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Raiders roll the dice to get Carson Palmer

After the injury to Jason Campbell, Oakland fills a need, but the price is two high draft choices.

October 18, 2011|By Sam Farmer
  • Quarterback Carson Palmer, left, speaks to reporters while sitting next to Raiders Coach Hue Jackson during a news conference on Tuesday.
Quarterback Carson Palmer, left, speaks to reporters while sitting next… (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated…)

For the Oakland Raiders, quarterback Carson Palmer is the man of the hour.

The eleventh hour.

"Really, it was the eleventh-and-a-half hour," his father, Bill, said in a phone interview. "We pretty much had it in our heads that he wouldn't play this season."

That changed Tuesday when the Raiders shipped two premium draft picks to Cincinnati and pried loose the former USC Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 pick who had vowed to never again play for the Bengals. The deal was cut mere hours before the NFL trade deadline.

Palmer will take over in Oakland for Jason Campbell, who suffered a broken collarbone in Sunday's 24-17 victory over Cleveland. Campbell underwent surgery Monday and is expected to be out at least six weeks, leaving Kyle Boller and Terrelle Pryor as the only quarterbacks on the roster.

Palmer, 31, said he feels a "tremendous burden" because the Raiders paid such a high price for him. Asked about the elbow injuries he has had, Palmer said: "My arm feels as good as it ever has. I'm very confident in it."

It is not known whether the Raiders plan to rush Palmer into the starting lineup for Sunday's home game against Kansas City or stick with Boller. Oakland has a week off after that, followed by a home game against Denver.

At a late Tuesday news conference, Raiders Coach Hue Jackson was coy when asked which quarterback he plans to start.

"You think I'm going to tell you that right now?" he said. "You know me better than that … I'm not going to let that out of the bag just yet."

The Raiders, in the thick of the AFC West race at 4-2, gave up a first-round pick in 2012 and a second-round pick in 2013 that, according to the Associated Press, can become another first if Oakland makes it to the AFC title game in either of the next two years.

Palmer has never won a playoff game — the Bengals have had only two winning seasons in the last 20 years — but now seems well-positioned to make a serious run at that. The Raiders have the AFC's No. 1 rushing game, a defensive line that has the potential to be dominant, and play in an up-for-grabs division.

"He's got a chance to do really well," former Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon said. "He's 31. I was 34 when I first rolled out to Oakland in 1999, so when people talk about his age, I think he's got a lot of good football left in him."

In becoming Carson City, Oakland is taking a gamble. The Raiders' only remaining 2012 draft picks are in the fifth and sixth rounds, although they are in line for some compensatory picks after losing several players to free agency. The club used its third-round pick to select Pryor in the supplemental draft in August.

"Any time you have an opportunity to acquire someone of Carson's pedigree I don't think it's something that you can pass up on," Raiders defensive tackle Richard Seymour told SiriusXM NFL Radio.

The trade reunites Palmer and Jackson, who recruited him to USC and later worked as receivers coach for the Bengals. Jackson's prior relationship with Cincinnati was among the reasons that Bengals owner Mike Brown opted to change his mind and let Palmer go.

The Bengals are doing surprisingly well in Palmer's absence. They have won three in a row with rookie quarterback Andy Dalton, and they have the league's second-ranked defense.

What's more, the high price the Raiders were willing to pay was too good to pass up — especially because the new rookie pay structure makes high draft picks even more valuable because teams don't have to pay those players as much. Palmer was due to make $11.5 million this season, significantly more than the combined total of current Bengals quarterbacks Dalton and Bruce Gradkowski.

In a written statement, Brown said the Bengals "find ourselves rather suddenly in position of being able to receive real value for Carson that can measurably improve our team, which is performing well and is showing real promise for this year and years to come. When this opportunity arose, we felt we could not let it pass and needed to take a step forward with the football team if we could."

Brown might feel differently, but many of Palmer's former teammates harbor no hard feelings about the quarterback's decision to retire if he couldn't go elsewhere.

"I think guys respect him," left tackle Andrew Whitworth told reporters. "You realize that he didn't want to be here and he didn't believe in this place, and you go forward. You still respect him as a friend and the years we put in together, but you realize that he just made a choice he felt was best for him and his family."

Palmer's production has tailed off since the 2008 season, when he sustained partial tears to a ligament and tendon in his passing elbow. Over the last two seasons, he completed 61.2% of his passes for 7,064 yards, with 47 touchdowns, 33 interceptions and an unspectacular passer rating of 82.9. The Bengals were 14-18 in those games.

USC Coach Lane Kiffin, former coach of the Raiders, called the trade "a great opportunity" for Palmer and noted the quarterback's familiarity with Jackson's system will help smooth the transition.

"They gave up a lot to get him, and it's a gamble," Gannon said. "But sometimes at that position that's what you've got to do."

sam.farmer@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATimesfarmer

Staff writer Gary Klein contributed to this report.

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