Having refused to accept a reduction in his 2013 salary as an Oakland Raider, quarterback Carson Palmer was traded yesterday to the Arizona Cardinals.
As part of the trade, the Cardinals sent a high sixth-round pick in this year’s draft to Oakland in exchange for the Raiders seventh-round pick, a swap that allows Oakland to move up 43 places in the draft. In addition, the Cardinals will give up a 2014 seventh-round pick if Palmer starts 13 games in 2013.
After Palmer refused a pay cut, the Raiders traded for Seahawks backup Matt Flynn, effectively ending Palmer’s two-year run as the team’s starter. His acquisition from the Bengals in 2011 will go down as one of the Oakland’s worst trades ever, with the Raiders having given up first- and second-round picks for a quarterback who started just 24 games for them.
After struggling somewhat in 2011, Palmer enjoyed a solid season in 2012, completing 61.1% of his passes for 4,018 yards with 22 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
In Arizona, Palmer ascends to the top of the team’s depth chart with recent free agent signee Drew Stanton entrenched as the team’s top backup. John Skelton, who started 17 games during his first three seasons in the league, was released.
Cardinals fans want to know, is Palmer the second coming of Kurt Warner? In short, no. He’s not as accurate as Warner, he doesn’t read defenses as well, and he hasn’t enjoyed any playoff success prior to coming to the desert.
The biggest winner with this trade from a fantasy perspective is Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
Last season Fitzgerald caught just 71 passes for 798 yards (the second lowest total of his career) and four touchdowns (the lowest of his career). Any casual fan could tell you that his production suffered due to the shoddy play of the team’s quarterbacks, and a quick glance at his catch-to-target percentage confirms that (71 receptions on 156 targets for a 45.5% completion percentage).
If Skelton and Kevin Kolb, with perhaps a rookie draft pick, were atop the depth chart to open next season, Fitzgerald would have ranked as a low-end WR2.
With Palmer under center, Fitzgerald becomes a low-end WR1. Having a quarterback with the arm strength, accuracy and experience to execute new head coach Bruce Arians’ downfield passing attack should do wonders for Fitzgerald’s fantasy value.
Of course, downfield passing attacks flounder under the weight of a poor offensive line, and that is an issue the Cardinals must address prior to the start of the season. They led the league in sacks allowed last season, and Palmer is about as stationary a quarterback as you will find in the league, though he is effective at reading defenses and getting the ball out on time.
Look for the Cardinals to use the seventh overall selection to address the offensive tackle position. with Bobby Massie, last season’s starter at right tackle, a candidate to move inside to guard.
Wide receivers Michael Floyd, a 2012 first-round pick, and Andre Roberts will also benefit with Palmer at the controls. Floyd has plenty of upside and Roberts has improved his reception and yardage totals in each of his three years in the league. However, both will rate as fantasy backups until they prove otherwise.
Running back Rashard Mendenhall also sees a boost in his fantasy appeal, as he figures to face fewer eight- and nine-man fronts with a quality veteran at quarterback. He shapes up as an upper-tier fantasy backup with upside entering 2013.
As for Palmer, feel comfortable grabbing him as your fantasy backup at QB—a mid- to upper-tier one at that.