What did the NFL learn from the result of Super Bowl LV?
That a good offensive line -- or even an average one -- is worth its weight in gold? That preventing explosive offensive plays is a strategy worth looking into?
Or should the prevailing takeaway be that if you're going to be the last team standing, you better have an exceedingly capable quarterback. Four of the best in football took the field in the AFC and NFC title games. In the last game of the year, the best to ever do it went up against the currently-most-talented.
How many quarterbacks out there are actually capable of winning one?
Of knocking off either Tom Brady or Patrick Mahomes in 2021 and beyond? Four? Five?
Whatever the number, one of them might be available this offseason:
Deshaun Watson. An argument could be made that he was the second or third best quarterback in the league in 2020. And if he plans on never again playing for the Texans, there are more than 25 teams in football who should be interested. He's that good.
Which brings us to the Raiders. They have a capable quarterback in Derek Carr. But is he capable enough? He's reportedly on the market if the Raiders can find themselves an upgrade. Should the Patriots be in the mix?
Let's take a look ...
FOLLOW THE MONEY
Carr will be 30 in March and is coming off one of his best seasons, but he plays for a coach in Jon Gruden who always seems to be looking for something better at the quarterback position.
If Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock were to part with Carr via trade, it would save the Raiders a nice chunk of cap space. They'd free up $19.6 million in a year when the cap is about to crater. The Raiders, as things currently stand, are projected to be right on the threshold of being over the cap when the new league year starts in March.
For any team that trades for Carr, they'd have to have enough in the way of cap space to absorb his $19.5 million base salary next season.
He'd count almost $20 million against the cap in 2022. For an above-average quarterback, those are bargain numbers. Of course that means it really would only make sense for the Raiders to deal Carr if they felt like they had a clear upgrade ready to take his place.
Watson would undoubtedly represent said upgrade, but for Carr to end up elsewhere dominos need to fall.
IS IT FEASIBLE?
Carr's style of play could work. He's not the modern-day prototype at the position in that he's not going to threaten defenses with his legs on a consistent basis. But he's accurate, and he's mobile enough to make a free rusher miss. Josh McDaniels could certainly work with Carr.
The cost could be an issue, though.
Matthew Stafford just went to the Rams for what looked like first and third-round picks. (The additional first that went to Detroit seemed to be payment for the Lions taking on Jared Goff's contract.) Carr may not have the same level of arm talent as Stafford, but he's three years younger and should command a similar compensation package.
That would be a lot for the Patriots, who are very much a team in need of draft picks and building block pieces who show up at their doorstep because of those draft picks.
CAN HE PLAY?
Yes, sir. Does he consistently find himself near the top of the list of the best in the game? No. But he's hovered in the top-10 range on multiple occasions, including 2020.
Last season, he ranked eighth in EPA per play and success rate. He was 10th in completion percentage over expected. And while typically a short thrower over the majority of his career, he was 11th in air yards per attempt last season. He was fifth in yards per attempt, ninth in completion percentage, 10th in rating and eighth in Pro Football Focus passing grade. No matter how you slice it, Carr was one of the 10 best at his position last year. And he's been durable, missing only two games in his seven pro seasons.
Is Carr good enough to win a Super Bowl? The situation around him would have to be close to perfect, which would be another reason why, for the Patriots, if it's going to cost a first-rounder and more, it's hard to envision Bill Belichick finding that kind of move being worth it.
WHAT WOULD IT LOOK LIKE TO BUILD AROUND HIM?
The plan we referenced when looking into Jimmy Garoppolo's fit with the Patriots would be relevant here. Both are similarly athletic. Both like to operate in the short area. Carr has been significantly more durable, but the 2014 draft classmates -- both second-rounders -- would need similar strengths accentuated in a given offense.
Investing in a tight end would make sense, particularly given Carr's success with the big-bodied Darren Waller in Vegas. Titans free agent Jonnu Smith isn't necessarily that type of player, though he'd be an upgrade there. Neither is Penn State's Pat Freiermuth, though it looks like he'd be an upgrade there. Drafting Florida's Kyle Pitts at No. 15 overall would be a match made in heaven. He looks like Waller 2.0. But he'd cost a first-round pick. And if the team's 2021 first-round pick goes to Vegas in a trade for Carr ... You can see how challenging it might be to make this thing work.
A slot receiver would make sense, too. Jakobi Meyers was productive on the inside last year for New England, but if Carr likes a quicker separator -- someone who might remind him of Raiders slot Hunter Renfroe -- then plucking a quicker-than-fast wideout to play the inside in the third or fourth rounds of the draft would seem to make sense. There are a number of intriguing prospects who could be in that range of the draft this year -- Clemson's Amari Rodgers, South Carolina's Shi Smith, South Dakota State's Cade Johnson, for example -- who could help Carr.
Securing the offensive line around a pocket passer like Carr would matter, too. Going with a guard or tackle or both in the draft could pay dividends. The choice there would come down to whether or not the Patriots would like for Mike Onwenu to settle at guard or tackle.
Whether or not Marcus Cannon is back would certainly also impact the equation there.
CHANCES IT HAPPENS
Seems unlikely. Not because Belichick and McDaniels couldn't make it work. But because a first-round pick and more for a team that doesn't seem particularly close to Super Bowl contention is a steep price to pay for a veteran quarterback, even one on a reasonable salary.
If the Patriots feel as though Alabama quarterback Mac Jones -- another accurate, short-throwing, not-exactly-fleet-of-foot passer -- could eventually provide them a similar skill set at a much lower salary, then they may feel as though using their first-round pick that way would make more sense.