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Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Palmer a Raider without top supporter

By Bill Williamson

No player in Oakland was more tied to Hue Jackson than quarterback Carson Palmer.

Jackson’s one season as the Raiders' head coach will be most remembered for his brazen acquisition of Palmer, who by all accounts was literally traded for off of his couch.

Now Jackson is gone, and Palmer remains in Oakland.

It’s going to be a somewhat awkward situation for Palmer, whom Jackson recruited to USC nearly 15 years ago. One of the reasons Jackson was fired was his rash decisions. None was more rash than sending two premium draft picks to Cincinnati for Palmer in October, two days after Jason Campbell was lost for the season with a broken collarbone.

The knee-jerk decision to make the trade smacked of a coach who had control he shouldn't have had, and he panicked. The trade (Cincinnati received Oakland’s first-round pick in 2012 and it will receive Oakland’s first-round pick in 2013 if the Raiders advance to the AFC title game next season, or Oakland’s second-round pick in 2013 if the Raiders don’t reach the title game) was widely panned around the league; new Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie indicated Tuesday that the deal was weighted in Cincinnati’s favor. As far as the Bengals were concerned, Palmer was retired.

Jackson made the trade for Palmer, who turned 32 in December, to win immediately. The Raiders were 4-2 at the time of the trade. They ended up 8-8 and 4-5 in Palmer’s nine starts.

Still, Jackson stood behind Palmer, who threw 16 interceptions and 13 touchdowns for Oakland. Palmer had his moments and showed he still has a big arm. Perhaps he'll improve after an entire offseason in Oakland. But Palmer's production has slipped since his banner 2007 season.

Still, the Raiders don’t have any better options, and they will very likely stick with Palmer as they move away from the man who traded for him. Because of the price Jackson paid for him, the Raiders essentially have no choice but to go with Palmer for the next couple of years. McKenzie raised some eyebrows in his introductory press conference Tuesday when he said Palmer will "not be immune to a good player ... pushing him."

That’s fine for McKenzie to say, but are the Raiders really going to keep Palmer as a backup? He’s too good for that, and the Raiders can’t afford to make a change.

It has been suggested that perhaps McKenzie will try to trade Palmer and pursue Matt Flynn -- who was in Green Bay with McKenzie -- as a free agent. There are far too many complications for that to be a reality. There is no way the Raiders would get close to what they gave up for Palmer, and salary-cap issues would keep them from giving Flynn a huge contract.

Thus, it appears the Carson Palmer era in Oakland will last longer than the era of the man who brought him there less than three months ago to be a savior.