The Case for Derek Carr in Houston
The Bryce Young alternative
Welcome back everyone. Been awhile since I’ve been able to put together a written newsletter. In this edition, I wanted to take a look at the potentiality of the Houston Texans adding a quality veteran quarterback to the roster for the upcoming 2023 roster.
Disclaimer: I have been on the Bryce Young train for months, and I plan to stay onboard for that run up to the draft. This summary is not intended to show my preference over Bryce Young. Young is still my #1 choice for quarterback for Houston.
Derek Carr is the choice. With the recent news of Tom Brady, Derek Carr has been thrusted up the board for available veteran quality quarterbacks. Carr and Las Vegas are heading towards a split, and most of the signs indicate a player release is far more likely than a trade. Aaron Rodgers and Lamar Jackson have much different paths than what I am about to propose below.
Carr has a no-trade clause coupled with an early vesting date of $40.4 million in guarantees has provided him with immense leverage. Word out of the Senior Bowl is Carr is expected to be released.
Carr has 3 years remaining on his contract worth $116.3 million ($38.8 million APY) with, an upcoming, $40.4 million in salary guarantees. The vesting date for the guarantees is February 15, 2023 however the Raiders would not be able to trade Carr until the new league year on March 15, 2023.
Carr is 31 years old, still considered to be prime years for a quarterback, who has not missed a game (for injury reasons) since 2017. Carr has missed only two games in his NFL career for injury reasons.
Carr can make every NFL throw, is mobile enough to escape the pocket for scrambling first downs, and by most accounts a good teammate.
Carr has never lit the world on fire in the statistics department. On the flip side he rarely finishes at the bottom of the league in your favorite metrics and statistics.
Looking back at Carr’s career, year by year, the areas that jump out at me is the adjusted completion percentage, and a 2.18 touchdown to interception ratio. Simply put Carr takes care of the football with relatively sound decision making. The turnover worthy percentage is a bit higher than I would prefer but the big time throw percentage is solid.
2019 through 2021 were Carr’s best seasons working in Jon Gruden’s system. Carr’s performance declined once introduced to Josh McDaniels’ scheme carried over from New England.
Taking a look at Carr’s efficiency during the 2020 & 2021 seasons, Carr finished right where I would expect based on the eye test. A top 12 quarterback that may not cost your team a game, but may not be able to carry a team to a win week in and week out.
Carr finished 11th in the EPA+CPOE composite scoring for the 2020-2021 seasons.
One of my favorite podcasts is The Athletic Football show. Nate Tice is filled with an immense amount of football knowledge. I don’t recall the exact episode but the way Tice explained Carr’s abilities really stuck with me.
Paraphrasing…Tice’s assessment on Carr was he needed a simplified scheme. Carr is very systematic in his progressions 1-2-3, and does not deviate. Carr is limited in his ability to look off defenders due to his progression methods.
Putting the above stats together with this type of feedback paints a fairly clear picture on Carr and what kind of player he is. As noted above, I don’t view Carr has a player you can lean on week in and week out to carry you through the tough times. Conversely I don’t view Carr has a player who will cost you games.
Coaching and scheme will be a heavy factor into Carr’s potential success. This is where Houston comes in.
Not sure if you have heard…Houston hired Demeco Ryans as their next head coach. What has been lauded as the hire of the coaching cycle, the positive explosion that Houston has so desperately needed, has put the Texans back into the conversation both locally and nationally.
Demeco Ryans and GM Nick Caserio are currently in the process of interviewing to fill out the coaching staff. The offensive coordinator position is one of the most important hires for Ryans’ staff.
It may be to easy to say Ryans will bring in an OC that runs the Shannahan west coast zone scheme. Ryans himself stated he has learned multiple systems dating back to his time with Chip Kelly and Andy Reid.
The goal is to have a simplified perplexing scheme that creates confusion and advantageous match-ups. For the sake of this exercise, let’s assume Ryans does hire Bobby Slowik from the San Francisco staff. Slowik would undoubtedly bring over the tried and true Shannahan scheme.
With the success of Brock Purdy the past two months, the system shows to be successfully without an elite quarterback. Slowik may not have the coaching prowess of Kyle Shannahan, however the system is a place where a quarterback like Derek Carr could be successful.
Pairing a good veteran quarterback with a first time play caller could be a recipe for success for Ryans’ new team.
Cost & Contract
When I first started stewing on this idea, I was in the thought process of attempting to sign Carr to a multiyear contract at a below market rate. Looking at a contract in the $30.0 million APY area with $65 million in guarantees.
My goal was to keep the individual salary cap charges in the 7-9% range in year 1, 12-14% range in years 2-3, and 15-17% in years 4+. In an effort to have a quality quarterback under contract, to bring back the middle class quarterback contract.
A contract which does not deplete your salary cap resources like a quarterback who is paid elite money without the elite performance. A contract that would provide the team opportunity to reallocate salary cap resources back to other areas of the roster.
The middle class quarterback does not exist today. Non-rookie contract quarterbacks are either paid near top of the market money or back-up money…nothing in between.
There are two paths for Derek Carr if (when) he is released by Las Vegas:
Multiyear contract with some decent guarantees
One year incentive laden contract allowing Carr to reset his value
Both paths have their advantages and disadvantages.
The multiyear contract could potentially under pay Carr if he finds success with the new team, and could lead to difficult renegotiations early in the contract. Conversely the contract would allow a team to use money to build a strong roster around Carr.
The single year contract would be way below market value, with the potential to earn additional money through performance incentives and team performance. If…Carr were to find success on this path, it would lead Carr back to a Top 8 multiyear contract.
One year contract proposal:
This proposal is a $15.0 million base value one year contract fully guaranteed, with the ability to earn an additional $5.0 million through team performance. The details for the incentives are outlined in the Notes section.
This contract does not tie a team to Carr beyond the 2023 season, and leaves the door open for a franchise tag in 2024 if Carr plays well. Under that scenario Carr could be looking at a two year cash flow of $~50 million.
Multiyear Contract proposal:
This contract would pay Carr a bit more, over two years, than the single year proposal + tag while providing additional guarantees totaling $62.0 million at signing. However if things do not work out between Carr and Houston, the team would be on the hook for $62 million in guarantees, with no clear out until 2026 absent a trade.
The contract would re-create the middle class quarterback contract and provide the team available salary cap resources to build around Carr.
The contract would be set for an extension after the 2025 season if Carr’s performance continues to meet the team’s needs.
Derek Carr could provide Houston with veteran leadership for a new coaching staff with the potential to provide a Top 12 quarterback without the elite level contract.
The team could build around Carr, under either contract proposal, in an effort to field a complete roster without being hampered by outrageous salary cap charges.
Would this interest you for the Houston Texans? Let me know if the comments below.
If not…bring on Bryce Young.
Don’t forget to subscribe to the Cap & Trade Show on YouTube. Next Wednesday my guest will be DJ Bien-Aime of ESPN Houston.
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