Carson Palmer era mercifully ends in Oakland
Fresh off acquiring Matt Flynn, the Oakland Raiders dealt Carson Palmer to Arizona for a conditional seventh-rounder on Tuesday, putting the finishing touch on what stands as one of the most lopsided NFL trades in recent memory.
That 2011 move, which brought Palmer to a Raiders team that was in the thick of an AFC West race, wound up costing Oakland a 2012 first-round draft pick and 2013 second-rounder. The Raiders’ haul in return: an 8-16 record in games Palmer started, a missed shot at an AFC West title in ’12, a financial hit that will cost them through this season and, thanks to Arizona, that late pick.
So, in other words, it didn’t quite work out for Oakland.
The Raiders were 4-2 in 2011 when, after Jason Campbell suffered a season-ending injury, they completed a trade with Cincinnati for Palmer. After a shaky first two outings, Palmer and the Raiders hit a bit of a groove, running off three straight wins to get to 7-4.
The playoffs and a division title became real possibilities; the high price tag Oakland paid in the Palmer trade suddenly felt less cumbersome.
But it was all downhill from there. The Raiders finished that year by losing four of five games to cede the AFC West to Denver. Changes to the coaching staff and at GM coupled with a roster in flux then left the Raiders flailing last season — Palmer managed to throw for 4,000 yards, but the team plummeted to a 4-12 mark.
With Palmer due $13 million this coming season and another $15 million in 2014, Oakland had no choice but to go back to the drawing board.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, are hoping to pick up some of the pieces of Palmer’s career. They recently signed free-agent quarterback Drew Stanton, who looked as if he might get first crack at the starting QB job under new Arizona head coach Bruce Arians.
Instead, it appears that Stanton again will be relegated to a backup role behind Palmer, possibly with a rookie QB still to join the mix. Palmer has 121 career starts to Stanton’s four and, though he may not be an ideal fit for Arians’ offense behind a sieve-like offensive line, he should enter camp as the clear No. 1. On Monday, Peter King made the case that Palmer could find more success in Arizona than he did in Oakland.
It’s still a shift that is a bit hard to understand, especially as Arizona prepares to pay out a reported $8 million to Palmer in 2013. The Cardinals clearly have a multi-year rebuilding project ahead of them, especially with San Francisco and Seattle again leading Super Bowl contenders.
Where does a 33-year-old Palmer fit?
As with running back Rashard Mendenhall, the answer could be as a bridge-the-gap type of player. Arizona may not be convinced that Stanton nor any of the remaining free-agent QBs are long-term answers, so Palmer’s job now might be to hold down the fort for a year until a better solution comes along.
The expectations for Palmer in the desert certainly will pale in comparison to what Oakland asked of him. But there’s also no way that a Palmer-to-Arizona trade can backfire quite as spectacularly as that Raiders move did.