NFL Nation: Carson Palmer to Cardinals 040213

The Bruce Arians quote file grew Tuesday to include this doozy from the Arizona Cardinals' coach: "I think our quarterback room is as strong as any in the National Football League."

That quarterback room became much better Tuesday when the Cardinals acquired veteran Carson Palmer from the Oakland Raiders. Still, Palmer and the other quarterbacks on the Cardinals' roster combined for 23 touchdown passes, 23 interceptions and a 5-15 starting record last season. Backup Drew Stanton did not contribute to those figures while backing up Andrew Luck in Indianapolis, but still, there isn't a team in the NFC West that would trade its quarterbacks for the ones on Arizona's roster.

Comments such as this one from Arians are forming a pattern, as if Arians is breathing confidence into the organization following a rough three-year run that bottomed out with Arizona losing 11 of its final 12 games last season.

Arians has been available for interviews periodically, and already he has produced great copy. He used the word "elite" to describe much-scrutinized left tackle Levi Brown. He said newly acquired running back Rashard Mendenhall can "carry a team to a Super Bowl" title. Before adding Palmer, Arians said the team could win a championship with Stanton starting. He has said the Cardinals, losers of their last five NFC West games dating to the 2012 opener, should be fine in the NFC West because the team has defeated division rivals in the not-too-distant past.

"We've beaten these teams in the last two years, so it's not like they are dominating us," Arians said.

Suffice to say, Arians does not see the Cardinals being in rebuilding mode.

"I never use that word," he said. "We’re reloading, not rebuilding. We refused to use that word in Indianapolis last year with 37 players turned over on the roster. Robert Mathis said, 'I ain’t got time to rebuild.' We were in the playoffs. There is no rebuilding going on. We are just plugging in new faces and different faces. This team is not very far off."

That was apparent to Arians, the only NFC West head coach with a Super Bowl ring, when the Cardinals opened their offseason conditioning program Tuesday.

"That's as good a looking football team as I've seen on the first day," he said.

Note: The 49ers have added cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha on a one-year deal. More on that in a bit.
What comes to mind after the Oakland Raiders and Arizona Cardinals agreed on a trade sending Carson Palmer to Arizona:
  • The price: The Cardinals are sending a 2013 sixth-round pick (176th overall) and a 2014 seventh-rounder (conditional on Palmer starting at least 13 games, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter) for Palmer and the Raiders' seventh-round pick (219th overall) in 2013. Palmer has started at least 13 games in three of the past four seasons and seven times since first becoming a starter in 2004. The price in draft-choice compensation was so low because the Cardinals knew Oakland would release Palmer in the absence of a trade. General manager Steve Keim and the Cardinals' front office deserve credit for getting a starting quarterback without giving up too much. Sometimes a team acts hastily in the presence of great need, particularly when there's a powerful head coach involved. That arguably happened to an extent with the Kansas City Chiefs when they acquired Alex Smith for a second-round choice. Smith might be more appealing than Palmer, but is he that much more appealing?

  • The salary: We'll revisit initial reports on financial compensation once the numbers can be verified and put into context. Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Palmer will get $16 million over two years, with $10 million guaranteed. That makes Palmer the obvious starter. And with backup Drew Stanton having received some guaranteed money as well, he becomes the clear No. 2.
  • The protection: Cardinals quarterbacks took a league-high 58 sacks last season. The team's new coach, Bruce Arians, favors a downfield passing attack. Arians' quarterback in Indianapolis last season, Andrew Luck, was put under duress and/or hit before throwing a league-high number of times, according to ESPN Stats & Information. What does this mean for the immobile, 33-year-old Palmer? Not as much as those numbers suggest. Palmer ranked seventh among qualifying quarterbacks last season in sacks per drop back. He was at 4.4 percent, below the 5.9 percent average for 32 qualifying quarterbacks. Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford, Tom Brady and Matt Ryan were ahead of Palmer in this category. Offensive lines deserve some blame for sacks, but quarterbacks play a huge role in them. Mobility isn't the key variable, either. Palmer gets the ball out.
  • The INTs: Palmer throws interceptions at a high rate. Perhaps he'd be better off taking a few more sacks. Palmer ranks 25th among 29 qualifying quarterbacks over the past three seasons in touchdown-to-interception ratio. Palmer is at 1.22 in this category, ahead of only Mark Sanchez (1.14), Colt McCoy (1.05), Matt Hasselbeck (1.03) and Chad Henne (0.88).
  • The impact: Palmer has been an average quarterback in recent seasons as measured by Total QBR. I would expect the Cardinals to win a few more games as a result, perhaps getting into the 8-8 range, all else equal. Arizona posted a 5-11 record last season, but that was misleading. The Cardinals went 1-11 over their final 12 games. The quarterbacking was horrendous. Ryan Lindley, John Skelton and Sanchez were the only quarterbacks with at least 100 pass attempts to finish with a negative number in points above replacement. That suggests they were not just below average, but also worse than replacement-level players. Palmer finished the season at plus-44.7 in this category. That was 23rd in the NFL out of 39 quarterbacks with at least 100 pass attempts -- not great, but so much better than Lindley or Skelton.

Back with more in a bit. I've revived Palmer-related charts that ran recently. The one below shows stats following the major injuries Palmer has suffered.

ESPN's Ed Werder expects Carson Palmer to join the Arizona Cardinals via trade from the Oakland Raiders within the next 24 hours.

That should allow for another 15 or 20 Palmer-related blog posts before there's anything official to talk about.

This one expands upon the item sizing up Palmer's last couple seasons, which should not be confused with the item on Palmer's 2012 production, which was separate from the one appearing 43 minutes before that one appeared.

The chart at right might look familiar. I pulled it from one of the earlier items.

The chart below is new. It divides Palmer's career as a starter before and after Palmer suffered significant injuries. Palmer suffered a career-threatening knee injury during a January 2006 playoff game against Pittsburgh. Elbow trouble sidelined him for 12 games during the 2008 season. His conventional stats have remained fairly consistent through these injuries, with slight incremental declines in NFL passer rating. I would have expected more noticeable declines.

We do not have Total QBR data before 2008. Palmer's QBR score since 2009 stands at 49.9. The QBR scores for winning teams was 70.3 over that span, compared to 33.7 for losing teams. Palmer has been right around average by that metric, which aims to measure a quarterback's contributions to winning.


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