The Prospect of Carson Palmer as a Hawk

Earlier this week, rumors started circulating that Palmer could be a real option in play for the Hawks. There were reports on ESPN Insider, some Cincinnati blogs, and chatter all over twitter about the subject.  Adam Wright posted on his Seahawk Talk twitter account that a "Source telling me that #Seahawks QB Hasselbeck has been told by the front office that they will try to deal for #Bengals QB Carson Palmer" followed by "Hasselbeck was also told if they can't acquire Palmer, they'll re-sign him, if they can agree on a new deal. The two QB's share same agent".  Now, you have to take all these reports and sources with a grain of salt, but it's legitimate that the Hawks could be interested in dealing for Palmer.

Cincy's front office has stated that he will not be traded, and will be forced to retire if he doesn't want to play.  As late as Thursday afternoon, sources had the Bengals offering the automatic response to trade requests as: 'No, thanks. If Palmer plays in 2011, it will be for us.' Of course, anything could happen, but if Cincy is going to turn down a first round draft pick and just let Palmer retire, then that's their choice.

I just don't think that will happen. Bengals' owner Mike Brown has remained steadfast in his word in the past: Ochocinco tried to hold out for a trade, that didn't work; Corey Dillon did the same, with zero success.  These players were good, yes, but neither of them could have fetched what Carson could.  Also, neither of them threatened to retire - something that I believe that Palmer will do if he doesn't get his trade. Why would Brown decide to take nothing and let Palmer retire when he could possibly get a another first round draft pick for this year to continue his team's rebuilding process? He may be stupid enough or stubborn enough, but I just don't see it in this case.

Here's why I'm not against the acquisition (and maybe am hoping for it a little bit):

I don't see him as merely a stopgap or "bridge" quarterback.  I see him as a franchise QB, and not just for a year or two:  he'll be 31 years old by the beginning of the season next year - not ancient by any standard for a QB in the NFL.  For a comparison, that's the same age as Mike Vick; Drew Brees will be 32, Tom Brady 34, and Peyton Manning will be 35.  Do you consider any of those players a 'bridge' or 'stop gap' QB for their team? In the twilight of their careers? I know that each of those players are all-world - and I'm not necessarily saying that Palmer is on the same level as them. I do, however, think that he's got the potential be be close.  As I read somewhere recently and agreed with, if those guys are 'tier 1' QBs, I see Palmer as about a 'tier 1.5'. He may never put up the numbers of a Manning or Brady, but he, to me, is in the top 10 of QBs in the league.

A little history: He put up All-Pro numbers in 2005, and completely tore up his knee in the Bengals' playoff loss to the Steelers at the end of that year. The injury was considered career threatening according to the doctor that performed the surgery. Palmer bounced back though in 2006 and 2007, again putting up top-level numbers (Pro Bowl in '06). In 2008 he partially tore a ligament and tendon in his elbow and missed the rest of the year.  Once again there was speculation as to if he'd be able to bounce back.

After a so-so 2009, he improved on his yardage, TDs, and passer rating in 2010. He threw for 3,970 yards, good for 6th best in the NFL, and threw 26 TDs (9th best) on a team that went 4-12, had two ego-centric and distracting wide receivers, internal strife, and a coach that expressed his frustration with an offense lacking any identity.  Not exactly a winning formula, yet his production was statistically very good, the only blackmark his 20 interceptions.  Because of these, he became a scapegoat for the Bengals failings, and the fans began to doubt his ability.

Admittedly, Carson made some dumb throws and questionable decisions in 2010 on his way to 20 interceptions.  Once again though, compare to some other top-tier QBs:  Drew Brees, Super Bowl Champion in '09 - threw 22, Peyton Manning - Super Bowl Champ in '07 - threw 17.  Eli Manning, still considered by many as the franchise QB for the Giants, the guy that led them to a Super Bowl win over the unbeatable Patriots in '08, threw 25.  I admit that Palmer's numbers have faded a bit, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's done. It sure doesn't mean he can't get better.  Remember when Drew Brees was given up on by the Chargers after hurting his shoulder?  His career was definitely over at that point.

More important than his numbers from this year though, in my eyes, are the amazing throws he is able to make: decision making can be improved, - having a 6'5, 235 lb mobile QB with a sniper rifle for an arm is not really something that you can 'coach up'.  In the games I watched, including a few statistically crappy games for Palmer, he consistently showed the ability to thread the needle on tough throws over the middle. He showed a great ability to roll out on bootlegs and throw a ball on the run, hitting his receiver in stride. He is accurate on screen and dump off passes.  He has the habit of throwing off his back foot at times but for the most part guns the ball into his target with good velocity. He can put the ball on the money in the corner of the endzone. It doesn't look like he's lost any ability to throw the ball downfield: on several occasions he hucked it 60 yards down field with accuracy.

Also, and this is important: two of his better games came at the end of the year against two of the league's best defenses in San Diego (where he beat a team with the best defense in football that needed to win out to reach the playoffs) and Baltimore (where he marched his team downfield with under a minute left and nearly led them to a come from behind victory with seconds on the clock left but just fell short). Both of these games were played without his top two receivers, Ocho and TO. Think that those type of guys don't hurt your team? Why'd the Patriots trade Moss again?  It should also be noted that Carson has played in the AFC North his entire career, which means you face off against Pittsburgh and Baltimore at least twice a year, consistently two of the best defenses in the league year in and year out.

People compare Carson Palmer to Hasselbeck and say that it's not much of an upgrade, if an improvement at all. I respectfully disagree. Apart from the fact that Palmer is four years younger than Hass, he's also more mobile, more accurate, and has a stronger arm. He's got the ability to be All-Pro in the right system - that's not something that I can say with any confidence about Hasselbeck. I think that Hass has the ability to adequately run an offense with significant talent around him (and his brother Tim even said that about him in an interview on Brock and Salk). When he had success this year it was because he managed to limit his turnovers and did so by taking very few chances and shots down field. I remember Pete Carroll mentioning it several times during the season - and I'm paraphrasing, kind of sarcastically - the key to Matt's success lies in him playing it safe and not giving the other team the damn ball.

Except for one occasion against the Panthers where the Hawks managed a comeback, if the Hawks fell behind early, the game was over. Hass could not orchestrate comebacks because every time the Hawks fell behind he would force balls down field and turn the ball over. This is a big part of the reason we lost by such big margins.

I don't want to sound anti-Hasselbeck. I don't necessarily think that we should let him walk - he's a good bridge QB that will be able to run our offense for a year or two while the 'next big thing' QB we draft or trade for develops. I wrote about it a while back, advocating they re-sign him. Of all the options at hand at the time, I figured he's the best option. I don't have a ton of confidence in Kevin Kolb. I don't see them trading for Matt Flynn or bringing in Vince Young.  Hasselbeck, given the time to develop more chemistry with our receivers, can be a good option with a sound game-plan. He's had success in the playoffs and is a better option at this point than Charlie Whitehurst.  He's given the Hawks ten great years and I have his jersey hanging on a wall in my house.

That doesn't mean I think he's flat-out the best option for the Hawks. It may be cheaper to sign Hass than to go out and get a guy like Palmer, but even if it means trading #25 this year, I would say go for it. A late first round choice can be risky in the first place - sure we have a lot of holes to fill on the team, but if we can get a franchise QB for the next 4-5 years, I believe that is easily worth the cost of a 1st round pick.

Just look at a few of our first rounders in the past decade or so:  Lawrence Jackson, Kelly Jennings, Koren Robinson, Jerramy Stevens, Marcus Tubbs, Chris McIntosh, Lamar King and Anthony Simmons. Even if they had any measure of success, it was not necessarily for more than a year or two. A first round pick, especially one towards the end of the round, is not guaranteed to provide you any success with any real consistency and guys that can give you 4-5 years of starting-caliber play are rare. Do you think that signing Hass and taking a guy like Locker or Mallett in round one has any less risk?

The draft is all about potential - I think about the potential impact that a passer like Carson Palmer could have for the Hawks for the next 4-5 seasons and I say it's well worth the pick. There are holes we need to fill on the Hawks to get them to the next level, but in a passing league where QB is by far the most important, Palmer is a great start. People will say he's old and injury prone. Well, I already touched on the age issue - to me, he's not that old. He's a 31 year old vet that most likely has many years left in the tank. Injury prone? When he hurt his throwing elbow in '08 that ended a streak of 51 games started.  Since recovering from that injury, he's started 33 straight. Real injury prone. If anything, he's a tough S.O.B.

The next obvious question would be about Palmer's ability to run Pete Carroll's offense.  Does he fit? Could he have success in that type of system? Can he learn the playbook and terminology quick enough?  Does he have any experience in an offense like Carroll's that he'd be asked to run? Well, he won a Heisman trophy in that system with Pete Carroll and knows it intimately. It could be argued he's the prototypical player to run that system. So I say that yes, he is a good fit. The other thing to take into account is that the Carson Palmer to Mike Williams connection accounted for 81 receptions, 1,265 yards and 14 TDs in 2002 in that system, so you know the chemistry will be there.

All in all, I'm not going to be crying if they go get Carson Palmer.


  1. Interesting take. You may be the first to come out pro-Palmer of the Hawk bloggers. No question he's an upgrade from Hasselbeck, and it would fit into what Carroll has been saying since he got here that he wants to win now.

  2. Yeah I get the feeling that most people do not want Palmer around (or at least they don't think it would be worth what we'd most likely have to give up). That's fine and I could be way off base, but for whatever reason, I just see Palmer doing really well here; in this system and in this city. We'll see how it all shakes out, hopefully sooner rather than later.

  3. You're pretty convincing here. I'll have to go back and research some of the popular reservations about Palmer.

    I tend to disagree with your appraisal of first-round picks, though. Every team that's winning is doing so because of its first-rounders. That our first-rounders have sucked says less about the value of a first-rounder than it does about the awfulness of our GM's in that round since Clinton's presidency.

  4. True enough. I think you're right re: the teams that win get their key players in the first round - but it's not just the Seahawks that have struck out in the first round throughout the years. Teams do find their starters in the first round, but if it were foolproof every team would be amazing.

    The teams that win and win often generally strike gold on players - a little bit of luck in the draft (Aaron Rodgers for example), build a winning program to bring in key free-agents and role-players, and you're on your way.

    I think my point about the first rounder is that there's risk bringing in a guy like Palmer but there's also risk with your first rounder (look at Aaron Curry, the #4 pick... jury is still out). If you believe that QB is the most important position on the field, then buildng your team around a guy like Palmer for the next 4 years is worth that 1st round pick (to me).

    I enjoyed your take on the Patriots' success and know where you're coming from on the above comment though. It's definitely a huge decision they'll have to make when it comes to deciding to trade for Kolb or Palmer, because it looks like a 1st rounder may be the price for either.

  5. Good take on the situation.

    I have to disagree with Palmer knowing the system though. I'm sure it's similar to what Pete Carroll ran at USC, but Darell Bevell comes from the Reid/Holmgren coaching tree. The emphasis is different, but there are some things that would help Palmer adapt to the Hawks' system. He's coming in as Bevell's system is being installed. Palmer has such a strong arm, that the defense can't put eight in the box to stop the running game. With a running game, Palmer can have time to grow and adjust in the system. Both his ability, and the running game, will feed off of each other, and help both to succeed. But more importantly, even if the system is different, Pete Carroll will have an influence on the offense, just as he did at USC, so there will be less adjustment for Palmer than in other systems.

    I like what you said about Palmer and Mike Williams. If BMW can come in and have (moderate?) success with two qbs that he didn't know, imagine what he can do with the guys that helped make him a top 10 pick.

    I have problem trading for Carson Palmer. I just think that the # 25 pick is too much to give up for him. If Cincinnati offered their second round pick and Palmer for the Hawks' first round pick, I think Schneider and Carroll should jump at the chance to get him.

    Of course all of this is based on the CBA being settled prior to the draft. If it's not settled until early summer, then what would be the asking price?

    Jim Kelly

  6. Yeah I think if the CBA doesn't get done by the Draft it makes it very difficult to trade for him and it probably wouldn't happen at that point. If they're gonna trade for it, it'd be for picks this year most likely, and once we're past the draft things get sticky.