The Oakland Raiders have been very quiet ever since signing six defensive players within the first week of NFL free agency. There have been rumors of interest here and there, but aside from re-signing Khalif Barnes, the Raiders have not added anyone else despite a desperate need for warm bodies on the roster. So what’s going on?
The answer is likely found within the ongoing Carson Palmer saga. The Raiders need to resolve their quarterback situation and its cap implications in order to make smart signings. All offseason there has been talk that the Raiders wanted Palmer to take a pay cut, or else face getting cut. Yesterday, news broke that it was extremely unlikely that Palmer would re-structure his contract.
If that is true, the ball is now in the Raiders’ proverbial court.
If Palmer has drawn a line in the sand and refused to re-structure his contract for the second year in a row, it is time for general manager Reggie McKenzie to fish or cut bait. There is not much point in dragging the decision out. The Raiders cannot continue building in a meaningful way until they figure out what is happening with the most important position in football.
That being said, this is clearly a difficult decision for McKenzie. If the Raiders have any hope of having a solid year in 2013, they need Palmer as their starting QB. But what are the chances the Raiders will actually be competitive only a year removed from a pathetic 4-12 season? Is the potential worth the pain of paying Palmer $13 million?
McKenzie is only in his second year as an NFL general manager and yet in that time, he has had more cap and roster issues than some veteran GMs. But luckily for The Reg, I am here to offer my expert opinion on how the Raiders should handle the Palmer saga. Having never held a job in football, I think I am more than qualified to fix this quagmire and here is how I would do it.
Step one: cut Carson Palmer
Just like that? Just like that.
The Raiders really do not have much hope of being a very competitive team in 2013. Sure, they could be much improved off of 2012, but to think they could compete in the AFC West with the Denver Broncos or even compete for a wild card is nothing but fantasy.
So if you’re going to rebuild then you might as well break it all the way down now and start with guys who are not young enough to build around, guys like Palmer.
Part of the news that came out yesterday is that the Raiders would only save just under $6 million toward this years cap figure, making some balk at the idea of cutting Palmer. The Raiders would still need to pay over $9 million to Palmer if he is cut. So, if the Raiders are going to pay Palmer $9 million this season regardless, why not keep him on the team?
The answer is that $6 million is better than nothing and can help sign some young players to build around. Besides, is it worth an extra $6 million to win two or three more games in 2013? Is a seven-win season really that much better than a four-win season? The result is the same — no playoffs. Palmer is not going to be the difference between playoffs or not for this team, so paying him any more than you must is pointless.
Plus, let’s not forget the $15 million base salary Palmer would be owed in 2014.
But won’t the Raiders need to sign another QB, and won’t his salary eat up most of the savings? No, cutting Palmer would actually allow the Raiders to kill two birds with one stone.
When Reggie McKenzie took over, he was saddled with a number of players that he likely would not have signed, one of them being Terrelle Pryor. But the fact remains that the Raiders have already used a third-round pick on Pryor and his physical abilities are special to say the least.
By cutting Palmer and admitting that Oakland is rebuilding in 2013, the Raiders have the opportunity to give Pryor a shot at starting in a low-pressure situation. This will be Pryor’s third season and it’s time to figure out what his future with the Raiders looks like. Or, if there even is a future with the Raiders.
Plus, playing Pryor now gives the Raiders more options later.
If Pryor does not impress as a starter, it will be easier for McKenzie to pressure Pryor into switching positions, something that Pryor has said he would not do. He is still a physical freak and could be a big weapon at another position, but as long as he has hopes of being a starter, a switch will never happen. If Pryor does impress and the Raiders still do not want him, they have created a valuable trade piece for next year’s off season.
Either way, by cutting Palmer and starting Pryor, one thing is guaranteed, the Raiders will not have questions at QB next off season like they do this off season. Either they will have their guy in Pryor or they know they will need to find a new franchise QB and will have a much better crop of QBs to pick from in the 2014 draft.
To answer the question many of you are probably asking … no, I would not draft Geno Smith. Drafting based on need and not talent is a dangerous strategy. Geno Smith is not a top-five or even a top-10 draft pick, and there will be plenty of more talented players available at number three overall.
There you go Reggie, you have your answer to the Carson Palmer quagmire, now do me a favor and go sign some cornerbacks. Thanks.