Heres the simple reason that Carson Palmer is an Arizona Cardinal. When you have a chance to upgrade the quarterback position, you upgrade the quarterback position.
No player is more important to a teams success, and its not even close. Palmer is an upgrade over Drew Stanton, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Lindley and now-released John Skelton. Again, its not even close.
The fact that the Cards only had to give up a conditional 2014 pick and swap their sixth-round pick in 2013 (176th overall) for Oakland's seventh-round pick (219th) is further cause for celebration. The Cards had two sixth-round picks this season anyway, and when you scan the list of Arizonas sixth-round picks since 2000, only one name gets you excited: David Carter.
The others? Jabari Issa, Bobby Newcombe, Josh Scobey, Tony Gilbert, Reggie Wells, Nick Leckey, Jonathan Lewis, Chris Harrington, Will Davis, Jorrick Calvin, Quan Sturdivant, Justin Bethel and Ryan Lindley.
A source familiar with the contract said Palmers deal is for two years and 16 million, with 10 million guaranteed. Will the money the Cardinals have to pay Palmer preclude them from filling other areas? Maybe, but let us repeat the lede to this story: When you can upgrade the quarterback position, you upgrade the quarterback position.
Some might wonder why, if the Cardinals were willing to spend for a veteran quarterback, they were unwilling to re-sign Kevin Kolb at whatever reduced price he deemed fair (Kolb was due a 9 million salary this season). Kolb is five years younger than Palmer and had a higher passer rating than Palmer last year.
Theres a fair argument to be made here, but there were three things working against Kolb. He hasnt stayed healthy, he hasnt mastered the ability to get rid of the ball quickly, and the perception is he doesnt fit coach Bruce Arians vertical passing game as well as Palmer, whose arm strength admittedly is in question after a 2008 elbow injury and his years of wear.
Lets be clear, we are not saying Kolb is injury prone. He only played half of his games in Arizona due to injuries, but such a short body of evidence is not sufficient evidence for such conclusions. Kolb could go on to have a healthy career from here on out.
Having said that, there is a significant concern with Kolbs history of concussions. Reams of neurological studies have shown that once youve suffered one concussion, youre more susceptible to more. Kolb has had two known concussions.
As for the other two factors, Palmer was sacked just 26 times in 15 games last season despite playing behind an offensive line that was every bit as suspect as Arizonas. Why the low number? He has the ability to make quick reads and get rid of the ball. Kolb never reached that point. Maybe he will, but he took a beating last season, partly because of his inability to make quick decisions like Kurt Warner did behind a line that was every bit as suspect a few years earlier.
Kolb was sacked 27 times in just six games, but all of those sacks were not a product of the offensive lines protection. Some were due to missed blocks by backs and tight ends, some were due to Kolb holding onto the ball too long because he couldnt read what he was seeing.
This is not to say that Palmer is the second coming of Warner. Warner is headed to the Hall of Fame. Palmer is not. When Warner arrived in Arizona, the NFC West was also the leagues poorest division. With Seattle and San Francisco both Super Bowl contenders and the Rams expected to take another step forward, the NFC West could be the leagues best division this season.
But clearly, Palmer gives the Cardinals a better chance to be competitive within it, and if injuries should fell key players on those division rivals, who knows what could happen?
We dont buy the notion that Palmer would hinder the development of a younger quarterback. If the Cards do select a quarterback this season, theres nothing wrong with him playing behind a veteran for a couple seasons. It used to happen all the time in the NFL, and it worked just fine.
Palmer completed 345 of 565 passes (61.1 percent) last season for 4,018 yards in 15 games last season, becoming just the second quarterback in Raiders history (Rich Gannon) to top 4,000 yards in a season. He threw 22 TDs and 14 interceptions for a 85.3 passer rating.
He is not a long-term solution -- that is clear from his two-year deal. But if he can bridge the gap while the Cards find that solution, all the better. Weve witnessed more brutal quarterback play the past three seasons than any city should have to endure.
So if you were hoping the Cardinals would tank this season so they could build through high draft picks, know that virtually no team ever thinks that way. The idea is to improve whenever you get the chance. Thats why this move was made, and theres nothing wrong with that.
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