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Derek Carr And The Raiders Begin Their Awkward Little Dance

Derek Carr points to the sky
Photo by Gaelen Morse/Getty Images

It's not unusual to see an athlete who has spent nearly a decade playing for one team bid fans of that team a sappy and overwrought goodbye when their time together finally ends. Veteran quarterback Derek Carr sent such a message to Raiders fans this morning, but under somewhat unique circumstances: He still technically plays for the Raiders.

(Let's pause briefly to appreciate a few of the best lines I've ever seen appear in a statement like this: "That fire burning inside of me to win a championship still rages. A fire no man can extinguish; only God." I guess this means that when Carr eventually retires we will have to assume that he's finally been defeated in spiritual combat by God himself.)

Carr's statement followed a flurry of reports indicating that the Raiders have officially begun looking for a team that might want to trade for Carr. That development was preceded by Carr being benched for the last few games of the season (to protect him from injury, and, thus, avoid the injury guarantees in his contract) and taking leave from the team so as not to be a "distraction"; all of that was preceded by Carr semi-competently leading the Raiders through the bulk of yet another disappointing season, just a few months after signing a three-year contract extension.

It's not particularly surprising that this course of events has unfolded, though. Buyer's remorse sets in quickly in the NFL, but in this case it was built into the initial purchase. Carr's three-year extension included an odd carve-out that would allow the Raiders to cut him and only take a $5.6 million cap hit if the move is made before Feb. 15. This puts everyone in kind of a weird position: The Raiders would obviously benefit from just cutting Carr now and getting a head start on their search for a new quarterback; any team that might be interested in having Carr would be better off just waiting for him to become a free agent rather than trading anything of value for him and taking on the rest of his contract; Carr would surely be in a better position to succeed on the field if allowed to pick his next team as a free agent, but would make a lot more money if he were traded with his current contract.

Everything would be simpler for everyone involved if Carr and the Raiders just finalized their separation today, which makes this insistence that the Raiders are eagerly pursuing a trade partner feel like a bit of a charade. Then again, maybe it's worth playing out—you can't assume that Jim Irsay won't call someone in his front office at 1:47 a.m. and demand that every first-round pick the team has be sent out the door in exchange for Carr.

More interesting than whatever face the various parties involved are trying to save here is the question of just what the hell the Raiders think they are doing. You can understand why a team might not want to pay a good-but-not-great quarterback $40 million next season, but what else is out there? And what immediate problems are going to be fixed by getting rid of Carr? This is a team that went 10-7 and made the playoffs last year after surviving the Jon Gruden fiasco, and the struggles of this year's team seemed to have a hell of a lot more to do with Josh McDaniels's coaching than Carr's quarterback play. But hey, at least the Raiders still have Davante Adams, who is coming off an excellent campaign and is no doubt thrilled at potentially having to run routes for Jarrett Stidham next season.

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