CINCINNATI - OCTOBER 31: Carson Palmer #9 of the Cincinnati Bengals throws a pass during the NFL game against the Miami Dolphins at Paul Brown Stadium on October 31 2010 in Cincinnati Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
A couple of readers emailed me over the past few weeks asking if Palmer sits out through the 2014 season (aka retires), when his contract is set to expire, would he become a free agent if he decided to return to the league?
The simple answer is no.
With four years left on his contract, Palmer is signed through the 2014 with $50 million due to him. But dates have nothing to do with contracts -- they are a measuring device used to clarify when a contract expires. When a player signs a contract, he's guaranteeing service for a number of seasons defined in the contract; not playing until a certain date.
If Palmer plays out his current contract without interruption, he'll be a free agent in 2015. If he decides to retire and sit out for a number of seasons, Palmer would still be property of the Cincinnati Bengals until four more seasons are played.
That means even if he sits out for the next four seasons, Palmer would still have to play four seasons with the Bengals before his contract is fulfilled. This would include officially retiring from the league.
Palmer has no leverage in his demand for a trade, and a retirement would mean leaving the league completely because if he returns, the Bengals would have rights to the quarterback for another four seasons. The only way he wouldn't, is if the Bengals traded him to another team or released him from his contract, making him a free agent.