I am not sure whether Carson Palmer is a lucky man, but I sure as hell know that the Cincinnati Bengals are. For a player who had gotten worse over the past four years and was months away from his 32nd birthday, the Bengals received at least a first and a second round pick (which might become a first rounder if the Raiders reach the AFC championship game). The Bengals, already in rebuilding mode with who they feel is their quarterback of the future, didn’t really have to give up anything while the Raiders are left to go Mike Ditka on the 2012 draft for Palmer- that is, get no one but one star. After giving up their first rounder, the Raiders now are without first, second, third, fourth, or seventh round picks, and will rely on compensatory picks to get a single player before the fifth round of the draft. It serves as an example of the common syndrome- accepting the fun of tonight for the horrible hangover tomorrow.
Now, the Raiders might re-invigorate Palmer’s career (not that they have had a lot of luck with unhappy aging players in the past), and he might get them to the playoffs and past the first round, that I won’t argue with. However, I often wonder why a marginal team that clearly doesn’t have the stuff for a title run makes an expensive move for a player who has a better than 50% chance not to be the savior he is made out to be. This year the Cleveland Indians, mired just under .500 after a hot start, gave up the farm for Ubaldo Jimenez, who managed to… continue the decline he started last season. The Indians did not have the stuff for a World Series run, and the Raiders don’t have the players to make a Super Bowl- certainly not this season anyway. Moreover, Oakland is only really trading this in for one season, since this draft may be one of the strongest for quarterbacks in two decades. Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Matt Barkley, Landry Jones, Kellen Moore, Case Keenum, Brandon Weeden, or Dan Persa each might wind up being picks worthy of being taken in the top few rounds (Luck and Jones are a given, the others will depend on the rest of the season). The Raiders now will have to forego those options due to the expensive price they have paid to win now.
And win what exactly? Be a Wild Card? Win the AFC West? I have been as impressed as anyone with the turnaround that Oakland has shown in the last few years, but the thought of them holding serve with (our) Baltimore Ravens, the Patriots, or Steelers (well, maybe the Steelers) in a playoff setting is a bit far-fetched. But let’s assume for argument’s sake that they win a playoff game- the fans love it, there is talk of a return to greatness, and an homage to how Al Davis laid the foundation for this winner. Great. Then next year and the year after, without fresh talent and with an aging, injury-prone quarterback, things slowly come back to Earth. They become the blip on the radar that was the Derek Anderson Browns, that one team that made it to the playoffs in the midst of an agonizing era.
I know it is too much to ask teams to think beyond “win now” since their jobs are on the line, but it’s the same “win now” mentality that banks thought about when they offered loans to the clearly unqualified and sent those assets out into the financial world. It makes a lot of people a lot of money right away, but it’s painful down the line. Of course, in the NFL these guys can move onto another team. Fans don’t have that option- or at least, their emotions don’t allow them to move.
First round players, especially quarterbacks, are busts all the time. Maybe the player the Raiders would have taken with those picks wouldn’t have turned into anything. About 50% of first round quarterbacks (53% was one estimate) are busts, so chances are one of the two picks would have gotten them a player worth having around for the long term. If a player makes an opening day roster out of his first training camp, his average career length is about 6 years. I am betting Carson Palmer has maybe 4 or 5 years left in him. How many good years? Looking at his numbers, those might almost be behind him (then again, he has been playing in Cincinnati, so let’s call it a wash). No matter how you slice it, the odds are that the Raiders have abdicated almost an entire year of drafting in their pursuits to win something-anything- this year or next. For their sake I hope they do, because otherwise they will have leveraged a lot of potential assets for nothing. Otherwise they will wind up looking an awful lot like the Cleveland Indians.
At least Carson’s happy, right?