Thoughts on Derek Carr’s Contract with the Saints

The Saints finalized a contract today with free agent QB Derek Carr worth $150 million over four years. PFT was the first with the details of the contract and after looking it over I think this is certainly one of those contracts where we can see the clear benefits for both sides.

From the Saints side this probably has to feel like a home run. Originally the Saints were going to trade for Carr’s contract with the Raiders which would have carried salaries of $33 million, $42 million, and $41.3 million. Not only would the Saints have lost a draft pick in trading for Carr but they would have had to clear $33 million in cap room just to bring him in.

The new contract for New Orleans will carry salaries of $30 million, $30 million, and $40 million. There is a balloon salary of $50 million in the fourth year which would only be earned if Carr is a great player in New Orleans. So from a realistic standpoint we are looking at the following from a cash perspective:


Overall the team may save $16.3 million over three years plus they save the draft pick. The salary cap numbers are a win as well. Assuming that the Saints have added one void year to the contract and will add a second void year (if they have not already) here is what the cap numbers will likely look like:

2026 Dead$36,900,000$28,500,000$8,400,000

So the team does not need to clear up $33 million in cap space just to make a trade and will be in a bit of a better cap position each season thereafter.

The downside of the contract is the upside that exists for Carr. Carr’s first two years are fully guaranteed and the effective guarantee on the contract is $70 million for two seasons. In his original contract there was a $40 million guarantee for the 2023 season and in theory the team could cut ties after this season. So Carr get’s far more protection in this contract than he had his contract with the Raiders and is more in line with what he should have gotten from the Raiders.  It should guarantee Carr a starting job for both 2023 and the start of 2024, guarantees he certainly did not have from the Vegas contract.

Still, I doubt this concerns the Saints. More often than not teams are more than happy to give more guarantees in return for lower cash payments. Even though the Saints will be on the hook for $70 million guaranteed, that number is still lower than the $75 million he was set to earn on his Raiders deal. While the Saints do lose the catastrophic season escape clause that would have existed had they traded for him I would be certain that they look at this as a two or three year investment simply because they have no other options and need some kind of stability at the position. If Carr is that bad they would be in a position to draft a QB next year.

While you can argue the upside of actually having Carr as the QB of the Saints, the Saints were not in a position to draft someone this year nor in a position where they can just “blow things up” and start over. They were already locked into this roster for 2023 and a good portion of it in 2024. They spent close to $20 million on Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton last season and $10 million more for Carr and some stability at the position is something they should feel is better than running through some collection of Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Teddy Bridgewater, Matt Ryan, and Taylor Heinicke over the next two years.  

One final thought is that the signing of Carr could open the door to retain WR Michael Thomas. His current contract will be terminated the first day of the league year if it remains in it’s current state, but the two sides could come to an agreement on a restructured contract. Given the injury history I am not sure that this would be a good move for the Saints but if the money figures are low enough I could see them doing a deal with him. It would be easy to have minimal cap charges by heavily incentivizing the contract. Anything with a trigger of more than 3 games, 16 receptions, or 171 receiving yards would not count on the cap in 2023 even if earned.