PITTSBURGH -- As I'm getting settled in Heinz Field for Sunday's AFC title game between the Steelers and Jets, I thought I'd share a few early thoughts on Chris Mortensen's report on the trade request from Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer.
For starters, I'm not surprised by this. In December, the AFC North blog reported that Palmer would not accept a pay cut to remain with the Bengals in 2011. That was perhaps foreshadowing to Palmer's level of unhappiness. It appears things have gotten worse since then, especially since Palmer is now threatening retirement. I've seen player after player in Cincinnati eventually grow unhappy with the consistent losing. Palmer is one of the most patient and optimistic players I've ever covered, but it looks like he's officially been "Bengalized."
It will be interesting to see how Cincinnati responds to Palmer's trade request. Coach Marvin Lewis has always been the type of coach to put out fires and shrug things off (see Chad Ochocinco). But when your star quarterback wants out, that's the type of distraction that is unavoidable. The question will be asked over and over during offseason workouts and in minicamp and training camp if it goes that far.
Palmer's trade request could alter Cincinnati's draft plans. The Bengals have the No. 4 overall pick, which is a slot where the team could draft a quarterback. If Palmer is traded or follows through on retirement, the Bengals will be desperate for a quarterback. The top-rated quarterbacks in this year's draft are Missouri's Blaine Gabbert, Washington's Jake Locker and Auburn's Cam Newton.
Finally, how will Palmer's decision impact other free agents? Cincinnati will be rebuilding this year, and that process will take even longer if the team loses its franchise quarterback. Good, veteran players such as cornerback Johnathan Joseph and tailback Cedric Benson are free agents and have to decide if they want to come back to a team that probably won't win many games if Palmer isn't there. This uncertainty will be a major story to watch in the AFC North this offseason.