The Arizona Cardinals Must Pursue Carson Palmer

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystMarch 25, 2013

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 16:  Carson Palmer #3 of the Oakland Raiders drops back to pass against the Kansas City Chiefs in the second quarter at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on December 16, 2012 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Arizona Cardinals have the worst quarterback situation west of the New York Jets, but if recent reports are to be believed, then at least for now the Cardinals may be looking more short-term for a solution to their problems under center.

Kent Somers of The Arizona Republic reported on Monday that if the Oakland Raiders release Carson Palmer, the Cardinals would most likely have interest in the 33-year-old signal-caller.

That's a play the Cardinals have to make, and they need to go after Palmer hard.

This, of course, assumes that the Raiders are planning to release Palmer, but according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Palmer's unwillingness to take a pay cut this season greatly increases the chances that's going to happen.

Should that be the case, the Cardinals need to make sure that Arizona is the first place Palmer visits and that he doesn't leave the Valley of the Sun without a deal in place.

Mind you, this isn't to say that signing Carson Palmer will solve all the Cardinals' quarterback problems.

The Carson Palmer that went to the Pro Bowl in 2005 and 2006 and the Carson Palmer that threw for just over 4,000 yards in 2012 are two very different quarterbacks.

In those two Pro Bowl campaigns, Palmer threw 60 touchdown passes against only 25 interceptions and his lowest passer rating was 93.9.

Since arriving in Oakland, Palmer has thrown 35 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions and his highest passer rating in two seasons is 85.3.

Part of that dropoff might be attributable to age, but a lot of it goes back to 2008.

Palmer missed 12 games that season due to a "sore elbow" that was later revealed to be a partially torn ligament and tendon. However, Palmer elected not to have "Tommy John" reconstructive surgery and allowed the elbow to heal through rest.

That elbow, and Palmer's velocity, hasn't been the same since. Passes that used to be frozen ropes are now rainbows. Defenders have more time to react to them and Palmer's interceptions have increased as a result.

At this point in his career, Carson Palmer is an average quarterback.

Which puts him about four notches above every other quarterback currently on the Cardinals' roster.

Yes, new head coach Bruce Arians has been talking up offseason acquisition Drew Stanton, telling The Associated Press via ESPN that "I have all the confidence in the world with him being our starter."

That doesn't change the fact that in five NFL seasons, Stanton has made all of four starts, he's thrown nearly twice as many interceptions as touchdown passes and his career quarterback rating is just over 60.

Brian Hoyer is what he is—a serviceable backup quarterback. John Skelton was horrible last year. Ryan Lindley was somehow even worse.

Arians also doesn't seem inclined to draft a quarterback with the seventh overall pick in April, at least if his comments to Somers are any indication.

I think all speculators look at need and not the draft board. If you draft for need, you’re in trouble. Just because you need one you don’t take one. If there’s a better player there who’s going to help your football team. If there’s a quarterback who fits the spot in the draft that you put him at, that fits the value, then you take one. That’s why I feel very comfortable with our situation right now, with Drew Stanton in our mix. The need value is not there.

Arians' man-crush on Drew Stanton aside, that brings us back to Carson Palmer. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk speculated earlier this month that Arizona could be biding their time waiting for the Raiders to cut Palmer or even contemplating a trade for him.

With Palmer reportedly unwilling to take less than the $13 million that Oakland owes him this year, the latter seems unlikely, but so does the cap-strapped Raiders actually paying Palmer $13 million.

And that's when the Cardinals must swoop in and sign Palmer to a short-term deal.

In Carson Palmer the Cardinals would get a major upgrade at the quarterback position. No, Palmer doesn't have the cannon he once did, but his arm is still strong enough to run Arians' offense.

Hey, he might even be able to put the ball in the general vicinity of superstar wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. After last season's nightmare, how novel would that be?

If Arians is really so confident that Stanton is capable of starting in the NFL, let him prove it by beating Palmer out for the job. Otherwise Stanton can go right back to being what he's always been—a solid backup.

If the Cardinals draft a quarterback this year, Palmer could serve as a mentor and "bridge" starter. If they don't, he can hold down the fort for a season, at which point the Cardinals could look to a 2014 class that includes Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater.

Let's be honest. In a division that includes two playoff teams from last year and the reigning NFC champion, odds are this is not going to be a great season for the Arizona Cardinals or their fans.

However, the Cardinals lost 11 of their last 12 games last year because they didn't have anything resembling an NFL starter at quarterback on their roster.

Drew Stanton might be capable of filling that role. Carson Palmer is.

If the Raiders cut Palmer loose, signing him is a no-brainer for Arizona.

After all, the team has had some success signing over-30 quarterbacks who many thought were washed up.