteran quarterback in Matt Stafford. Their depth chart is full of veteran players on both sides of the ball.

Why the Raiders Could Move On

With all of these variables, it wouldn’t come as a shock if the Raiders chose to move on from Carr. With being in a new city, finding a new face of the franchise could make sense, especially with looking at the quarterbacks that will be available in this year’s draft. 

From Spencer Rattler, and Sam Howell, to Malik Willis, and Kedon Slovis, this upcoming draft eligible quarterbacks could be intriguing. They are all good at different things and each one could fit in with the Raiders.

It could arguably come down to how well the Raiders perform this season. After an 8-8 record last season, the Raiders draft pick ended up being right near the middle of the pack. They ended up having the 17th selection. 

If Carr leads them to another record around 9-8 or 10-7, they could still find themselves picking right near the middle yet again. This could remove them from contention of selecting a top quarterback, putting them in sort of a no man’s land where they would have no choice but to stick with Carr. 

This could lead to a potential mid-season trade, something that rarely happens with big name players in the NFL. This wouldn’t be the first time that the Raiders have done something like this. They traded for Cincinnati Bengals quarterback right before the trade deadline in 2011. The roles could be reversed with this go-around. With either injuries or a team that feels like they are a “quarterback away” from a real playoff-run, Carr could be that guy.

A team would have to give up a good amount for Carr, especially when considering that they would have him under contract for all of the 2022 season as well. 

When looking at recent trades for a QB1, there is always substantial capital involved. The Rams sent the Lions two first-round picks, a third-rounder and Jared Goff. The Colts sent a conditional second-rounder and a third-rounder for Carson Wentz. 

The Raiders could find themselves receiving something in-between these two trades for Carr. At least one first round pick would be needed to get a trade started. 

If the Raiders find themselves struggling near the trade deadline, a mid-season trade could be what they choose to do. Trading Carr could change the future of the franchise. 

So yes, this is a make or break season for Derek Carr. He is coming off of a career year and is still a very talented player. 

The entire future of the Las Vegas Raiders franchise could be determined by how well Carr and this team as a whole perform in 2021. If he gives them a reason to keep him around, they could lock into him for the remainder of his career. Or, they could move on and restart with a new QB1. 

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