Oakland Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer hinted earlier last week that his days donning the black and silver are numbered, but how long will he last in free agency?
After refusing to take a modest pay cut from the Raiders, a team that was ready to offer the two-time pro bowler $10 million as opposed to $13 in 2013, Palmer is actively seeking employment elsewhere. He also expressed no interest in further negotiations with Oakland, making it safe to say he is on his way out.
Though Palmer’s brief stint with the Raiders never fully took off (he went 8-16 in one and a half seasons) he still proved he could sling the rock. Palmer eclipsed the 4,000-yard passing mark in his first full season with Oakland in 2012, a feat he hadn’t accomplished since 2007 with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Palmer benefited from soft defenses in the AFC West, a receiver-friendly running back core in Marcel Reece and Darren McFadden and a porous Oakland defense that lent itself to offensive shootouts. As a result, Palmer strung together six 300-plus yard-passing games. He also threw for a total 565 attempts in 15 games, good for eighth most among quarterbacks.
Despite that, there are several factors that could deter Palmer from being a viable competitor in 2013. For one, he’s 33 years old. So his best years are clearly behind him. And with more teams opting to go with younger quarterbacks, Palmer isn’t likely to be in the long-term plans of most franchises. Two, he is due a whooping $13 million next season, making trades nearly impossible without reworking his contract. Lastly, there are only two teams reportedly interested in him, those being the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals.
When it comes to San Francisco, Palmer would be an almost certain backup behind tremendously talented Colin Kaepernick. In Arizona, a team with one of the worst collection of quarterbacks maybe ever, Palmer would have a good chance at starting.
Situation with Arizona
Poor quarterback play combined with an unstable backfield shuffled a once potent Arizona offense to dead last in 2012. The Cardinals ranked 32nd in yards per game with 263, the next worst being the San Diego Chargers at 297. Palmer’s experience and ball skills alone would be an instant upgrade at the QB position for the Cards.
Judging by team’s running back situation, Palmer wouldn’t have much help as of right now. The Cardinals signed former Steelers Rashad Mendenhall in the offseason, but he isn’t a reliable passing option and lacks the consistency to build an offense around him entirely.
The biggest upside to playing in Arizona is its receiving core. Wideout Larry Fitzgerald is still one of the league’s best and regularly piles up 1,000 yard seasons with even half-decent quarterbacks throwing to him. Andre Roberts emerged as the team’s primary No. 2 man in 2012, catching a career-high 64 passes on 113 targets for 759 yards and five touchdowns. Young-gun Michael Floyd also put together a solid rookie campaign, catching for 562 yards on 45 receptions.
Things working against him
Though the Cardinals have expressed interest in Palmer, current coach Bruce Arians voiced strong support for Drew Stanton, who played under Arians with the Colts last season and knows the now current Arizona head coach’s system. Though he hasn’t seen a regular season snap since 2010, Stanton is currently the frontrunner to start in 2013 and shows the Cardinals aren’t desperate enough to take any offer for Palmer.
Palmer’s gigantic contract, mentioned earlier, would likely mean the Cardinals would have to fork over conditional draft picks to pull off any type of trade, something they may not be willing to do.
Another downside would be the Cardinals schedule in the now daunting NFC West. Playing in a division with two of the league’s top-ranked defenses in Seattle and San Francisco, Palmer will find it much tougher to throw for the kind of yards he did last season in the weaker AFC West. The St. Louis Rams were an underrated defense last year as well, ranking 14th overall.
While there are obstacles to Palmer landing in Arizona, his fantasy value would upgrade to a high-end No. 2 quarterback due to the Cards wide receiver talent. But with and a tougher schedule in a now strong division, no safety valve at running back, and no better team interested in him, Palmer isn’t a sure-fire fantasy starter in 2013 even if he lands in Arizona.