Carson Palmer and Raiders at contract standoff, Oakland likely to cut the QB

Streeter Lecka

He could be a very intriguing option for the Cardinals should he hit the market.

Hot rumors have surfaced multiple times over the past month concerning Carson Palmer's supposed availability. Today, another hot report that Palmer was not going to take a pay cut to stay with the Raiders, so naturally, everyone thinks he is going to be cut outright. Let's look at the facts as we know them, shall we?

Palmer's salary cap number for the 2013 season is $15.335 million. If the Raiders released him the cap "hit" drops to $9.34 million. The cap savings would be $5.995 million. While Palmer would still count $9-plus million against Oakland's 2013 cap, there would be no "dead money" remaining for future years. However, remember that Palmer restructured (i.e., gave up significant dollars last year to be spread over the remaining years of his Oakland contract) last year to help the team. He has every right, in my opinion, to demand that the Raiders keep their part of last year's bargain by paying him this year. However, the reality is that the Raiders, like the Cardinals and other teams, have little wiggle room under this year's salary cap. Good players are going begging right now. Reality is a witch. So, the question is: which path is the least painful for the Raiders? Keep Palmer and his $13 million contract, play him and put Terrelle Pryor's development on hold another year? Or, take the shot to the ‘nads this year, draft Geno Smith, and let him and Pryor compete for the starting spot?

Many league observers are saying that Oakland cuts Palmer. So, where does Palmer go and/or do then? Is Palmer mentally and physically done? He can retire and not worry about 300-lb defensive ends trying to murder him every Sunday. Or, he can continue to play. He looks physically capable, still. And, there is plenty of interest, judging by what "league sources" and "NFL insiders" are publishing. The Cardinals seem to be on the tips of everyone's tongue. The Jets, Browns, Bills, and Jacksonville have all been mentioned as possible landing spots. But, Palmer is known to want to stay on the West Coast. So this knowledge puts Palmer squarely in the Cardinals' sights.

But there is a small roadblock. The Cardinals already have a starting QB. Isn't that what new Head Coach Bruce Arians has been implying ever since they signed Drew Stanton? The amount of "bromance" being tossed around Stanton at Cards HQ is getting to the sickening, gag me level. Stanton has guaranteed money in his deal. He's not going anywhere. Brian Hoyer, the putative number two, has a $2 million salary that is not guaranteed. John Skelton and Ryan Lindley are slipping farther into irrelevance, if that is possible. The Cardinals aren't going to keep more than three QBs on the final roster, so something, and someone, has to give.

How does Carson Palmer fit into THIS situation? Did Arians give any assurances to Stanton that he was/is "The Man?" Did Stanton assume that, because of the way Arians and Steve Keim, the GM, talked, that the QB situation was static upon his arrival? That, IF they drafted a rookie QB in the later rounds of the 2013 Draft, he would not be a threat to start this season? If ANY of this was said or implied, then Drew Stanton has a legitimate gripe, a definite bone to pick with management. He has spent all of his pro career getting bumped off the starter's spot by hot rookie QBs (first by Matt Stafford in Detroit, then by Tim Tebow in NY [not a rookie, but ‘hot', you know what I mean], then by Andrew Luck in Indianapolis. So, if Stanton is suffering from déjà vu all over again, he has a right to be gulping an entire box of Dramamine right about now.

And, if Palmer is released and is subsequently signed by the Cardinals, do the Cardinals even draft a QB at all? Why would they need to? Palmer is demonstrably better than every quarterback in this draft class, and arguably better than any QB on the Cardinals' roster. Although Palmer is so immobile at age 33 that he requires strong pass protection -- not something the Cardinals possesses currently, unless you are drinking the current flavor of Kool-Aid being passed around by the new coaching staff -- he still throws the football well enough downfield to fit Bruce Arians' vertical passing scheme. And wouldn't Larry Fitzgerald be just dying to catch an accurate, well-thrown deep ball for once in his life in the last three seasons? Palmer is a middle-of-the-road quarterback at this stage of his career, but he'd be a titanic upgrade over last year's Skelton-Kolb-Lindley cluster-you-know-what. "Titanic upgrade" has not been mentioned in the same breath regarding Stanton's signing with the Cardinals.

However, I don't think that the Raiders will release Palmer before the NFL Draft. Reggie McKenzie, the GM, has no deadlines to meet. There's no bonus due, and no rush to do anything. And, why should he help out any other team in the NFL? The Raiders can't trade his bloated contract. There is simply no reason to do anything until at least after the draft. Unless they want to be nice to Palmer. But why should the Raiders start now?

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