It can be argued that the Raiders panicked and overpaid to get quarterback Carson Palmer in 2011.
With starter Jason Campbell injured and out for the season, the Raiders quickly reacted by trading a 2012 first-round choice and a second-round pick in 2013 to the Bengals for the rights to Palmer, who was in the midst of a holdout in Cincinnati.
At the time, head coach Hue Jackson believed the Raiders had a shot at the playoffs and Palmer would be a difference-maker, with Campbell suddenly out.
“This guy can play and he knows how to play the game and he knows how to elevate the players around him,” Jackson said at the time. The coach also called the deal "the greatest trade" in NFL history.
In hindsight, of course, things are much more clear.
The Raiders were a flawed team in 2011, Darren McFadden would miss the rest of the season and the team would collapse down the stretch and miss out on a postseason berth by one game. And, this season, Oakland is 4-10 and headed for nothing but another offseason of roster changes.
Today, the Raiders have a solid, veteran quarterback in Palmer but are missing so much more. The entire defense – one of the worst in the NFL – will need an influx of new talent to bring it up to speed in 2013, and that second-round pick traded for Palmer (guaranteed to be a high one) would be useful.
Still, the fact the Raiders spent too much to get him isn’t Palmer’s fault. And in a season almost devoid of bright spots, Palmer has been a steady, productive quarterback who, at age 32, still has some good years left.
Though the Raiders are in rebuilding mode, it’s likely they’ll put together all the other pieces to their puzzle first while keeping Palmer at QB. Eventually, they’ll look for their quarterback of the future, but not now.
Bill Williamson of ESPN.com, who covers the AFC West, wrote this week that, “I’m not sure he is the long-term answer, but for the time being, I don’t think Oakland can do better. It has so many other needs and next year is a weak quarterback draft class. It doesn’t make sense for Oakland to look for a new quarterback for next year. ”
Williamson believes the Palmer situation will be re-evaluated after the 2013 season, once the Raiders see where they are after another year of rebuilding.
In his 10th NFL season, Palmer this season has been forced to throw often in almost every game. With two games remaining, he has 562 attempts, just 24 behind his career high of 586 set in 2010.
He’s completed almost 61 percent of his throws for 3,987 yards and 22 touchdowns. Though he still is prone to throwing interceptions in bunches – he has 14 this season – his quarterback rating of 85.0 is the highest it’s been since 2007.
This Sunday at Carolina, Palmer will surpass 4,000 yards passing in 2012, to join Rich Gannon as only the second Oakland QB ever to go over that total. With two big games against the Panthers and Chargers, it’s possible he could top Gannon’s Raiders record of 4,683 yards.
Palmer, however, hasn’t said anything about setting a record. He says his main concern is working hard to help get the Raiders back on a winning track. He says he and his teammates “are going to continue to grind and work.”
“Whether you’re playing for the playoffs or not playing for the playoffs, we’re still trying to win,” he told reporters last week. “We’re still trying to get better.”
When Palmer and his teammates take the field Sunday against the Panthers, they’ll be looking for a second win in a row, following a 15-0 victory over the Chiefs this past Sunday.
Whether the Raiders go 0-2 or 2-0 over the final two games of this season, expect Palmer to be back in 2013. For now, he’s their man.