Raiders bet the house on Palmer

  • John Clayton [ARCHIVE]
  • ESPN.com | October 19, 2011

If this were Vegas, Hue Jackson would be seen pushing all his chips into the middle of the table and saying, "Let's go for it."

Call Tuesday's acquisition of Carson Palmer the Raiders' ultimate "Commitment to Excellence." Once Jason Campbell broke his collarbone Sunday, effectively ending his season, the Raiders realized their 4-2 start could fizzle with Kyle Boller as the starter.

But clearly, no one saw this coming. The Raiders were cruising through the easy portion of their schedule, with Sunday's 24-17 victory over Cleveland and winnable home games against Kansas City and Denver coming up. Palmer wasn't on their radar, but the loss of Campbell changed things.

And the Raiders, perhaps more than any other team in the league, know the value of quarterbacks. When Rich Gannon was running the Raiders' offense for Jon Gruden in the early 2000s, they were an annual playoff contender with hopes of going to the Super Bowl. After Gannon retired, the Raiders floundered through too many 5-11 and 4-12 seasons because their quarterback play was inferior.

Al Davis' draft trade in 2010 for Campbell jump-started the franchise and got them to 8-8 last year, but the Raiders always think in terms of Super Bowls, not mediocrity. Once Campbell went down, the organization did Al proud and threw everything it had at acquiring the best quarterback available.

They are throwing every chip on the table in this deal. By giving up a first-round pick in 2012, the Raiders wipe themselves out of next year's draft. All they have left is a fifth-round and sixth-round selection. Ironically, three of their lost picks -- a No. 1, No. 3 and No. 4 -- were wagered on quarterbacks: Palmer, Terrelle Pryor and Campbell.

The terms of Palmer's restructured contract haven't surfaced yet, but the deal probably will eat up most of the $6 million in remaining cap space for this year and put the Raiders close to $10 million over the cap next year.

Those are problems for capologists and can be solved later. Jackson and the Raiders didn't have time to be reflective. The timing of Campbell's injury gave them less than 48 hours to find short-term and long-term answers. The street options weren't good. David Garrard needs disk surgery. Trent Edwards didn't want to go back after having been in Raiders camp. Troy Smith, Todd Bouman and others would only serve as backups to Boller.

To get Palmer, the Raiders overpaid. After Palmer said he wanted a trade or he would retire, Bengals owner Mike Brown had refused to budge. A first-round pick wasn't going to change his stance. But the temptation of a first-round pick in 2012 and a second-round pick in 2013 that could become a first-rounder was impossible to turn down.

It would be unlikely that a team would pay that price for Palmer in the offseason, after he spent an entire year away from the game. As a businessman, Brown had to take the Raiders' offer.

John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

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