Raiders exit ‘lights fire’ in new Saints QB Derek Carr

Catherine TerrellESPN Writer6 minute read

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana — New Orleans Saints quarterback Derek Carr is ready to reinvent himself.

The Saints introduced Carr in a 45-minute press conference on Saturday. Carr sat next to Saints coach Dennis Allen, with his family and the Saints front office in attendance. He spoke about his nine-year tenure with the Las Vegas Raiders, how the Saints convinced him to join their team and what happened next.

The next step could include throwing passes to wide receiver Michael Thomas.

Thomas and the Saints looked like they could be headed for a breakup after they restructured their deal in January. But Carr, who spoke to Thomas at length during the free agency process, spoke as if he expected to be teammates with the 2019 Offensive Player of the Year.

Carr said he and Thomas grew closer due to their conversations on the phone. He even told Saints general manager Mickey Loomis after one of those conversations that he felt like the pair could “go out and take on the world.”

He added: “When he started recruiting and talking to me, he wasn’t even trying to recruit me, he was just saying, ‘When are we going to work? We are wasting time, time is running out. I was like, ‘Man, I’m the same. We’ll get there.’ But I think our relationship has grown through the process, and I look forward to making that relationship even stronger.”

Carr will also play with Saints tight end Juwan Johnson, a restricted free agent who scored seven touchdowns for the Saints in 2022. The team announced Saturday that it has signed him to a new two-year contract.

But breaking up with the Raiders was not an easy process for Carr.

“It’s tough because I love so many people there. At the same time, it’s a breath of fresh air,” he said.

Carr admitted he would be lying if he tried to say he didn’t have a chip on his shoulder after things ended as he walked away from the team for the final two games of the season due to an inevitable separation of paths to come.

That ending, he said, sparked the competitive edge in him. He couldn’t promise to be former Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who was one of the former players, along with Peyton and Archie Manning, who reached out to guide him through the decision-making process.

Carr couldn’t promise any wins either, but he said he could promise he’d give it his all.

“I can just come in and show my work ethic, and really prove it again. … I didn’t plan or dream it would end this way. It sure does,” he said. “I understood the business side and why things were happening, all that stuff. I mean, I get it. But it hurt. For me, as a competitor, I wanted to finish off my teammates. … It lit a fire in me, that I’ve always had, but it made it hot. It gave me this excitement.

He also thanked the Raiders for selecting him in the second round of the 2014 draft.

“I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t say thank you to them,” Carr said. “I had a great nine years there, lots of great memories, lots of tough times, lots of fun times, lots of kids since that time. And Mr. Davis and the Raiders organization, thank you. S’ they see that, I have to tell them something because I wouldn’t be here without him.”

Carr has made it clear he is ready to move forward after a free agency process that lasted nearly a month following his release from the Raiders on Feb. 14. Allen joked Saturday that Carr makes decisions faster on the court than off the court.

“He took way too long with the process. But obviously we’re happy to have him,” Allen said with a smile.

The New York Jets were one of the other teams involved in the process, and the Carolina Panthers, who recently traded to secure the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft, were another.

But the Saints were already ahead of the competition due to Carr’s long-standing relationship with Allen, who was coaching the Raiders when they took Carr to the second round of the 2014 draft. Allen also made the decision to launch Carr as a rookie.

Although Allen was fired four games that season, the two men have enjoyed a relationship ever since.

“DA, how I feel about this man, I hope me sitting here will tell you how I feel about him and the opportunity,” Carr said on Saturday. “You gave me my first opportunity, every time we played you since we weren’t in the same team, I always said thank you. Even in the press conference before this game [last fall], I would say that I have always been grateful to DA because he gave me my chance. He gave me the keys to an organization, to be that quarterback for nine years. … We are just getting started and all of that is a thing of the past.”

Allen and the Saints wouldn’t take no for an answer. The Saints were the first team to approach Carr as soon as the Raiders granted him permission to seek a potential trade, and they were by far the most persistent, he said.

Carr said his phone was “exploding” daily with persistent texts and calls from the Saints, who were determined to make him their quarterback of the future.

“I don’t think he’s just a veteran quarterback. I think he’s the veteran quarterback we wanted,” Allen said. “I don’t know if there was this thing, well, we have to go out and find any veteran quarterback. We wanted to find the quarterback that we wanted. Like I said before, we clearly identified this Derek as our number 1 target. [went] come out and grab it.”

Carr added: “There was never any doubt of [their side]. … They said very clearly how they felt. They were honest. They told us the truth about the organization and they didn’t try to make it seem like it wasn’t, and I think that’s what sparked the most interest. It was just honesty from the start. And there were other teams saying certain things and saying similar things and all that. But at the end of the day, they, they came out first, they tried a trade, all that kind of stuff and you, start weighing that, feeling wanted like that, again, that’s fine, for someone to see the value you can possibly bring to their organization, to their city, to their locker room.”

The Saints were the only team to meet Carr while he was still a member of the Raiders, hosting him and his wife for two days in New Orleans in early February. A trade ultimately didn’t happen after Carr, who had a no-trade clause in his deal with the Raiders, vetoed it.

But a trade was actually closer than people think, he said on Saturday.

“I was very willing to accept a trade,” he said. “But I was only able to speak to one team. I was only given permission to speak to one team. As much as I love and respect these guys, Dave and Josh at the Raiders, how can I make this decision when it’s the only time in my career that I’ve been or could be free? I can’t make this decision without being able to talk to other people. But I I almost made the decision anyway. I felt so much love here. Like, I almost made it again.

“But at the end of the day, I just felt like I knew that when I sat here, I wanted to be able to look my kids in the eye, look my wife in the eye, and know that I was doing whatever was in my power, I asked all the questions, went through all the processes to make sure I was trying to make the best decision for our family, for us together, so I wasn’t closed to everything, which may have shocked some people. But I was not closed, I was ready to work, but I was only able to speak to the Saints. But it worked.

Eventually, Carr ended up signing his four-year contract on Saturday. Sources have told ESPN that the contract could potentially be worth up to $150 million and includes up to $100 million in guarantees. The deal likely won’t become official on the trade wire until free agency begins next week, as the Saints still have several steps to take to comply with the salary cap for 2023. They also have a decision to make. on former starting quarterback Jameis Winston. , who could become a free agent with the signing of Carr.

The deal also allows him to come full circle in a reunion with the man who helped him draft it.

“I think that’s kind of how we hung up on the phone when Derek called me Sunday night and said he wanted to come over here and be a quarterback,” Allen said. “When we hung up the phone, it was like, ‘Hey, it’s time for us to go finish what we started.’ So I think it’s a good deal.”

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