Earlier today, sources told ESPN’s Chris Mortensen that former USC Trojans and current Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer will ask his team to trade him or consider retirement if the team does not grant his wish.
Since being selected with the number one overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft, Palmer has had a rocky tenure as the signal caller in Cincy. While he has put together some great statistical seasons, particularly in 2005 and 2006, he hasn’t produced much in the only stat that matters most–wins. The Bengals finished 4-12 this season and all parties involved–Palmer, the Bengals front office, and the fans–know it may be time for a change. That being said, to where should Palmer ask to be dealt?
Only several teams in the NFL absolutely need a new quarterback; by “need” I mean that the quarterbacks on these teams’ current rosters provide the franchise zero hope for future success. Here are those teams (in alphabetical order) and my thoughts on Palmer potentially going to each:
The Cardinals desperately need a quarterback. Last year, they used a platoon of Derek Anderson and Max Hall. Anderson is no longer capable of being a quality starter in the NFL and Hall is no longer on the roster. From a personnel standpoint, Palmer would have the opportunity to throw to a nice receiving corps led by the ridiculously talented Larry Fitzgerald and the speedy Steve Breaston.
On the flip side, the Cardinals are terrible on defense and at offensive line, and that does not bode well for an aging Palmer who should want to win now, not in a few seasons. Remember, Palmer is already 31 years old and is not athletically gifted enough to play deep into his 30s. The Cardinals defense was ranked 30th (out of 32) in points allowed per game at 27.1, which was not a far cry off from the Bengals’ 24.7 points allowed per game. Not only would Palmer go into a similar situation where he would be required to outscore all opponents, but he would do so while having defenders constantly in his grill. The Cardinals offensive line gave up 50 sacks last season, the second most in the NFL. If Palmer is smart he will reject any thought of going to Arizona.
Palmer should seriously consider going to Minny. The Vikings have a clear need for quarterback; you-know-who has retired, Joe Webb is probably a Wildcat formation quarterback at best, and the other QBs on the depth chart are players only diehard college football fans have heard of.
The Vikes are loaded on offense. Palmer has never played with a running back of the caliber of Adrian Peterson, and Peterson’s abilities will take a lot of pressure off of Palmer. On the outside, Palmer would throw to talented receivers Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin and big-time tight end Visanthe Shiancoe. The Vikings also have an above average offensive line.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Vikings are still solid and have the talent to win a lot of ball games.
San Francisco 49ers
I think the 49ers present the ideal opportunity for Palmer. San Francisco has just hired former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh and Harbaugh will certainly want a better quarterback than the ones from which he currently has to pick (Troy Smith, Alex Smith, and David Carr).
Furthermore, the 49ers have a very, very talented team that is an above-average quarterback away from winning the division and making some noise. Heck, they contended for the division crown after a terrible start and with Troy Smith at quarterback! The 49ers have a go-to receiver in Michael Crabtree, a speedy deep threat in Ted Ginn, and a game-changing tight end in Vernon Davis. They also have one of the top five running backs in the game in Frank Gore, which would allow Palmer to shoulder less of the offensive burden. The offensive line needs a small boost, but that could be taken care of in this year’s draft or through free agency.
On the other side of the ball, San Francisco is talented (21.6 points per game, only 96.7 rush yards allowed per game) and would benefit greatly from an offense that could get them the lead. Once ahead, I could see the Niners blitzing talented linebacker Patrick Willis more and forcing more turnovers in the secondary.
Nothing can rejuvenate your career more than reconnecting with your old college coach for some throwback magic, right? Just ask LenDale White Mike Williams. Obviously, Palmer could reunite with his former USC coach Pete Carroll in Seattle, but I don’t think that situation is best for either side.
Seattle needs a quarterback–Matt Hasselbeck, despite his playoff performances this season, is approaching the end of the line, and I am just not convinced that Charlie Whitehurst is “the one.” But is Palmer the answer? Probably not. A coach in clear rebuilding mode like Carroll probably does not want to pin his job to an aging veteran if he doesn’t have to.
The Titans are an interesting spot for Palmer to land, as well. Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher is a Trojan, so it makes sense off the bat. Furthermore, Tennessee has just parted with the failure that is Vince Young and probably doesn’t want any more time with the 38-year old Kerry Collins.
Chris Johnson is arguably the best running back in the game, which would allow Palmer lots of play-action opportunities and decrease the pressure in general. Outside the hash marks, Palmer would get to throw to young up-and-comer Kenny Britt, this year’s breakout player Nate Washington, and a disgruntled Randy Moss. The offensive line is actually decent. And the defense is competitive. The Titans are also a very well-run organization and Palmer would have the peace of mind knowing that the front office would take care of him and surround him with solid players.
Ultimately, where he goes will depend on what the offering team can draw up for the Bengals. But by threatening a trade or retirement, Palmer has given some leverage to offering teams. I doubt the Bengals want to lose their starting quarterback for absolutely nothing, so they may have to settle for a subpar deal.