The Saints made the first major splash of what's expected to be a busy offseason in signing Derek Carr earlier this week, and the NFL has already seen a major ripple effect with one veteran quarterback now off the table.
There were many factors in the Saints landing Carr, from his early relationship with head coach Dennis Allen to the club retaining a playoff-caliber roster going into 2023. But what ultimately drove his desires to the bayou was the Saints' continued interest throughout the entire process.
"It was very important," Carr said at Saturday's introductory press conference. "It showed me how they felt about me from the beginning. They were very honest and clear. You heard D.A. (Dennis Allen), what he said and that's exactly what he told me on the phone. The fact they were even willing to trade for me, that meant something. That shows me that you are showing value without showing me value. You're valuing me as a quarterback and as a human without having to say anything. That meant something and that meant a lot. Obviously, our relationship goes way back and things like that, but this time around they were the first one out there. I remember Tim (Carr's agent) called me and told me. We set up a visit, and those things meant a lot. When you get in this building and meet everybody, and you talk football and go to dinner. Then you meet Mrs. (Gayle) Benson. It's like, how do you not come here? You are looking for every good thing everywhere else and there were a lot of good things about other places, but it's hard to find a place that has almost everything."
New Orleans addressed its biggest offseason need in signing Carr. The Saints offense, one loaded with talent at the skill positions, struggled mightily to score points due to its limitations at quarterback, and it culminated in a 7-10 record despite boasting a top-five defense.
Carr expressed his excitement to lead an "explosive" offense with several key pieces already in place, and that Saints wideout Michael Thomas was another component pulling him toward New Orleans.
"The first time I talked to him on the phone I don't think he wanted me to get off the phone," said Carr, who also disclosed his discussions with Saints greats Drew Brees and Archie Manning before making his decision. "I really enjoyed talking to him. I told Mickey (Loomis), you talk to Mike Thomas you feel like you two can go face the world. I told my wife when I got off the phone and just asked 'why are you smiling?' and I was like, I love this guy; he's so competitive and I think the energy that he brings, it's a very exciting time to throw him the football. So, when he started recruitment talking to me and all that he wasn't even trying to recruit me he was like, 'When are we getting to work? We are wasting time.' And I was like, 'I feel the same way but we'll get there.' And I think our relationship has grown through this process and I look forward to making it stronger."
Another factor for Carr was the current construct of the Saints defense, a unit that recently shut out the QB in Week 8 of last season.
"One thing for me when making this decision, you know, all you can do is look at past resumes," Carr said. "But once I knew, when you sign with a team none of the stats or anything in the past matter. Right now, we don't have any rankings or any wins. The most important thing to me was the character of the men in the room, not really the ranking and that kind of thing. When I talk to the defensive guys here, and I've known a lot of them for a lot of years, but they are grown men. They know how to handle success and hard times. They compete at everything they do and this past year when I would say 'us' (Raiders), but ya'll beat our faces here at the Super Dome.
"You can feel the physicality that they played with. You can feel the energy, the brotherhood, you can feel those things and I was so pissed after the game, excuse my language but I was like, 'Wow.' What an opportunity it is to make that one of my choices now. But again, the rankings and stats, they would be the first ones to tell you that none of that stuff matters. Anything I've done in the past or they've done in the past doesn't matter, it's going to be what we're going to do. The main thing to me was the character and type of men that are in that locker room, and the type of men was what was so intriguing to me. They are grown men. Like I said, the physicality they played with and style of play I know D.A. (Dennis Allen) preaches, that was something that fired me up."
Carr's new beginning follows an unceremonious ending to a nearly decade-long tenure as the face of the Raiders. A second-round draft pick in 2014, Carr stepped in as a rookie starter and brought the franchise back to prominence in 2016, leading the Raiders to a 12-3 record before a season-ending leg injury ended his breakout campaign.
It took years for Carr and the Raiders to regain form following that ill-fated season, but Carr maintained a positive outlook throughout the years; helping the franchise's transition from Oakland to Las Vegas and enduring a tumultuous 2021 season that saw the midseason departure of head coach Jon Gruden and culminated with an unexpected playoff appearance.
The Raiders benched Carr for the final two games of a disappointing 2022 season, and the handwriting was on the wall for his future with the club. In nine seasons with the Raiders, the four-time Pro Bowler produced 35,222 passing yards on a 64.6 completion percentage with 217 touchdowns and 99 interceptions, and owned a 63-79 regular-season record at the helm.
2023 portends to be the ideal fresh start for Carr, who explained his fire getting "a little hotter on the inside" after his years in Las Vegas. The soon-to-be 32-year-old expressed his anxiousness to get things underway during his first official day as a Saint, but was well aware of his duty as a veteran QB coming aboard a close-knit team forged by its current leaders.
"I'm not coming in here to try to take anything over," he said. "I'm going to be me and I'm going to call out what I want to call out. I'm going to encourage what I think should be encouraged, but I'm here to do this with Cam (Jordan), DeMario (Davis), Tyrann (Mathieu), Taysom (Hill), Alvin (Kamara) and Mike (Thomas).
"If we want to go far, we have to go together. It's not just because Derek shows up that we are going to do anything special. It's because we all decided as a collective unit to go in one direction and do it the same way. That starts in OTAs in April and getting everybody here and getting to work if we want to do what we want to do."