Tuesday, April 26, 2011
RUMOR: Carson Palmer to Seattle for Mid-Round Picks
Rumors are heating up that Cincinnati QB Carson Palmer has a trade deal in the works with the Seattle Seahawks, and that the asking price is incredibly generous: a 5th-round draft pick and a 3rd-round (at the highest) pick in 2012, and a contract significantly less than either his current contract in Cincinnati or the contract that Matt Hasselbeck asked the Seahawks for.
Your immediate reaction is one of mocking incredulity. Those fanboys again. No way that would ever happen.
Well, there is a specific set of circumstances that could give sensible framework to the trade. Those circumstances have been authenticated separately by Rob Staton at Seahawks Draft Blog, working from a well-connected source he trusts, and a Seahawks.net forum member who also claims a contact within the Bengals organization. Adam Wright of Seahawks_Talk tweeted back in March that Palmer was being targeted by Seattle, and Sam Farmer of the LA Times has theorized the move as well, though the latter's comments could just be speculation.
There's also this Deep Throat with some intimate info that contradicts nothing we know about the situation. (Text, but NSFW).
Validating this rumor feels a little like validating the moon landing. There's a ton of quick, convenient contradictions that look good on the surface, but explore each of them with the facts and each sticking point goes away. The challenge is to overcome the "Oh, come on" reflex - the feeling that if you have to spend more than 5 minutes justifying something, you're just on the wrong path.
Here's the obvious counter-arguments:
* "The NFL lockout prevents teams from trading people, so there's no way this will happen."
Anyone who thinks this lockout is going to keep teams from free agent negotiations is probably a bit naive. Don't be surprised to see a number of calculated player movements kick in immediately when free agency returns - which might be very soon.
* "Why would Cincinnati trade Palmer to begin with?"
Palmer has renounced the Bengals organization in recent months and has indicated that he will retire from football permanently if he's not traded to another team. The Bengals are one of the most poorly-run franchises in football, and from all accounts have not treated Palmer well.
*" Mike Brown is a stubborn and cheap GM. There's no way he'd let Palmer dictate the situation, much less trade him for that little."
It's better than their alternative. Palmer has backed up his threats of retirement by selling his house in Cincinnati and appears fully serious. This deprives the Bengals of leverage. Keep him and he retires, giving the Bengals nothing. Trade him, and they get at least something in return.
* "Weren't they demanding a first-rounder for Palmer?"
They were. But if no team wants to give one up, the Bengals won't get it. Same result if Palmer doesn't want to go to that team. The quarterback truly seems to be in the driver's seat here, and it'd be hard to justify a first-rounder for Palmer anyway. Cincinnati has a first-round pick of their own coming up in the draft this Thursday, which most people expect to be spent on Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert. If Palmer is still around when Gabbert shows up to practice - well, that's the kind of expensive QB controversy that not even Mike Brown would want.
* "Why would Palmer accept a massively re-negotiated contract like that?"
It's not about the money to him. Palmer has the reputation of a financially prudent player who is well-prepared to retire and isn't dependent on his contract. He's also a family guy and has family health concerns on the west coast, somewhere in Portland, which helps explain...
* "Why the Seahawks, of all teams? Sounds convenient."
Could be. But in addition to the family issues on the west coast, Palmer knows the system of Pete Carroll from his college days at USC, where he also helped make a college star out of WR Mike Williams. The connections are there, at the very least.
* "Palmer is old and beaten up. Why, as a Seahawks fan, should I be excited about this?"
That's the best question yet.
You should all know by now that I don't make excuses for quarterbacks. That's why I am ready to move on from Matt Hasselbeck, and why I prefer Ryan Mallett as the heir apparent - the only people making excuses for Mallett are his critics. It's also why I don't want Jake Locker - for all the excuses being laid out for him like a red carpet, he might as well be Hasselbeck. And Carson Palmer is not exactly lighting the world on fire these days. He's 31, has a worrisome injury history, and underperformed badly in 2010.
But Palmer might - just might - be an exception to my "Oh come on " reflex.
First of all, 31 is not old. It's seasoned. Second of all, Palmer is probably not being regarded by anyone as a ten-year solution. He's a stopgap and has to be viewed in that context, or you're arguing on the wrong grounds. Third of all, his connections with Pete Carroll just might make the transition a bit easier. And most significantly, the Bengals do appear to have mishandled him badly in the last few years. He's looked good in games in which he wasn't throwing to self-absorbed distractions like Chad Johnson (I refuse to call him by his attention-whore name) and Terrell Owens.
After green-lighting a trade on Leon Washington, I would trust Seattle's medical staff to do its due diligence on Palmer's injury history before going to lengths to trade him. Even with his beaten-up body, Palmer still has enough arm strength to keep defenses honest.
Besides, even if you land on the pessimistic side of all those points - we're only giving up a 5th-rounder and a 3rd-rounder next year. That's lunch money. Most QB's drafted in that range never pan out. Most football players of any position in that range never pan out. Seattle would be acquiring an experienced veteran with a history of success for very little, without any competition from other teams to drive up the price.
Not enough for you? Well, Pete Carroll might see it as a better option than any of the draft quarterbacks. None of the top four quarterbacks will be available, and none of the educated football opinions I've seen expect any of the rest of this class (Kaepernick, Dalton, Ponder) to become starters. Ryan Mallett is the best of the bunch in terms of passing ability (which, y'know, does kinda come into the equation), but probably won't be there at #25 and will require an expensive trade-up that doesn't fit John Schneider's philosophy (although...he did trade up for a certain big-name linebacker).
Something else that doesn't fit Schneider: being handcuffed in the draft. His pattern seems to be one of flexibility. The team does have a huge number of holes to fill, and Palmer, though perhaps not the fullest tank in the parking lot, is probably good enough to secure the QB situation long enough to allow the team to wait for the perfect draft prospect.
Stopgaps don't get people excited, but Seattle is already employing them. They kept declining veterans like Matt Hasselbeck, Lawyer Milloy, and Kelly Jennings in order to give their replacements time to develop. They signed Ben Hamilton and Chester Pitts. They pursued a number of free-agent prospects at the QB and WR positions. A couple of the best Schneider-era Packers players were free-agent pickups. The Patriots have a bunch of them. "Building through the draft" is Schneider's style, but it doesn't have to be a mantra.
Seattle would need a first-round pick to adequately address the QB position in the draft. Third- and fifth-rounders won't do it, nor would they be much good for filling other holes. If Seattle feels they might as well use those picks on a former first-round pick who hasn't busted so much as been busted by his team, I say more power to them. In fact, I say that this is the second-best solution the Seahawks have available to them.
Too bad we no longer have T.J. Houshmandzadeh to demand the ball.