Extra Points: Bengals Next Phase, Derek Carr Landing Spots and Replacements, More
The Super Bowl is in the books, and we’re on to the next thrilling phase of the NFL calendar year: the offseason. The NFL does it like no other sport when it comes to keeping fans entrenched in their product year-round. The start of free agency is just a month away, and teams like the Bengals, Raiders, and more have big questions to answer.
- Bengals must transition from rebuilding to sustaining.
- Where will Derek Carr land?
- Potential Derek Carr replacements not named Aaron Rodgers.
Have an opinion on these topics? Drop into the comments section and let me know what you think about this week’s subjects.
Bengals Next Phase
The Bengals are in an intriguing position, with Joe Burrow’s contract extension looming. Instead of resting on the laurels of back-to-back AFC Championship games, Cincinnati has to enter the next phase. The Bengals have to figure out how to go from rebuilding to sustaining.
We’ve already seen Tee Higgins mentioned as a potential trade piece by outsiders. We heard Ja’Marr Chase talk about Burrow’s extension last week at the Super Bowl. The impact of Burrow’s extension is no secret.
The Bengals enter next month’s free agency with the sixth-most salary cap space in the NFL. However, Cincinnati must revert to its draft-develop-retain philosophy that pre-dated Zac Taylor’s arrival. The Bengals have their star players on the roster. Now they have to retain and supplement through the draft and waivers.
“The last couple of years we’ve been able to add in free agency and add some pieces places where we were missing guys and add some depth, add starters through free agency,” director of pro scouting Steven Radicevic said in an interview with The Athletic recently. “Now it’s going to be keeping our guys, sustain the roster we have and then build through the draft and waiver claims.”
Mike Potts, the point man on the college side under director of player personnel Duke Tobin, knows what a shift from build to sustain means as much as anyone.
“It’s more just the cap situation in terms of maybe we can’t go out and afford those high-dollar free agents or as many of those as we would have if there wasn’t going to be certain players that will eat up a good chunk of the cap,” said Mike Potts, director of college scouting. “That puts an emphasis on retaining our own guys and keeping that chemistry in the locker room going. You are going to have to make some tough decisions here and there.”
Drafting is something this Bengals regime has done pretty well. In 2019 they drafted Joe Burrow, Tee Higgins, and Logan Wilson. Cincinnati added Ja’Marr Chase, Joseph Ossai, Evan McPherson, and Cam Sample in 2021. Last year Cincinnati drafted Cam Taylor-Britt, Cordell Volson, and Daxton Hill.
All but Hill were vital contributors for the last two AFC title game appearances. Hill will take over for Jessie Bates III this offseason. That’s the type of immediate replacement for players that are becoming too expensive that will make or break the Bengals moving forward.
This will be an interesting offseason in Cincinnati.
Derek Carr Landing Spots
Derek Carr is officially an ex-Raider after his release on Tuesday. The veteran quarterback is now a free agent and has a one-month head start on the rest of the quarterback class.
Carr is already on the Saints’ radar despite refusing a trade to New Orleans. Carr has a history with New Orleans head coach Dennis Allen. Allen helped draft Carr in Oakland and made him an immediate starter with the Raiders.
The rest of the NFC South is quarterback-needy. I would pencil in the Carolina Panthers as an early favorite to land Carr’s services.
According to Spotrac, as of early January, the Panthers were $1.8 million under the 2023 salary cap, the 12th-worst situation in the NFL. That figure includes $28.6 million in dead cap and $10.3 million in rollover space. It’s based on an estimated $225 million NFL salary cap in 2023.
Carolina can create cap space by cutting players like Shaq Thompson ($13.2 million in savings), Pat Elflein ($4.8 million), and Damien Wilson ($3.6 million). In addition, P.J. Walker is a free agent, and Sam Darnold is a competent backup at this point in his career.
With Carolina at No. 9 in the first round in April, it would take a considerable trade to get one of the three big names in the draft (Young, Stroud, and Levis). Even if Carolina took a chance on Anthony Richardson at No. 9, he’s not ready to start anytime soon, making Carr a perfect bridge.
The Jets are another team that I would consider a potential landing spot for Carr. If Zach Wilson is sticking around, Carr coming in to compete with Wilson for the starting job makes sense. Carr provides the Jets with a win-now answer under center.
Potential Carr Replacements in Las Vegas
Yeah, we’ve heard the Aaron Rodgers noise. We know he bought a house in Summerlin with pal Davante Adams. But let’s expand beyond Rodgers for a minute while he spends time soul-searching in the darkness.
Jimmy Garoppolo is a free agent, and he’s a veteran quarterback with winning experience that head coach Josh McDaniels is comfortable with. He’s also a much cheaper option than Rodgers. This can’t be overlooked enough for a cash-strapped team with multiple needs to fill this offseason.
Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio also floated the idea that Mac Jones could be an option on 670 The Score on Wednesday.
“What about Mac Jones? You know, Bill Belichick was asked after the season if Mac Jones was the starter next year, and what Belichick said was, “he’s proven he can play in this league,” not yes. So, maybe a phone call gets made.”
I can see that as a possibility. Florio also named Baker Mayfield — whom McDaniels worked out ahead of the draft in New England — Jarrett Stidham and Jacoby Brissett as possible options.
Florio said that he believes McDaniels will prefer a quarterback who knows “the Patriot way” over a prominent figure like Aaron Rodgers. Which I tend to agree with.