When the Raiders traded first- and second-round picks to the Bengals for quarterback Carson Palmer in October of 2011, then-head coach Hue Jackson was ecstatic.
Jackson called Palmer the perfect fit for his team, a veteran quarterback with a good arm, experience and a history of making big plays.
“This guy can play and he knows how to play the game and he knows how to elevate the players around him,” Jackson told reporters at the time, adding: “I think he can help this team win a championship.”
Well, a lot has happened since.
Jackson is long gone, replaced by Dennis Allen as head coach, and the Raiders didn’t go to the playoffs in 2011 and then finished 4-12 in 2012. The two draft picks the team traded away have proved a costly price as the roster turned over through age, injuries and releases because of salary-cap issues.
Palmer, at least, has done his part. Though surrounded by a less-than-stellar cast, Palmer in 2012 threw for more than 4,000 yards and 22 TDs with just 14 interceptions, his best statistical year since 2007.
Yet could Palmer, 33, now be on his way out? Could the quarterback the Raiders paid so much for be discarded this offseason because the team is due to pay him $13 million for the 2013 season?
That was a scenario suggested Tuesday by Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports.
La Confora reported the Raiders could be forced to waive Palmer this offseason to avoid a huge financial hit. The team is reportedly $3.5 million to $4.5 million over the salary cap, and Palmer’s release would allow it much more flexibility.
The other option, La Canfora reported, is for the Raiders and Palmer to negotiate some type of salary cut to give the team some salary-cap relief.
Wrote Canfora: “There is no way Oakland is going to pay him that kind of money to stay, sources said, and Palmer will have to decide how much cash he’s willing to walk away from to stay.”
If the Raiders and Palmer were to part because of an inability to come up with some kind of new deal, the only quarterback on the roster would be Terrelle Pryor, the former Ohio State standout with exactly one NFL game under his belt – the 2012 season finale against San Diego.
Palmer’s backup in 2012, Matt Leinart, signed a one-year contract last May and will be a free agent. And, in his brief playing time in relief of an injured Palmer against the Carolina Panthers in Game No. 15 this past season, Leinart didn’t look good.
Though the salary-cap issues may be serious, can the Raiders truly afford to let Palmer go? It hardly seems so. In recent weeks, Allen said Palmer and Pryor would compete for the starting job this training camp, but it seems unlikely Pryor would win the competition at this point.
Whatever happens this offseason, one thing is certain: Hue Jackson’s trade for Palmer continues to be a high-cost move.