Derek Carr writes Raiders goodbye, says title fire 'still rages'

ByPaul Gutierrez ESPN logo
Thursday, January 12, 2023

HENDERSON, Nev. -- Two weeks and a day after being benched by the Las Vegas Raiders, quarterbackDerek Carr broke his silence and bade farewell to the team's fans in a statement on social media Thursday.

Carr had been the Raiders' starting quarterback since being selected in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft.

"It breaks my heart I didn't get an opportunity to say goodbye in person," Carr wrote, despite staying away from the team for its final two games in a mutual decision to not become a distraction. "We certainly have been on a roller coaster in our 9 years together. From the bottom of my heart, I am so grateful and appreciative of the years of support you gave to my family and me. We had our share of both heart breaking moments and thrilling game winning drives, and it always felt like you were there next to me.

"It's especially hard to say goodbye because I can honestly say that I gave you everything I had, every single day, in season, and in the off season. It certainly wasn't perfect, but I hope that I was able to leave you with more than a few great memories as Raider fans."

Carr, who signed a five-year, $125 million contract extension with the Raiders in 2017 and then a three-year, $121.5 million extension last spring, said in 2021 he would "probably quit football if I had to play for somebody else. I am a Raider for my entire life. I'm going to root for one team for the rest of my life -- it's the Raiders. So I just feel that so strong in my heart I don't need a perfect situation ... to make things right.

"I'd rather go down with the ship, you know what I'm saying, if I have to."

In his latest statement, Carr acknowledged those feelings but said he looked forward to playing for another NFL team.

"I meant that," he wrote, "but I never envisioned it ending this way. That fire burning inside of me to win a championship still rages."

Carr's most recent extension included the right for the Raiders to cut him within three days of the Super Bowl for a relatively minor $5.625 salary-cap hit and gave the quarterback a no-trade clause.

Thursday's statement could be seen as taking away the Raiders' leverage in a trade. Carr, whose contract guarantees him $40 million if he is still with Las Vegas or agrees to a trade before Feb. 15, could simply wait for the Raiders to release him and hit the open market, with Las Vegas getting nothing in return.

Trades cannot become official until March 15. So if the Raiders do find a trade partner for Carr, not only would the quarterback have to agree to the destination, the Raiders would also have to trust that the other team would not back out. So while Carr might find a robust market for his services, his trade value to the Raiders might not be as high as it once was.

Earlier this week, first-year coach Josh McDaniels said a conversation with Carr was in the offing.

"Again, we've had a great relationship," McDaniels said. "He's done a lot of great things, and anything that's said otherwise is incorrect. So we'll look forward to that, and like I said, there will be some time between now and then."

Carr, who turns 32 on March 28, stayed away from the team as Jarrett Stidham started the Raiders' final two games: an overtime loss to the San Francisco 49ers, the NFC's No. 2 seed, and a defeat by the Kansas City Chiefs, the AFC's No. 1 seed.

The Raiders finished 6-11, and Carr finished with 3,522 passing yards, 24 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 15 games. He also had the lowest passer rating (86.3) and lowest completion percentage (60.8%) since his rookie season. His 2.8% interception percentage was also a career high.

Carr owns Raiders franchise career records for passing yards (35,222), touchdown passes (217), sacks (264), fourth-quarter comebacks (28), game-winning drives (33) and starts by a quarterback (142), while throwing 99 interceptions, the third-most in franchise history. His career record, though, is 63-79, and he appeared in one playoff game, losing in the wild-card round to the Cincinnati Bengals26-19 last season after throwing a last-minute interception shy of the goal line.

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