Derek Carr finally realized what everyone else knew

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METAIRIE – Derek Carr was introduced as the newest New Orleans Saint on Saturday afternoon.

By the end of a nearly one-hour news conference Carr was no longer a newcomer. It even seemed as though he was destined to be in New Orleans.

It just took him a while to figure out what so many around him knew instinctively – that the former Raiders quarterback was going to be the Saints newest quarterback.

Carr, who turns 32 later this month, sat at a dais next to Saints head coach Dennis Allen, who had drafted Carr in the first round in 2014, when Allen was head coach of the Raiders and Las Vegas’ franchise, which benched Carr late last season and terminated his contract last month, was based in Oakland.

Seated in the front row of the audience next to Saints owner Gayle Benson were Carr’s wife, Heather, and the couple’s four young children.

Carr said Heather knew New Orleans would be their new home even before the quarterback did. She kept quiet while allowing her husband to do his due diligence before settling on New Orleans.

When he finally came around and gave her the news that he had made up his mind earlier in the week, she smiled broadly after having been enamored by Benson during the month-long recruitment.

Before he talked about football Carr turned to Benson and said, “as soon as we met you it was like we met family. It’s like we already knew you.”

When Allen introduced Carr at the outset of the news conference he quipped that he wanted to assure Saints fans that their new quarterback is “quicker at making decisions on the field than he is at making them off the field.”

When the Raiders gave Carr permission to talk to other teams in search of a trade, the Saints jumped to the front of the line.

Allen said the Saints wanted to demonstrate to Carr that he was “clearly our number one option.”

But the organization didn’t “try to sell ourselves to him, per se,” Allen said.

“We told him the truth about how we felt about him and how the organization operates,” Allen said. “It’s easy to sell the truth.”

The truth was that the Saints’ biggest offseason priority was acquiring a quarterback capable of significantly elevating their play from the 7-10 record of last season and Carr realistically was the best such candidate that they could acquire.

“They came out first and even tried to trade for me,” Carr said. “That feeling of being wanted that much is nice.”

While in New Orleans, Carr and his family went to eat at Chipotle “because we didn’t know anything,” the quarterback said.

“We almost couldn’t get out,” Carr said of the sea of well-wishers and picture-takers they encountered. “There was so much love in that building.”

After the visit the Carr family went on vacation to Mexico. Derek texted Drew Brees, the quarterback he’s replacing in a practical sense though not a chronological sense.

When Brees called back, Carr peppered him with questions about the organization, the community, general manager Mickey Loomis, offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael and perhaps even whether there were restaurants more indigenous to New Orleans than Chipotle.

Speaking of quarterbacks, New Orleans native and Pro Football Hall of Famer Peyton Manning called Carr, who asked for the phone number for Payton father’s, Archie, New Orleans’ quarterback emeritus.

Before Carr could dial the number, the elder Manning already had texted Carr offering to help in any way he could.

Even former All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas, whose own future in New Orleans is uncertain after three injury-plagued seasons and a contract restructuring that makes it financially viable for the Saints to release him, joined the recruitment.

The quarterback and wide receiver spoke on the phone at length and after hanging up Carr told Heather that he was fired up and ready to get to work with Thomas.

Carr’s contract with the Raiders gave him the power to veto any trade and the Saints were the only team to talk trade with Las Vegas.

As the deadline for the Raiders to release Carr or be on the hook for $40-million-plus next season for a quarterback they no longer wanted, no other suitors had emerged.

Carr said he considered waiving the no-trade clause and accepting a potential deal with New Orleans before deciding it would be wise to wait for the Raiders to terminate his contract and explore all options.

Once Carr became a free agent, the Jets and Panthers joined the competition for his services and he hinted that a couple of other intriguing possibilities emerged.

Carr said he was deliberate in making a decision because he wanted to make sure that when he sat in a setting such as Saturday’s “no part of my heart was somewhere else.”

“I wanted to find a place to call home,” he added.

A few days ago he realized what everyone else already suspected.

He called his agent, Tim Younger, and told him, “I’m a Saint. Let’s do it.”

“There ya’ go,” Carr recalled Younger responding, suggesting that the agent too “was rooting” for the quarterback to choose the Saints.

So Younger and Loomis finalized the contract.

Carr, who received on ovation Saturday night when he and his family were introduced to the crowd during the Pelicans game against Oklahoma City in the Smoothie King Center, summed up everything the Saints had to offer.

“How do you not come here?” he said.

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Les East

CCS/106.1 FM/Daily Iberian

Les East is a nationally renowned freelance journalist. The New Orleans area native’s blog on SportsNOLA.com was named “Best Sports Blog” in 2016 by the Press Club of New Orleans. For 2013 he was named top sports columnist in the United States by the Society of Professional Journalists. He has since become a valued contributor for CCS. The Jesuit High…

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