Grading Carson Palmer Trade to Arizona Cardinals

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystApril 2, 2013

Grading Carson Palmer Trade to Arizona Cardinals

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    The quarterback carousel that has been the month of April in the NFL kept on spinning Tuesday.

    After a late "snag" (via NFL.com) put the deal in jeopardy, the Oakland Raiders and Arizona Cardinals agreed to terms on a deal that will send quarterback Carson Palmer from the Bay Area to the desert.

    The Raiders all but gave the 33-year-old Palmer away in what was essentially a salary dump after the team acquired Matt Flynn on Monday.

    According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via colleague Gregg Rosenthal), Oakland will receive a sixth-round pick, as well as a conditional seventh-round draft pick if Palmer starts at least 13 games for the Cardinals in 2013. In exchange, Palmer and Oakland's seventh-round pick head south.

    Let's explore what this trade means for the Cardinals moving forward.

Fit: Any Port in a Storm

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    If there's one area where it's awfully hard to find reasons to criticize the Carson Palmer trade, it's where Palmer will fit in with the Cardinals.

    That would be on top of the depth chart at the most important position in the NFL.

    As last season's debacle in the Valley of the Sun showed with frightening clarity, an NFL team isn't going very far with substandard quarterback play.

    And after Kevin Kolb went down, calling the Cardinals' play under center substandard would be kind.

    Add in that Kolb and John Skelton have been released, and with all due respect to Drew Stanton, the Cardinals were about 11 steps the wrong side of desperate for quarterback help.

    Also, even at this stage of his career Palmer still has the arm strength to be effective in Bruce Arians' vertical passing offense, making this a slam-dunk pickup. 

    That clapping sound you hear is wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald cheering.

    Grade: A

Talent: Not What He Was, but Still an Effective Player

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    Make no mistake, Carson Palmer isn't the same player that he was during his Pro Bowl heyday in Cincinnati, due in large part to the elbow surgery he elected not to have back in 2008.

    Palmer's also well the wrong side of 30, is about as mobile as a wet bag of Quikrete, and threw 30 interceptions over his 25 games with the Raiders.

    However, over Palmer's first 16 starts for Oakland he topped 5,000 yards through the air. The 11th-year pro tossed 35 touchdown passes during his time in the Bay Area, and Palmer's ranked No. 19 in Pro Football Focus' quarterback rankings last year (subscription required), better than Joe Flacco, Andy Dalton and Christian Ponder.

    All three of those signal-callers led their teams to the playoffs.

    Grade: B

Price: Buying When the Market's Right

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    After the Oakland Raiders acquired Matt Flynn, there was no way the team was going to keep Palmer and his $13 million salary for 2012 around.

    The Cardinals used that fact to their advantage, picking up Palmer for a one round drop in the draft and a conditional seventh-rounder, which is the NFL equivalent of a box of Pop-Tarts.

    Not even the frosted ones, either.

    According to Kent Somers of The Arizona Republic, the Cardinals also agreed to terms with Palmer on a new contract that will pay him $16 million over the next two seasons, with $10 million guaranteed.

    That's a fairly large chunk of guaranteed money, but assuming that Palmer is indeed the Cardinals' starting quarterback for the next two years, $8 million annually isn't a bad deal at all.

    Grade: A

Risk: Palmer Can't Throw the Ball from His Back

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    The Cardinals paid for Palmer in Pop-Tarts, and were able to get him to agree to a reduction in salary, so what risk could there be involved in bringing him on board?

    Well, the risk with Palmer is only partially about Palmer.

    The Arizona offensive line was horrible last year. No team in the NFL allowed more sacks than the Cardinals, who allowed 58.

    As I mentioned earlier, at this point in his career Palmer has the agility of a three-legged hippopotamus walking through quicksand, and if the veteran's going to be at all effective in his new home, then the Redbirds have to protect the quarterback better.

    The odds of Arizona picking an offensive lineman in the first round just increased exponentially.

    Grade: B+

Overall: A Big Win for the Cardinals

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    The acquisition of Carson Palmer isn't going to magically fix all the Arizona Cardinals' problems in a top-heavy NFC West.

    Palmer is a 33-year-old quarterback on the downside of his career. His passing numbers were artificially inflated by garbage-time numbers in Oakland. He makes too many poor decisions with the ball, especially when pressured.

    With that said, this is still a huge win for the Cardinals.

    Yes, it doesn't address the future under center for the team, but the Cardinals had bigger problems than the future. Like, say, the present.

    Carson Palmer may not be the quarterback he once was, but he's a veteran signal-caller who's still a more than capable passer, the sort of player who will aid the team's transition to Arians' offense immensely.

    For a price that was negligible, and at a contract that's reasonable, it's a deal that's nearly impossible not to like.

    Go ahead and keep clapping Larry.

    Grade: A-