Carson Palmer wants us to believe he will walk away from $50 million.
Maybe he will. Maybe he won’t.
The man is about to welcome his third child, so perhaps voiding the final four years of a six-year, $118.75 million contract extension is not the most prudent move.
Playing the role of Dad is getting more and more expensive, you know.
Still, how serious are we to consider these retirement threats?
With money clearly not an issue, Palmer seems to be viewing his standoff with Bengals team president Mike Brown as a matter of principle.
Though not to be mistaken for an elite quarterback, Palmer has given a few fleeting glimpses of hope to an organization that is entering its third consecutive decade of futility.
Between its Super Bowl loss to San Francisco in 1989 and the outset of Palmer’s tenure in 2003, Cincinnati endured 11 losing seasons and made the playoffs once. In that span, the Bengals finished third or worse in their division 12 times.
In eight years, Palmer has guided Cincinnati to two postseason appearances, a pair of division titles, and five non-losing seasons.
But it’s been a slippery slope for Palmer since signing that hefty extension in 2005.
The Bengals returned to the postseason in 2009, albeit a one-and-done job, but strife between head coach Marvin Lewis, Palmer and several other players has become more press-worthy than anything the team has done on the field.
In the last four seasons, Palmer is 21-31 as a starter, and the Bengals have won more than eight games once.
The final straw may have been when fans dumped trash on Palmer’s lawn after he threw a pair of interceptions against Tampa Bay in October, a game in which he surpassed 20,000 passing yards for his career.
Palmer apparently has had enough, but Brown would rather pay an unhappy quarterback than accept the Bengals’ struggles as a reason to flee town.
After meeting with Palmer recently, Brown said moving the quarterback is not on the agenda, and would only be detrimental to what the organization is trying to do for the future.
"He is key to our plans. He's central to us," said Brown, who said he and Palmer shared “amicable” talks. "He was told that and that we count on him going forward."
When asked about Palmer’s alleged retirement vow, Brown called the scenario “impractical” but also said he and the organization will attempt to delve deeper into the sources of Palmer’s malcontent.
"We'll just have to see how it plays out," Brown said. "We'll reach out to him and understand the things that are in his craw. Maybe there are things we can do that will appeal to him. We'll try to and see whether we can get it fit back together again in the future."
For Palmer, who just turned 31 last month, retiring for no reason other than spite may be impractical, but is it impossible?
In the very unlikely event Brown flinches, the clock immediately begins to tick. Suitors will line up to take Palmer, but the Bengals would have to get a deal done before the current collective bargaining agreement expires on March 4.
Or maybe what Brown should do is set up another meeting, shut the doors behind Palmer, and call his quarterback a liar. If Palmer is traded, that means the Bengals will not have drawn out his bluff.
Palmer doesn’t have much leverage with Brown, who has a history of keeping disgruntled players around for years, seemingly for the hell of it.
Palmer already has more money than most of us simpletons will make in our lifetimes, but $50 million is $50 million. That sort of dough won’t buy happiness or a Super Bowl ring, but it can definitely act as an anti-depressant.
Roster changes may be forthcoming in Cincinnati that would figure to be beneficial to Palmer, most notably the possible departures of Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco, who probably wants out of town more than Palmer following Lewis’s biting comments in response to rumors Ochocinco wants to play for Bill Belichick.
The fans are fickle. If the Bengals climb out of last season’s 4-12 hole, the love will return.
When you paint it in that light, Palmer’s quandary doesn’t seem all that bad. Not that any of us are feeling sorry for him.
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