UPDATE (11:05 a.m. ET): We’ll surely write more words once this is finalized, but for now know that following the Matt Flynn trade, the Raiders are reportedly working on the final details of the Palmer deal.
We begin this Monday morning following a long holiday weekend highlighted by far too much ham and chocolate (often at the same time, on the same plate…what?) the same way we’ve started so many mornings recently: that’s right, it’s Carson Palmer trade speculation time again.
But first, let’s pause for some quick quarterback reflection, for they are the dominant species.
During said weekend, quarterbacks did much shifting and milling about. If you weren’t celebrating a holiday Friday already, you were preparing for the glory of quitting time hour late that night when the Dallas Cowboys signed Tony Romo to a six-year contract extension that will keep him deep in the heart of Texas until he’s 39. Because hating Romo is a hobby and a rite of passage in America during the fall, there was much bemoaning over his new contract, a deal that made him the highest paid player in Cowboys history even though he’s the worst choker in the history of time, or something. Sure, Romo did throw a career high 19 interceptions this past season, but a good chunk of those came during two especially horrific games (five in Week 4, and four in Week 8). Excluding those two, he threw 10 interceptions over the Cowboys’ 14 other games.
In some sense, Romo was penalized for those outlying nightmare weeks. His extension totals $108 million, meaning he’ll average $18 million per season in base salary, which is $3 million less than Joe Flacco. In quarterback dollars, $3 million is a lot. Then in another more important sense, the contracts aren’t even at all after Romo was given $55 million in guaranteed money (Flacco was given $52 million). Based on expected future gains — which is what every contract should be based on — that number should be a little more even, and that gap should be a little more narrow because of Romo’s age (he’ll turn 33 before next season). But don’t hate this player, hate the market, and then hate on this specific little quagmire.
A quickly escalating quarterback market meant that at minimum, Romo’s guaranteed money had to approach the market set by Flacco. Then when Romo used the leverage given to him by the fact that he couldn’t be franchised next year, that price escalated further. Romo did what any intelligent player does in a league where contracts are at best only partially guaranteed: he leveraged every possible dollar. Don’t hate him for getting paid.
Back to Palmer. It’ll be interesting to juxtapose Romo’s situation with the path walked by Palmer in the coming days (hours?), and possibly also Matt Flynn, who could quickly become Palmer’s replacement in Oakland through a trade. In his Monday morning quarterback manifesto, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King wrote that a Palmer-to-Arizona deal now feels inevitable. Sure, Peter, we can all agree on that.
What’s difficult to agree on is the possible compensation King also floats out. Consider him a highly sourced spitballer here, but King thinks that something in the vicinity of a fourth- or fifth-round pick is highly possible. That’s a touch pricey for a 33-year-old quarterback who lacks any sense of mobility, and while he has a deep arm, he doesn’t necessarily have a strong arm. Yes, there’s a difference. He can air it out efficiently, and he’d be able to allow Larry Fitzgerald to make plays, just as Palmer did with Oakland’s speedy wide receivers. But does he have the required velocity to execute precision passes on, say, curl or out routes beyond the hash marks? No, not often.
That’s a secondary concern for the Cardinals if they continue an aggressive pursuit. What they need from Palmer is something the Bills won’t get from Kevin Kolb in the other major quarterback transaction over the weekend. They need him to be Matt Hasselbeck.
Whereas Kolb is only a slight upgrade over Ryan Fitzpatrick — albeit much cheaper, and with his youth he at least has a shred of potential behind a competent offensive line — there’s much less optimism around him to be a sufficient bridge to a future quarterback in the same way that Hasselbeck was to Jake Locker in 2011, when the Titans went 9-7 and nearly made the playoffs. Palmer will get pummeled behind that same horrendous O-line that destroyed Kolb in Arizona, but at least with him there’s hope that a veteran pocket sense is there.
Hope. That’s what Arizona has been reduced to at the quarterback position.