Arizona Cardinals starting quarterback Carson Palmer is 35 years old. He will turn 36 at the end of the coming season. Many consider him old and near the end of his career. But don't call Palmer old. He doesn't plan on retiring yet.
Speaking to the media on Wednesday, he said he doesn't like to use the word 'old.'
"You can use it when you talk about coaches," he said. "I'm in my mid-to-early thirties, and in quarterback years, that's middle of the road in my book."
We see quality quarterbacks play well into their late 30s and early 40s. Peyton Manning is 39. Tom Brady is 38. Kurt Warner retired when he was 38. Brett Favre was 41 in his last season. Now Palmer isn't on the same level as these future Hall of Famers, but he also is one of the more talented signal callers in the league. He is also a guy who loves football. He loves practice and he loves the details of the game.
In terms of contract and salary cap, he is all but guaranteed to be the Cardinals starter through 2016. After restructuring his contract this year, he will count over $17 million against the cap in 2016 if he stays and, if cut, he would still count more than $13 million. His contract runs an additional season after that.
The Cardinals have not shied away from the notion they want to find their quarterback of the future. But what if Palmer plays at a high level, or at least a better than average level over the next two seasons and the Cardinals make the postseason or are right in the mix each year? They would not be in a position to take a top QB talent in the draft. Would they cut him to move on, even after playing well? After all, it is rare that you see a quarterback who can still play and lead a contending team hit he open market. Will Arizona be forced to move on while Palmer can still play or will they keep him until he retires?
Palmer said he is "definitely not going to play for 10 years." But even if he wants to and can play for even a year or two past next season, the Cardinals might either be making a tough decision or be prepared to go through another post-Kurt Warner transition, which wasn't all that fun.
But if the Cardinals can compete in the meantime, at least it isn't something to worry too much about. Winning in the present is more important than worrying about three years from now.