Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Raiders Go All In: The Carson Palmer Trade

The Raiders shocked the football world today by trading their first round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft and a first or second rounder in the 2013 draft for hold-out/ semi-retired quarterback Carson Palmer. This move is one done out of desperation and they paid well over value, but there is a chance the acquisition of a once upon a time elite quarterback could inspire the Raiders to unthought heights this season.
That’s the theory anyway. If Palmer can rekindle his 2005-2007 form, it might just work out. During that span, the USC alum averaged almost 30 touchdown passes, completed near 65% of his passes and averaged over 7 yards an attempt. That Palmer with the weapons around him the Raiders have is a scary proposition. Darrius Heyward-Bey is looking more like a football player and is still the freak athlete he always was. Jacoby Ford simply makes big plays every time he’s on the field and healthy. Denarius Moore has looked like a legit NFL receiver as a rookie when he has had to make spot starts due to injuries and Chaz Shilens is healthy for the first time ever in his NFL career and has contributed explosive plays as well. Add to that that defenses still have to stop Darren McFadden and the Raiders’ second ranked run game first and foremost and it’s not unrealistic to think that “Good Palmer” would definitely take the Raiders’ offense to another level.
The Raiders sit now 4-2 with a defense that has improved throughout the season. The trade became necessary due to starting quarterback Jason Campbell’s broken collarbone suffered in Sunday’s win over the Browns. The surface appearance of this trade is that an already interesting team should be more dynamic now as Palmer should be an upgrade over Campbell. Despite the fact the Jason’s inability to score in the red zone and his untimely turnovers have held back the Raiders’ offense, there are many obstacles to this ideal scenario playing out.
The first is that Carson Palmer hasn’t played football since the Bengals’ January 2nd season finale of last year. With the lockout eliminating most of the off-season, continuity has proven to be a major factor thus far in the season. Carson will be learning a new offense, throwing to new receivers, living in a new town, and learning to do it all on the fly. That is not an easy thing to do. The second problem is that Carson Palmer hasn’t been that good in recent years. He missed most of 2008 due to injury, but the following years his completion percentage, average yards per completion and touchdowns all were down from his peak levels and his interception rate was slightly higher. Many NFL observers have also observed that his arm has lacked the same power and zip on his throws since returning from major knee injury.
But, there’s still a chance. Raiders head coach Hugh Jackson worked on the Bengals staff during those Palmer salad years, and they share an agent, so there’s a possibility the offense won’t be as foreign as previously thougth and there could have even been something that rhymes with “hampering” involved. He could already know the playbook. Also, he has been reportedly been working out this whole time while pressuring Bengals’ President Mike Brown to trade him. If he comes in somewhat familiar with the offense, and if he is in great shape and the time off has finally allowed him to strengthen and heal his body, then maybe this trade might end up being worth the draft picks they gave up.
Draft picks are worth their weight in gold in today’s NFL. This is even truer under the new post-lockout rules where draftees’ salaries are capped according to draft position. Drafting well allows you to build a young core of talent that is locked up for several years making reasonable compensation. The Raiders’ willingness to part with picks reminds me of the Redskins’ seeming disdain for the draft under previous administrations. The Raiders are a young and up and coming team and their progress in future years will be retarded due to the loss of these super valuable picks. Unless they make the playoffs and a run at the Super Bowl, this trade will be remembered as a great train robbery for Cincinnati.  
But does anyone really think the Raiders can win the Super Bowl this year? I think this trade was done for the memory of Al Davis. I talked in my NFL picks spot last week about how a team can bond over a tragedy and they can ride the emotional cascade all the way to the top. The team and franchise loved Al Davis as much as he loved them. The Raiders have a winning record but now without a starting quarterback they had to make a move. They see an opportunity to do something special this year and want to harness this energy while it’s there to try to win it all baby, one last time for the old boss. So, to save their season, they pushed all their chips into the middle of the table and grossly overpaid for a quarterback who could be washed up, or could resurrect his career with this unified, spunky bunch and become a god to Raider Nation. For Al, and for my love of football, I kinda hope it works out for them. RIP Al Davis.

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