A first-round pick in 2012 and a conditional pick in 2013 that could become a first-rounder based on playing time and incentives? For Carson Palmer?
Put it on the board: Mike Brown just hit a grand slam, then came up in the same inning and hit another grand slam. If the conditional pick winds up being a first-rounder and Brown actually nets two starters with the selections he received for Palmer, then he would have hit for the cycle while doing a handstand and eating a hot dog all at the same time.
Palmer could go on to lead the Raiders to the Super Bowl and Mike Brown would still wind up being a winner in all of this. Palmer was never going to play for the Bengals again. He said as much while digging his heels into the ground and standing firm on his retirement threat this offseason. The Bengals would have been fortunate to have received a third-rounder for Palmer and gotten his salary off the books. Instead, they net a first-round pick and another selection that could turn into a first-rounder.
Granted, we don’t know all the details yet. That conditional first-rounder may only be if Palmer wins two Super Bowls in Oakland and winds up with a bust in the Hall of Fame. But to receive one first-round pick for him was a massive victory for Brown and the Bengals. Let’s not forget that this is the same Palmer whose arm strength and mobility appeared to be declining badly last season and who hasn’t played in a live game (preseason or otherwise) since January 2.
Before I get too swept up in the sticker price for Palmer, let me state that I understand why the Raiders made this move. Due to Jason Campbell’s season-ending injury, they’ve mortgaged their future for the chance to win now. They know that if Darren McFadden stays healthy they’ll remain competitive and it’s not as if Palmer doesn’t know the offense. He and coach Hue Jackson spent time together in Cincinnati, so it theoretically shouldn’t take long for him to get up to speed. Plus, with Campbell and Kyle Boller set to become free agents at the end of the year, Terrelle Pryor was the only quarterback on the roster signed past 2011. Eventually they needed to address the position and had a chance to trade for a franchise quarterback, so they took the risk with Palmer.
That said, I still wouldn’t have made this deal. Not in today’s NFL where building through the draft is still the answer to winning over the long haul. Ask the Packers and Steelers, who have made minimal free agent signings over the years while combining to win three Super Bowls in the last six seasons.
Plus, it’s not like Palmer is in his prime or has won anything of substance as a professional. I would use the term “franchise quarterback” loosely when it comes to describing his talents. When the Bears traded a first, a third, and Kyle Orton to the Broncos for Jay Cutler, the latter was just about to turn 26. The Bears mortgaged their future for a young signal caller who played a position they had trouble filling for over two decades. Palmer is 31 and has already showed signs of decline.
The best case scenario for Oakland is that Palmer just needs a change of scenery and will be motivated to prove he still has a couple of years left in the tank. Maybe he gets to Oakland and has a resurgence just like Rich Gannon did early last decade.
But that’s the best-case scenario. The worst-case is that Palmer’s game continues to deteriorate, the Raiders lose two high draft picks and wind up paying an aging quarterback nearly $30 million to be Pryor’s tutor. (Assuming Oakland still views Pryor as the future, that is.)
For Brown and the Bengals, there is no worst-case scenario. Palmer was done in Cincinnati and if Andy Dalton pans out, the Bengals have already filled their need at quarterback. For once, Brown’s stubbornness finally paid off.