Carson Palmer is 33 and overpaid -- $13 million salary and $15 million cap number -- on a roster with minimal star power and almost zero means to acquire new talent because of their tight cap and deficiency of draft picks.
Oakland's salary cap issues -- they began the week $1.5 million under the $123 million salary cap and had only 46 players under contract -- aren't going away. Unless Palmer does?
The Raiders reportedly have begun talks with Palmer's agent to lessen the cap burden.
In an e-mail to CSN Bay Area, Palmer said, "Not sure what's going to happen. Would love to be back in Oakland and compete."
Palmer passed for 4,018 yards with 22 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 15 starts before sustaining cracked ribs and a bruised lung and missing the season finale in San Diego.
The question isn't whether the Raiders are looking for Palmer's replacement. It's whether they want that replacement to take over in 2013. To say the situation isn't ideal to hoist upon an untested quarterback like Terrelle Pryor, Geno Smith, EJ Manuel or Matt Barkley as the presumed difference-maker would be a recipe for disaster.
The best fit in the system might be Arkansas' Tyler Wilson. He showed arm strength and accuracy at the Senior Bowl, aspects some had doubted. Without a second-round pick, the Raiders are unlikely to be in position to draft Wilson. He's like to be drafted between 25-45, and the holes on the roster are too many for GM Reggie McKenzie to part with any of his too few draft picks in 2013.
Palmer could restructure his deal and accept basically the same money to temporarily alleviate the strained cap.
If they prefer a pay cut, and Palmer refuses the request, the Raiders would then be forced to release him, leaving Pryor as the lone signed quarterback on the roster.
We're not buying Pryor as a starter. Direct implications from playing time decisions in an otherwise lost season from about November forward last season were that Pryor wasn't ready. Will he ever be? His game is intriguing because of the read-option craze created across the bay. Pryor isn't as accurate or poised as Colin Kaepernick and lacks the touch of Russell Wilson.
If not Pryor, who will it be?
Geno Smith Smith at No. 3? The Raiders can't afford Palmer. But they could less afford another draft miss. Smith might be the most talented quarterback in an unspectacular crop. But the dearth of talent at the skill positions, no cap space to improve that situation and a shortage of draft picks -- Oakland's second-round pick (37th overall) belongs to the Bengals as the final payment in the Palmer trade, and its fifth-rounder goes to Seattle for LB Aaron Curry (131st overall) -- the Raiders would be setting a rookie up for failure.
Logic leads back to Palmer.
Restructuring Palmer's deal -- adding additional years, reducing his salary and making up the difference in bonus money spread out over the length of the contract -- would tie the Raiders to Palmer for the foreseeable future. Based on the team's record, he's not worth the investment.
Since joining the Raiders in a deal engineered by former coach Hue Jackson -- ironically, now an assitant with the Bengals and a beneficiary of the deal from the other side -- after starter Jason Campbell was lost to a broken collarbone, Palmer is 8-16 in 24 starts with 35 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions.
Jackson's offense emphasized power and gap-control running and leaned on the quarterback's skills as a play-action passer. Greg Knapp switched to more of a West Coast scheme that put Palmer on the move more often on rollouts and bootlegs. Knapp was fired at the end of the 2012 season.
Greg Olson is the new offensive coordinator and will again emphasize power running and dropback passing. Olson coached Palmer's brother Jordan in Jacksonville last season, where he was quarterbacks coach, and knows the family.
"We know what Carson Palmer is," Olson said. "He's played in the league a number of years. We know what he can do."
Allen is touting competition for the quarterback spot with Pryor, although it appears likely that if both men are on the roster, Pryor's use would be in more of a situational nature as a runner/passer.
"We'll go forward with the direction that the organization sees fit," Olson said. "If they want competition, we'll have competition ... you never know what's going to happen in terms of contracts and what-not."