Prior to Week 17, the Las Vegas Raiders made the decision to bench quarterback Derek Carr for Jarrett Stidham. The decision was just as much about the future as it was the present, as it signaled that the franchise was set to move on from their longtime quarterback this offseason.

Carr stepped away from the team for the final two weeks of the regular season, and he is now set to step away from the Raiders for good. On Thursday, NFL Media reported that the Raiders will begin the process of evaluating the trade market for Carr. Not long after, the quarterback posted his official goodbye to the Raiders franchise on Twitter, and also said that he plans on continuing his pursuit of a Lombardi Trophy. 

A three-time Pro Bowler who has thrown for 3,522 yards, 24 touchdowns and 14 interceptions this year, Carr had started started 91 consecutive games for the Raiders, the longest active streak by any QB in the NFL. The veteran just this offseason signed a three-year, $121.5 million extension tying him to Las Vegas through 2025, and was a catalyst for the team's blockbuster acquisition of wide receiver Davante Adams.

But while Carr has been at least an average starter for much of his career, often drawing high marks for his leadership amid multiple regime changes, he's also logged just a single playoff appearance in almost a decade in silver and black.

Despite his lucrative new deal, Carr, 31, can be released or traded after the season without hardly any financial penalty, instantly saving the Raiders approximately $30M. However, any move needs to be done by Feb. 15; that's when his $40.4 million in salary over the next two seasons becomes guaranteed. If a trade is not reached by that deadline, the Raiders will release Carr, per The Athletic.

With the Raiders set to explore an upgrade, with current Buccaneers QB and longtime Josh McDaniels partner Tom Brady among the splashiest possibilities, where might Carr end up in 2023? Keeping in mind that the veteran has a no-trade clause that could allow him to control his fate, here's an early rundown of logical suitors:

Long shots

You'd think Indy will pivot from its unceasing commitment to veteran retreads after this year's Matt Ryan flop, but can we really put this one past Jim Irsay, especially if a new coach convinces himself Carr can be rejuvenated in fresh scenery? He's at least a half-decade younger than Ryan, and would conceivably welcome a shot to play with Jonathan Taylor, Michael Pittman Jr. and a solid defense. They've got the cap space to make it work.

Giants fans buying into Daniel Jones' future won't like this, and truth be told, Jones at 25 may well be the better bet for a transitioning New York roster. But Brian Daboll's squad is already on the verge of playoff contention, and Carr, plus other more proven additions, might be enticing considering how much cap space ($59M) they have at their disposal.

No one is quite sure what to make of Mac Jones, who wouldn't have to be dumped even if Carr were acquired, but Bill Belichick is surely getting a little impatient when it comes to getting proven QB production post-Tom Brady. New England has plenty of cash (projected $55M in 2023 cap space) to make this work, and the team already has a major connection to McDaniels, who might be willing to work with his old friends if, for example, Brady is coming his way anyway. 

Both Andy Dalton and Jameis Winston figure to be playing elsewhere in 2023, and while their cap situation is always a mess, they don't exactly have the ammo to easily grab a top QB prospect in the draft, having traded away their first-rounder. Coach Dennis Allen, meanwhile, knows Carr from his time as Raiders coach, leading the team in 2014 when Carr was drafted. Should Allen depart, of course, that connection would vanish.

Carr may or may not be an upgrade on Geno Smith, whose career resurgence but recent slide will leave them in a unique position ahead of the 2023 draft. Seattle feels more likely to invest in a young QB with one of its top picks, but with a lot of cap space, maybe they double-dip at the position, as they did years ago when first adding Russell Wilson.

Top contenders

Tom Brady seems bound to be elsewhere in 2023, either via retirement or free agency. And coach Todd Bowles may or may not be safe, meaning they could be looking at quite a clean slate. But with so many veteran weapons, from Leonard Fournette to Mike Evans to the defense, team brass will surely be more interested in a quick fix. Carr, meanwhile, would theoretically get a cleaner path to the postseason in the NFC South.

Ron Rivera can insist they need a long-term answer at QB all he wants, but few teams are perpetually hunting for mid-tier veterans like Washington. They'll have plenty of financial flexibility if/when they cut or trade Carson Wentz, and assuming Rivera sticks around with his staff, Carr has ties to Jack Del Rio, the second-hand man; Del Rio was the Raiders' coach during Carr's 2015-2016 breakout, when the QB led a 12-3 start before going down with an injury.

They aren't necessarily flush with excess cap space, but few GMs will probably be more motivated to add a proven name under center than Joe Douglas. The Jets have hung in the AFC playoff picture this year almost entirely in spite of their QB play, with Zach Wilson now on the bench indefinitely. The roster is pretty much ready to go on every other front, which is why Carr himself would likely also relish the opportunity to swap colors in the conference.

Consider them dark-horse favorites, not because their lineup screams playoff material, which should matter to Carr at this point in his career, but because of the family connection: Derek's brother, David, was the franchise's first draft pick and QB, and Derek has said publicly he wished the Texans had drafted him coming out of Fresno State. It's also possible they'll be starting fresh at head coach again, perhaps giving Carr an opportunity to team up with a fresh offensive mind in a division that tends to be more winnable than most.

Is Carr clearly better than Ryan Tannehill? Maybe not. But he is younger and, at least as of this year, more durable. Perhaps most importantly, he'd be less expensive; Tannehill is owed $38M in 2023, but Tennessee can save upwards of $27M by cutting or trading him. Acquiring him also wouldn't prohibit Malik Willis or another younger QB from growing into the starting role down the road.