Carson Palmer has gone where the losing is. With the exception of a few seasons in Cincinnati that weren’t totally depressing and worse than eating brussel sprouts covered in maple syrup, winning football games — and especially meaningful games in January — has been a foreign concept to him. He’s appeared in 124 career games, and only two of them have occurred during the playoffs, both losses.
So he’s now come to a startling conclusion, and I’ll need you to sit down for this: winning playoff games isn’t a thing that’s going to happen much in Oakland.
Very few good football things happen in Oakland, which is why when the Raiders asked our boy Palmer to take a pay cut that amounted to a pittance of $3 million, he said nah, I’m good. He did that knowing such a move would likely result in his release or a trade, since paying him $13 million next year isn’t something a competent team does, which is the status new-ish Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie is shooting for. Palmer wants to win, and he doesn’t even particularly care if he does it as a backup.
That’s what we learned from Yahoo’s Michael Silver, who wrote a thorough investigation of the pending Palmer-Raiders demise. Finances aren’t the motivating driver behind the remainder of Palmer’s career, as Silver writes that according to three sources, Palmer’s desire to play elsewhere is “based on a sense that Oakland’s prospects for success in 2013 are so bleak that money is no longer the predominant factor in his thought process”.
Sure, makes sense. After all, the Raiders will remain in their perpetual rebuilding phase after Philip Wheeler, Tommy Kelly, and Michael Huff departed as free agents, and Darrius Heyward-Bey will soon follow along with Richard Seymour. Both Palmer’s contract and what he cost through a trade with the Bengals (a first round-pick that the Bengals turned into Dre Kirkpatrick, and a second-round pick this year) combine to form a looming albatross that’s handcuffed the franchise. The Raiders need to start over, and Palmer does too. Everyone wins, or loses. Whatever.
So now we can go about the business of speculating, which is what we do best around here. Where will Palmer play football next year once he’s inevitably cut or traded (the latter is highly unlikely)? Silver floated the most obvious suggestion that we’re all thinking and hoping for: Arizona. Larry Fitzgerald is smiling somewhere while climbing an iceberg.
Call Palmer a replacement-level quarterback if you must, or maybe slightly above. Fine, you’re not necessarily wrong. But such a quarterback hasn’t existed in Arizona since Kurt Warner was around. Kevin Kolb is gone now, and he certainly wasn’t that average sort of quarterback guy. John Skelton definitely isn’t either. Ditto for Ryan Lindley, and we don’t know about newly-signed Drew Stanton yet.
Stanton is indeed the wild card, especially after he worked with new Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians as Andrew Luck’s backup in Indianapolis. After being a second-round pick in 2007, Stanton’s attempted only 187 passes over three years, and he’s started just four games. Arians has called him a “very capable starter“.
Arians’ apparent bro love for Stanton could become an obstacle in Arizona, and so could Palmer’s desire to play for a championship-contending team even if it means being a backup. Thinking about the Cardinals as a contending team leads to much laughter, especially since they play in a division that includes the 49ers and Seahawks.
But for fantasy purposes, a guy can hope. Palmer may be a statue, and he may be the most crumbly quarterback around, but his arm still has game. This past season he completed 10 passes of 40 yards or more, which was only three fewer than Drew Brees. His high volume throwing on a team that did a lot of losing (something the Cardinals will likely do in 2013 too) led to a whole lot of yardage. Palmer finished with 4,018 passing yards, his highest total since 2007 during a season that featured five games with over 350 yards.
Those numbers and that arm would make Fitzgerald a joy-filled man. Fitzgerald didn’t score a touchdown over the last seven games in 2012, a stretch of woe that included six games with less than 35 yards. Worse — oh, so much worse — he also had four games with less than 15 yards. Who would you trust more to revive Fitz: Palmer, or a career backup with four starts?
The Raiders control Palmer’s fate for now, and where he does or doesn’t go. But if he’s released outright, Arizona remains a prime and likely landing spot, and Fitzgerald would be relevant again and plucked from the clutches of the Cardinals’ quarterback demons.