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The Saints Signing Derek Carr Doesn't Just Change the NFC South — It Changes the NFL Draft

In a move that felt as if it was coming from a mile away, the New Orleans Saints are moving on from the Jameis Winston-Andy Dalton duo. Replacing them is former Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. 

Carr made quite the name for himself, spending nine seasons with the Raiders including four Pro Bowl years. Across 142 games, Carr went 63-79 and finished his time as a Raider with 35,222 yards, 217 touchdowns and 99 interceptions. On top of that, Carr was a mere 0-1 in playoff games after their loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in 2021. Now, after a weird ending in which Carr was benched for the final two games of the 2022 season, it was apparent he would no longer play with the Raiders. 

From that point on, the clock was ticking for when Carr would sign with his new team. Whether he was traded or released, it was made known that Carr would be suiting up for a new team next season. There were some rumors on where he would end up; but after back-and-forth meetings involving a few teams, Carr is playing in the Big Easy for the Saints.

Carr signed a four-year deal worth up to $150 million, which includes a $28.5 million signing bonus. Carr is guaranteed $100 million. Compared to the $40 million guaranteed that Carr had in Vegas, this isn't a bad come-up for the 32-year-old quarterback. 

So now that Carr has signed, what does that mean for the New Orleans Saints?

Derek Carr Makes the New Orleans Saints a Potential NFC South Division-Winner

Quarterback Derek Carr #4 of the Las Vegas Raiders prepares to take the field before a game against the Los Angeles Chargers

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Considering how lost each team in the NFC South is at this moment, the Saints are currently the clear winners of that division. (That is, unless Lamar Jackson ends up on the Falcons.)

With an offense that has Alvin Kamara, Taysom Hill, Chris Olave and potentially a revived Michael Thomas — as well as a top 10 defense — the Saints could be a scary team if they put the pieces together. As seen in Denver last season, bringing in a good quarterback doesn't necessarily change everything. Russell Wilson was much more highly touted the year before he came to Denver than he is now, which is clear evidence it could go poorly for the Saints. 

However, with the Buccaneers, Panthers and Falcons having question marks surrounding their quarterback position, the Saints might've just made a temporary power move in the NFC South. That could force other teams to be less complacent than they might've been, even though it's hard to believe a team would be complacent if they aren't strong at quarterback. And now that his quarterback is a little better than during his rookie season, wide receiver Olave could be smiling ear to ear to get a guy like Carr. 

Even with lower-tier quarterback play during his rookie year, Olave put up over 1,000 yards. So there's no doubt he can produce. But what's seen is that when good receivers get even better quarterbacks, their likelihood of playing better and earning more money goes up. Olave has a bit of time before he has to worry too much about his contract extension, but putting up numbers consistently can't hurt that extension once it does come.

Now, one of the winners of this move isn't even in the NFC South. In fact, the Saints might've just made a team in their conference a little bit richer by signing Carr. 

The Saints Assist the Chicago Bears in Selling No. 1 pick

Justin Fields #1 of the Chicago Bears warms up before kickoff against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium

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One big winner of Carr's signing is the Chicago Bears. 

With the Bears having the first overall pick in this year's draft, they hold a lot of power in the quarterback market. The idea is that the Chicago Bears are looking to trade down from the No. 1 spot. That way, they can obtain more draft capital to move to a spot where they can get someone they want, as well as get other picks and capital. 

With Carr signing in New Orleans, the need for a quarterback increases meaning that the price of that No. 1 pick just went up. And for a team that has as many holes as the Bears have, this is a big-time win for Chicago. Whoever wants their choice of the top quarterback in the draft must go through the Bears; and with another quarterback off the market for these quarterback-needy teams, the Bears hold a lot of power. 

However, while signing Carr has its positives, it isn't a perfect situation for the Saints. 

Derek Carr Could Cause Future Hurt for New Orleans Saints

Head coach Dennis Allen of the New Orleans Saints looks on during the first quarter of an NFL preseason game

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If Carr ends up working out for the New Orleans Saints, then signing him to a four-year deal will have been a good move that doesn't negatively affect the team outside of the financials. However, if Carr doesn't work out, then the Saints did what the Saints have done for quite some time now — pushed their problems to the future. Eventually, though, the future catches up.

Say that Carr's play in New Orleans is mediocre — the Saints are now tied to a contract with an older quarterback who loses trade value via both aging and poor performance. Sure, a team could believe in Carr to come back to his true self, but the risk in doing so lowers the return for New Orleans. Not only that, but according to Spotrac, Carr doesn't have an out in his contract until 2026, in which he'd be guaranteed the finality of his $100 million while also leaving $11.4 million in dead cap. 

Along with the possibility of poor play, Carr also has the potential of running into health trouble. Technically, every player has that possibility. He's 32 and doesn't have an out in his contract until he's 34. Now, that's not elderly by any means; but in the NFL, not much is guaranteed in terms of health the older you get. To Carr's benefit, the Saints ranked 17th in the league last season in number of sacks allowed, at 38. That's not much better than where Carr comes from, as the Raiders gave up just three fewer with 35 sacks last season. 

Overall, the Saints should benefit from this signing more than they don't. Given Carr's career, he's good enough to win with weapons around him. That being said, it'll be a bad day in the Bayou if Carr runs out of gas anytime too soon.

If not, the Saints could be marching in again.

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