Derek Carr has begun his early free agent tour after departing the Raiders, logging visits with the Jets and Saints ahead of the official start of the 2023 NFL offseason. Could the Panthers be next to court the veteran quarterback? Frank Reich, Carolina's new head coach, didn't rule out the possibility while addressing reporters Tuesday.
"You know, interesting question," Reich said when asked if the Panthers intend to host Carr as a free agent. "You know, we're really literally sitting down with the guys today, (our) first staff meeting will be tomorrow, but I've kind of met with guys individually, saying, step one, let's evaluate our roster. So we're really just starting that process. Step two (is to) evaluate the free agents. ... Step three, now going to the college guys. ... (I'm) really not ready to address the specifics of that, because we're really just beginning."
In other words, don't count the Panthers out of the Carr sweepstakes, especially with Carr's brother, David, revealing this week the QB intends for his free agency tour to be a "long process."
Reich admitted in his introductory press conference that QB is a top priority for the Panthers this offseason. Carolina holds the No. 9 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, so it's possible the team could target a signal-caller there, or in a trade up. Carr, meanwhile, is one of the top veterans available, coming off nine seasons as the Raiders' starter.
Reich's tenure as the Colts' head coach (2018-2022), in which he had five different Opening Day starters, would seem to suggest a longer-term option will be his preference under center. But Carr, 31, has stayed relatively healthy for the duration of his career, logging his fourth Pro Bowl nod despite a middling performance under new Raiders coach Josh McDaniels in 2022. He'd still seemingly represent a clear upgrade over Carolina's 2021 QB trio of Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield and P.J. Walker.
Reich also said Tuesday he'll open 2023 as the Panthers' play-caller, but intends to pass off those duties "down the road." He identified offensive coordinator Thomas Brown, formerly of the Rams, as the natural successor.