The NFL lockout may just about be getting on your last nerve with no end in sight and both parties at loggerheads, however, thank your lucky stars you're not a member of the Bengals organization. As soon as the lockout is resolved, there's yet another headache just around the corner, Carson Palmer.
It's been quite some time since any news came out of the Palmer camp, despite some large moves made by the Bengals in the NFL draft with the taking of Georgia WR A.J. Green and, more importantly to Palmer, TCU's QB Andy Dalton.
As of right now, people are browsing around Palmer's Indian Hill home, which remains on the market, making it a pretty strong indication on the QB's part that he isn't returning to the Queen City.
Although both sides remain locked in an epic game of "call my bluff," as we edge closer to the NFL season, one of the two parties might just buckle.
Here's a few reasons why Carson Palmer will be the one to give in...
Palmer has made it clear to everybody asking that he is by no means desperate for money. Back in early March, Palmer commented on his status with reports saying he stated:
"I have $80 million in the bank. I don't have to play football for money. I'll play it for the love of the game but that would have to be elsewhere. I'm prepared to live my life."
Now with $80 million in the bank (assuming that his confidant's comments were accurate), it is certain that Carson doesn't need to lift a finger for the rest of his days, but is he prepared to walk away from all that money?
Palmer has four years and approximately $54.5 million on his contract, a huge sum in itself. The question is will Palmer simply walk away from it?
It could be argued either way, but I am of the belief that money does in fact talk and that Carson Palmer may well return to Cincinnati even if that means coming for a shorter period than those four years, and just pick up half the sum.
Palmer has taken some classes at Harvard business school this offseason, perhaps gearing up for life after football, but with the economy the way it is, who wants to go into business when someone is offering you heaps of dough to play sports?
If Palmer is as business savvy as his resume suggests, he'll know a good deal when he see's one...
You can't help but be swept up in the wave of enthusiasm and excitement that Jay Gruden has brought to the Cincinnati Bengals. Albeit we have only seen him in press conferences, but even in that setting his character fills a room in a way that the mellow and often macabre Marvin Lewis could only hope to.
Gruden has been quick to explain how much he would like to have Carson on board in 2011. "He's one of the elite quarterbacks in the league and we have to keep it that way and keep him protected and have fun playing football and I think he will do that and if he wants to come back, we're going to make everything right for him," Gruden said back in February.
However, post-draft Jay has changed his stance somewhat when asked about the possibility of visiting Palmer. Jay said, “For the privilege to play quarterback in the NFL, you shouldn’t have to beg anyone. I’d cut off my right leg to play quarterback in the NFL. I’m not saying (Palmer) doesn’t want to compete. I just don’t know how much out of the way we have to go, to beg him.’’
Does Carson Palmer still have the drive to play football? It seems not. Can Jay Gruden enthuse him enough to make a return? We'll have to wait and see.
Palmer is yet to comment on Jay Gruden specifically or the arrival of Green and Dalton, so it is hard to grasp what his feelings might be, and I don't intend to try.
However, Cincinnati has made significant changes this offseason that have been in response to Palmer's initial proclamation. It shows a real desire to make change, and Palmer is yet to comment on it.
Jay Gruden is certainly an exciting addition to the new-look Bengals and is certainly a tick in the 'FOR' column for Carson Palmer's return.
After a preseason full of hyperbolic proclamations from T.Ocho about how special the 2010 season would be, Cincinnati floundered to a 4-12 record, and by the end, both Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco were on the sidelines.
Now the Ochocinco saga is another story altogether, but his relationship with Palmer is what we must focus on here. Palmer and Ocho have had success together but their relationship could best be described as love/hate, with the reserved Carson Palmer having had little control over the Ocho during their time together. So did it all get too much for Carson? One can only sympathize with the guy after enduring many a year with Ocho mouthing off.
The other name on people's lips is Terrell Owens, who saw a lot of throws go his way in 2010. Now I know many accuse Terrell of being a locker room cancer, but from what I saw in Cincinnati, he kept quiet, worked hard and produced on the field, I really can't fault his performance. However, he did, towards the end of the season, comment on the Bengals management:
“I think there is underachieving you know from the top down,” Owens said. “You start off with the owner, you start off with the coaches and obviously we as players. We are a product of what the coaches are doing, are coaching us throughout the course of the week. Of course we have to go out there and play the game but in order for us to do what we’re allowed to do at the best of our ability the coaches have to put the players in the best position.”
Forgive me if I'm wrong but these seem to be the same issues every Bengals fan points to when criticizing the team, and are likely the same reasons Carson is putting himself in the stance that he is right now.
Regardless, Palmer performed best with young receivers carrying no egos and yet to make names for themselves. He can actually lead these guys, and they will listen. That has to be a plus for Carson. With T.O. gone for sure and Ocho likely to follow, Palmer will be handed a new offense to mold.
To use a phrase that is overused on just about every sports show from sea to shining sea, A.J. Green is one hell of a toy for Carson Palmer to play with.
By taking the Georgia WR with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft, Cincinnati has drastically improved their receiving corps and have opened the door for the possible departure of Ochocinco.
Palmer seemed to have a new lease on life, when conducting receivers Andre Caldwell and Jerome Simpson, Jordan Shipley and TE Jermaine Gresham in the latter part of the season. Following the breakout game against San Diego many 'experts' starting calling for the heads of T.Ocho and cited the great performances of the younger receivers as proof that T.Ocho were to blame for failures on offense.
Palmer will have a largely new offensive unit to work with if he is to return, and with Jay Gruden calling the plays it will certainly be a new approach, one that Palmer seems desperate for. If Palmer decides to return he will very much have control that he is not used to, with Simpson and Caldwell happy to have a shot at starting spots and A.J. Green being the polar opposite to extrovert Ochocinco, coupled with workhorses Jermaine Gresham and Jordan Shipley all ready to learn and to be lead.
The weapons that have been put on a plate for Carson, combined with the exciting new offensive coordinator in town, are enough to excite any QB, but are they enough to get Carson back?
Changes have been made and Cincinnati has received a lot of praise for them, Palmer has to have taken notice, but is the damage already done? Cincinnati has certainly given it their best shot with this attractive new-look offense and it could be a huge benefit to their cause.
In 2010 the Bengals transitioned away from the Benson-lead run-first offense that won them the AFC North in 2009 and it did them no favors, becoming the catalyst for every problem we now face.
Upon his hiring, new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden made clear that he intends on taking the team back to what made them successful in 2009, saying in his first press conference,
"We have to be a physical team up front. We're going to challenge our offensive line to be physical. We're not going to spread out and go no huddle every down and throw the ball 65 times a game. I intend on pounding the ball and being able to pound the ball."
This will likely be a positive thing for Palmer who somewhat struggled to transition back into a throw-centric offense this past year.
Benson has been quick to express interest in returning and desire to be the staple of the offense but has been quick to criticize the prospect of a Palmer return.
For a QB who has taken a lot of bumps and sustained a lot of injuries, Palmer will be happy to let the emphasis return to Cedric Benson. Not only will it take some of the pressure off of him, but it will hopefully allow the Bengals to return to some of the success that they achieved in 2009. This can only be seen as a positive for Palmer, he might just have to win Benson back over though...
Carson Palmer equaled his career-high interceptions in 2010 with 20, and particularly struggled with longer passes. Many attribute this to Palmer never really recovering from a partially torn ligament and tendon in his elbow in 2008, which has seen his elite passer status slowly slip away.
So why does the new system suit Carson?
Well the west coast offense is all about yards after the catch and an emphasis on quick short to intermediate throws. This will hopefully suit the level that Palmer's arm is at, at this point in his career, and he should have no trouble making all of the throws.
With some great receivers Palmer will have no problem waiting for them to get open and having to throw into double coverage, heck he can even throw to A.J. Green if every player on the field is covering him.
It seems that this system is one that fits Palmer's current game and is one that he will be able to utilize fairly effectively. It not only plays to his strengths but allows for his weaknesses also. I have no doubt that Palmer can make the throws the system demands and with a bunch of young bucks to throw to and rely on to make YAC, it should be easy street for Palmer.
Palmer might be hesitant to make such a significant change after eight years in the same offense, but if he is serious about playing for love of the game, a lot has been done to ensure that Carson has 'fun' out there, as Jay Gruden put it.
So the jury remains out on Carson Palmer. The Bengals have their insurance/future in Andy Dalton and the organization seems to be moving on. However, Coach Lewis has said that "If Palmer comes back, he would be the starting quarterback, and we would groom (second-round pick) Andy (Dalton) to be the quarterback of the future."
It seems that we will not find out anymore about the Carson Palmer situation until the lockout is over, and shall remain in no man's land for the time being.
A few things are for sure, Palmer has a great set of teammates to work with in Cincinnati if he so chooses in Simpson, Caldwell, Gresham, Benson and Shipley. Add to that a whole heap of money, a brand new and hungry offensive coordinator in Jay Gruden, and the No. 4 overall pick A.J. Green and it starts to look like only a fool would turn his back.
For Palmer and Mike Brown, it remains a game of who will blink first, and you have to wonder that with all these changes having been made, there really has to be some significant feelings of disdain from Carson Palmer to the Bengals organization for him to hold his ground.
In knowing the businessman that Mike Brown is, it's highly likely that he doesn't budge from his position. The best Palmer can hope for is a Boomer Esiason type situation, but Brown will be hoping to stop that happening yet again.
If Palmer has any sense he'll play for pay, irrespective of his desire to be at the club. Right now the reasons for his return far outweigh the reasons for his retirement, but if he does in fact decide to call it a day and walk away from $54.5 million, then working for our beloved Bengals must really...suck.