Palmer's not playing: He's done if he's not traded

by | CBSSports.com Senior Writer
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The Cincinnati Bengals have a dilemma, and this time it doesn't involve one of its wide receivers. Nope, now the Bengals must decide what to do with Carson Palmer, a quarterback whom two sources I trust insist will never, ever, ever play for the team again.

I know what you're thinking, and it's that Chad Ochocinco tried this ploy a few years ago, and it didn't work. But this isn't Chad Ochocinco. This is the face of the franchise and the voice of reason, and Palmer is determined to retire if the Bengals don't accommodate his wishes to be traded, sources said.

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That's not exactly news to the Bengals. According to a source close to Palmer, members of the team's coaching staff, including head coach Marvin Lewis, visited with Palmer, and all were told the same thing -- namely, that he is resigned to retiring if the Bengals don't accommodate him, which he doesn't expect they will.

In fact, team owner Mike Brown said as much in late January, suggesting that if Palmer doesn't play in Cincinnati next season he doesn't play, period. But that's the point: Palmer is so fed up with the Bengals that sources tell me he doesn't consider that a threat. In fact, according to them, he's OK with not playing ... so long as it's not playing in Cincinnati.

It is unclear what finished him with the Bengals, with one source saying "it's a number of factors that built up over time," but he's so steadfast in his decision that one head coach at the NFL scouting combine told me he was sure Palmer wouldn't play again for Cincinnati. When I notified him that the Bengals had no intention of dealing him, the coach shook his head and said, "Well, then, he'll retire. He's not going to play there again."

I've heard that from too many places not to take it seriously, which, I suggest, the Bengals might start doing.

Carson Palmer apparently has seen more than enough of Cincinnati. (US Presswire)  
Carson Palmer apparently has seen more than enough of Cincinnati. (US Presswire)  
"There's a peace about him with this decision," said another person close to Palmer. If Palmer were available there would be a line of suitors forming before the April draft. Arizona, Minnesota, Tennessee, San Francisco and Carolina all need starting quarterbacks, and you might throw Buffalo, Miami, Washington and Jacksonville in there, too, as well as Seattle -- what with Matt Hasselbeck a free agent and coach Pete Carroll having coached Palmer at USC.

But Brown is insistent that Palmer, who is under contract through 2014, won't hit the market, and he's to be taken seriously, too. When Ochocinco made similar demands in 2008, Brown did nothing ... and Ochocino wound up playing for the Bengals.

Basically, Brown will not be pressured into trading a dissatisfied player, but if Palmer is to be believed Cincinnati either drafts its next quarterback or acquires someone like Marc Bulger, Kevin Kolb, Matt Flynn or Donovan McNabb. The question, of course, is: Is he to believed? People around him tell me he's seldom been more certain of a decision, and the evidence is everywhere.

A friend of Palmer's was quoted on WCPO-TV in Cincinnati as saying he "would never set foot in Paul Brown stadium again" and that he was "prepared to live my life." That was after Palmer's agent, David Dunn, issued a statement that read that "Carson strongly feels that a separation between him and the Bengals would be in the best interests of both parties."

"I think what you're seeing and hearing from Carson," said one source, "is a sign of the level of frustration he has with the Bengals."

Only nobody can pinpoint where that frustration lies -- only that it "goes up the chain of command," as one source put it; that it has been simmering for some time and that, Brown and the way the Bengals do business are a factor ... but only one of many.

Palmer, who is 31, is coming off an underwhelming season where he tied his personal high for interceptions with 20 and where the Bengals finished last in their division with a 4-12 record that marked the worst single-season mark for their starter. Nevertheless, he still is regarded as a top quarterback by coaches in the business, with some waiting to see what -- if anything -- the Bengals do here.

Brown's history says he will do nothing, and, if that happens and Palmer stays home, Cincinnati's choice for its next starter is Palmer's brother, Jordan Palmer, Dan LeFevour or someone outside the roster. All I know is that neither side is willing to back down, and don't say you weren't warned, Cincinnati. Carson Palmer isn't bluffing.

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