Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer is on pace to have a year to forget. Along with going 2-11 as the starting quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals this season, five of Palmer's 18 interceptions have been returned for touchdowns and, save for 2008, this year's 60.4% completion rate and 6.4 yards/pass will set career lows. Including the playoffs, Palmer has only won three of the past 18 games that he's started. I can't possibly think of a better way to spend $10.5 million. According to Joe Reedy, Palmer's turnover breakdown looks like this:
5 Pick 6's, 1 fumble run back for a touchdown, 6 Interceptions for 38 points and 4 other fumbles for 20 points. Palmer through interceptions and fumbles is responsible for 79.
Considering that the defense has allowed 345 points this season, 23% have come off a Palmer turnover in one form of another. His 21 passing touchdowns doesn't even double that total. One could conclude that Palmer's either losing games, putting the team in a position to lose or putting the defense through terribly tough circumstances to keep the team afloat before drowning late in the game. While it's easy to criticize, that same person making conclusions has to acknowledge that Palmer is also put in the position to carry the weight of the team on his shoulders, which he's clearly too worn out to continue doing.
With his struggles, fans and the media are beginning to turn on Palmer. Earlier this week when asked if he could see himself with another team next year, Palmer said, "Yeah. Anything's possible."
With Palmer's base salary hitting $11.5 million in 2011, it makes one wonder how much a team should pay a single player on a squad that's layers deep with problems. The Bengals could see two starting receivers and a starting running back leave for free agency. There will be a serious issue in the secondary if Johnathan Joseph leaves with no starter-quality safeties backing up the cornerbacks. Then you have the issue of depth that's translated into one word: Holyshititsscarybad.
Ultimately, people can only say, Palmer's issues are a related to everyone else, for so much. Quarterbacks scheduled to make $11.5 million are, at the very least, not supposed to be responsible for 79 points allowed off a single man's turnovers. Forget actually raising expectations that a quarterback making that much could, oh I don't know, become more of a leader/solution. But we've dumped those expectations for something more realistic towards what we're witnessing this year.
No, he doesn't have the perfect cast around him like the 2005 squad. One could argue that reason is because of the salary he's making is making it tougher to develop a sustaining foundation around him, rather than cropping veteran players in the twilight of their careers.
What about next year? Will Carson Palmer take a pay cut to help the team rebuild around him? According to James Walker, no.
A source with knowledge of the situation tells ESPN.com's AFC North blog that it's highly unlikely Palmer would accept a pay cut this offseason to remain with the rebuilding Bengals (2-11). Palmer is projected to be one of the NFL's highest-paid players in 2011 with a base salary of $11.5 million, and this could be the first step to a potential parting between the two-time Pro Bowl quarterback and the team which drafted him No. 1 overall in 2003.
One could argue that Palmer just wants to leave. No, he's not sabotaging the year to find a loophole in his contract with the devil. That would be just too devious and Palmer hasn't shown that much foresight and ambition since his mid-20s. As most of you will likely respond, who can blame him? He plays for an organization that not only shows a complete lack of competency building a successful program that's actually sustainable, Palmer is having to deal with a stale and outdated offensive coordinator that's been in Cincinnati calling the plays for ten seasons -- something that's completely unheard of. Palmer very well could recognize that for his career to continue, if not rebound, he'll have to leave Cincinnati to achieve the scent of a championship-caliber program. If that's what he wants, good for him. Off you go young lad and find a team that's suitable to your tastes. May I recommend a ready built team with 52 all-stars?
You, nor I, could blame Palmer for simply finding a way to leave Cincinnati. Refusing a pay cut, in which Cincinnati will NOT be on the hook for any salary cap penalties -- there's you know, no cap right now -- benefits everyone and all could cut ties and be on their merry way. There's always the off-handed chance that Cincinnati could trade Palmer. Joe Reedy suspects three teams could be Oakland, San Francisco and Arizona.
In the end, something has to break. If Palmer wants to stay, he can have the keys to the city and our hearts once again, completely willing to bet that 95% of Bengals nation will offer it up like he did his first year starting. This time, however, it comes with conditions. He has to become a presence on the field that shifts from a red-shirt throw away character during a B-rated horror movie to man with a cap that a city wishes to build a statue of. If Palmer wants to stay, he needs to be more visible to the fans and the community. If Palmer wants to stay, he has to be a catalyst that sings us a lullaby. I mean, doing meager press conferences which is the only time we hear from him on a weekly basis explaining his interceptions and losing NFL football games at the beautiful salary of $10.5 million this year is awesome and all, but something feels like it's missing.
If not, Palmer should just continue what he's doing and end his time in Cincinnati. I couldn't possibly think of a way to spend $10.5 million than the way this franchise is right now.