The Carolina Panthers could have an interest in signing free-agent quarterback Derek Carr, according to multiple reports. The Las Vegas Raiders officially released Carr from his contract on Tuesday. Carr is free to join a team of his choosing immediately.
The Panthers are in the market for a quarterback this offseason. The Baker Mayfield experience ended midseason and Sam Darnold is set for unrestricted free agency and isn’t expected back in Carolina next season. New Panthers head coach Frank Reich is an offensive-minded leader. Reich’s era in Indianapolis ended prematurely due to their failure to identify a long-term solution at quarterback. Reich will take extreme care while collaborating with general manager Scott Fitterer on the most important decision of Carolina’s offseason.
The Panthers have options under center. They currently own the No. 9 overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft. That places Carolina within striking distance to draft one of Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, Will Levis, or Anthony Richardson. The Panthers likely would have to trade up in order to land their preferred target. Fitterer must weigh the cost benefits of parting with draft capital versus signing a veteran like Carr. The latter would allow Carolina to use their draft picks to strengthen the roster around Carr.
It’s worth acknowledging the New Orleans Saints are also reported to possess an interest in signing Carr. Carolina’s decision of whether or not to pursue Carr could be influenced by New Orleans’ interest. The Panthers may not want to see Carr quarterbacking one of their arch-rivals.
The NFC South may be the most unpredictable division heading into 2023. The retirement of Tom Brady has left no clear-cut favorite to claim the division title. The Buccaneers, like the Panthers, Saints, and Atlanta Falcons, don’t have a shoo-in starting quarterback on the roster. Whoever Carr signs with may immediately become the leader in the clubhouse. It makes Carr’s landing spot especially notable.
The Panthers haven’t found success while rotating through veteran quarterbacks in recent years. Cam Newton and Teddy Bridgewater, like Mayfield and Darnold, did not deliver the desirable success. But those acquisitions felt like moves forced out of desperation. The Panthers are in a better position this summer, and Carr is a legitimate starting quarterback that departed the Raiders due to irrevocable differences in offensive philosophy.
Carr threw for 24 touchdowns despite experiencing a down year by his standards in 2022. A Panthers quarterback hasn’t matched that total since Newton threw 24 touchdowns during the 2018 campaign. A Panthers quarterback hasn’t even reached double-digit touchdown passes since 2020. Carr would bring some much-needed stability to the franchise.
Reich has begun putting together a strong offensive coaching staff. Duce Staley has agreed to depart the Detroit Lions to become Reich’s assistant head coach and running backs coach. Former NFL quarterback Josh McCown, who was long rumored to become the Houston Texans’ head coach once upon a time, is Reich’s new quarterbacks coach.
Ex-Colts head coach Jim Caldwell has come on board as a senior assistant. The Panthers hired former Colts interim play caller Parks Frazier as their passing game coordinator on Wednesday. Reich hasn’t hired an offensive coordinator yet, but it’s easy to see why Carr could have an interest in joining Carolina.
The Carr sweepstakes are beginning to become competitive. Reich and Fitterer must sort through several options at quarterback while locating the perfect fit for their franchise. Carr represents a strong potential choice.
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