- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown says he refuses to trade quarterback Carson Palmer. Brown usually sticks to his edicts. So it would be surprising if the Bengals have a change of heart once a new collective bargaining agreement is reached.
But that doesn't mean Cincinnati is doing the right thing. In fact, the Bengals are completely mismanaging the situation, and not trading Palmer will go down as another awful decision for this downtrodden franchise, which hasn't won a playoff game in 20 years.
Palmer is serious about his trade demands and appears willing to retire. But even if Palmer returned, having a disgruntled starting quarterback isn't an ideal situation for any team.
Here are seven reasons the Bengals are making a big mistake by not trading Palmer:
1. His value is high
Analysis: Several quarterback-needy teams would love to have Palmer under center this year and would be willing to give up solid value. Cincinnati should be able to get at least a second-round pick and perhaps an additional pick for Palmer, which would help the franchise and is better than having a player sit at home. Palmer is 31 and may have only a few productive years left. So with every passing year Palmer's trade value decreases. The Bengals made this mistake before with receiver Chad Ochocinco. Three years ago, they could have traded Ochocinco to the Washington Redskins for a first-round pick and another conditional pick that could have become a first-rounder based on production. Instead, Brown refused to trade an unhappy Ochocinco and now the team is stuck with an aging receiver and his $6 million salary. Cincinnati is expected to release Ochocinco this summer and get nothing for him. The Bengals are refusing to learn from their mistakes.
2. Why keep an unhappy quarterback?
Analysis: The quarterback position is the most important in football. Do you want a leader whose heart isn't really into it? Only the Bengals would answer yes to this type of question. Despite Palmer being adamant that he wants nothing to do with Cincinnati, ownership and coach Marvin Lewis said they would still welcome Palmer back with open arms. Even Bengals players such as running back Cedric Benson and defensive lineman Tank Johnson said it's a bad idea to have an unhappy Palmer leading the team. Palmer is mentally done with Cincinnati and physically he hasn't put in the work to be with his teammates. If he did choose to return it would cause a media circus and could be bad for team chemistry.
3. It's time to rebuild
Analysis: Last November we said it was time to blow up the Bengals. The Palmer-Ochocinco-Marvin Lewis era ran its course in Cincinnati, and the reality is that window is closed and the trio will never win a Super Bowl together. Currently, all three are still with the organization, although Ochocinco is expected to be released. Cincinnati also should move on without Palmer. The Bengals were a 4-12 team last year with Palmer. Cincinnati is rebuilding with younger players and will not be a contender in 2011, whether Palmer returns or not. Palmer also knows this, which is why he wants out. If Palmer believed the Bengals were good enough to make the playoffs and a run at the Super Bowl, he would not have sold his house and demanded a trade. At this stage of his career, Palmer is not good enough to carry a team to a championship by himself, particularly a young team like the Bengals with a lot of holes. Cincinnati's draft showed it is looking to rebuild. But the Bengals have to cut ties with Palmer to complete the process.
4. Bengals drafted Andy Dalton
Analysis: If the Bengals didn't have a viable option at quarterback, I would understand the team's urge to keep Palmer under contract. But in April they spent a high second-round pick on Dalton, who was the Bengals' desired target in the draft to replace Palmer. Cincinnati is no longer stuck between a rock (Jordan Palmer) and a hard place (Dan LeFevour) at quarterback. The Bengals have a confident rookie who could be the long-term solution. Even if Palmer returned, he would be grooming Dalton for the future. So why not start the Dalton era now and get him as much experience as possible?
5. Palmer is on the decline
Analysis: Behind closed doors, the Bengals' organization knows Palmer has been on a steady decline for several years. Injuries, age and perhaps some lost confidence have made Palmer a shell of his former self. In his prime (2005-07), Palmer was the prototypical pocket passer who stood tall in the pocket, made great decisions and had one of the strongest and most accurate arms in the NFL. Now Palmer makes too many poor decisions (20 interceptions in 2010) and has clearly lost some zip and accuracy. Palmer's passer rating has dropped from 101.1 in 2005 to 82.4 in 2010 -- a decline of nearly 20 points. But it's easier for opposing teams to see the good in Palmer, because even on the decline, he's still better than half of the league's starting quarterbacks.
6. Palmer makes $11.5 million this season
Analysis: Palmer, who is under contract until 2014, will make a team-high $11.5 million this season. By trading Palmer, the Bengals would save a ton of money and potentially cap space if there is a salary cap in the new CBA. Cincinnati could allocate that money to help other areas of the team. Perhaps the Bengals can spend some of the $11.5 million to re-sign Benson and free-agent cornerback Johnathan Joseph. Cincinnati also could go after a quality free agent or two to help the pass rush or offensive line. Palmer is no longer an $11.5 million player. Therefore, it's baffling why the Bengals are so eager to pay him that amount.
7. Precedents are overrated
Analysis: A major reason the Bengals won't trade Palmer is because it sets a bad precedent for other unhappy players who might want out in the future. This kind of thinking is overrated and should never get in the way of helping the future of the franchise. If Palmer kicks and screams that he wants out and the Bengals get good value in return, so what? What's wrong with both sides being happy? Instead, Bengals ownership seems more focused on winning the staredown with Palmer, even if it hurts the team in the long run. The best way to prevent unhappy players from leaving is to develop a winning culture. The Bengals' way of doing business for the past 20 years hasn't worked, and it's time to try something different. Instead of holding onto the past, Cincinnati should move forward and do what's best for the long-term success of the franchise and trade Palmer.