TEMPE, Ariz. — Carson Palmer has landed with the third team of his NFL career.
First Cincinnati, then Oakland and now Arizona, it’s not exactly a ‘Who’s Who’ of NFL powerhouses.
But Palmer and his new coach insist that he’s coming to a Cardinals team built to win now, despite the fact it lost 11 of its last 12 a season ago.
The Arizona Cardinals acquired Palmer from the Oakland Raiders, then agreed to a two-year contract that could pay him up to $20 million with $10 million guaranteed.
“I’ve got a lot of tread left on my tires,” the 33-year-old quarterback promised.
Ever since Bruce Arians was hired to replace the fired Ken Whisenhunt, quarterback was the No. 1 topic of conversation.
“I’m here to introduce our starting quarterback and put it to bed,” Arians said at a news conference on Tuesday, “and I’m really happy about it.”
The Cardinals gave up a conditional seventh-round 2014 draft pick and swapped the second of their two sixth-round picks this year for Oakland’s seventh-round selection.
“This was a no-brainer,” Cardinals President Michael Bidwill said. “When we learned that he would be available via trade and that we had a shot at getting him, we were aggressive. We went out there, we put our best foot forward and made sure that we got the deal done. It dragged on a little over the weekend but this morning we made sure we pushed it over the goal line and got it done.”
Palmer was to make $13 million under his old Raiders contract but reworked it to come to the desert.
“I’ve only got a couple of shots left,” he said. “I’ve been in this league for a long time. It’s nothing personal, it’s not statistical, it’s about trying to win a championship.”
If Palmer starts at least 13 games next season, Oakland gets Arizona’s 2014 seventh-round pick. If he doesn’t, the Cardinals owe the Raiders nothing.
But at least the Raiders have the prospect of getting something for the quarterback rather than just releasing him. Oakland acquired quarterback Matt Flynn on Monday in a deal that sent two draft picks to the Seahawks.
Palmer is 54-67 as a starter. He was 4-11 with Oakland last season.
In 15 games in 2012, Palmer threw for 4,018 yards, becoming the second quarterback in Raiders history to throw for more than 4,000 yards in a season. He threw for 22 touchdowns with 14 interceptions.
He said that when it became clear the Raiders were embarking on a youth movement, he began to look elsewhere. Palmer said he found out Arizona was a possibility last Friday in a call from his agent, David Dunn.
He said he liked the chance to play for a coach he has respected over the years, and of course throw to Larry Fitzgerald. Arians was well aware of Palmer from the coach’s days with Indianapolis and Pittsburgh. Palmer also said the Cardinals, coming off a 5-11 season, were obviously committed to getting better in a hurry.
“It’s not a rebuilding process,” Palmer said. “It’s not ‘We think we’re going to be pretty good in a couple of years.’ They want to win now and at the point I’m at in my career, I want to win now, too. I don’t have years to build and get better, I’ve got to be ready to play in Week 1.”
Arians had repeatedly talked of a quarterback being available “behind Door No. 2.”
“I was confident that somebody was going to be able to be shaken loose somewhere,” he said.
He had his eye on Oakland with the knowledge that they might go younger at the position, making Palmer available.
“We are not in that stage,” Arians said. “This is too good of a football team for a youth movement. We’re in it to win and win now.”
Palmer’s abilities fit the “throw long downfield” philosophy of Arians, who inherited a team with a woeful situation at quarterback. General manager Steve Keim said he watched video of every pass Palmer has thrown the past three seasons and saw no sign of diminished velocity or accuracy.
“His ability to still do it with accuracy, timing and touch was something that I was extremely excited about,” Keim said.
Last year, Arizona had four starting quarterbacks — John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Ryan Lindley and Brian Hoyer. They combined to throw for 3,383 yards with 11 touchdowns and 21 interceptions and a quarterback rating of 63.1 in an offense that ranked last in the NFL. The Arizona quarterbacks were sacked 58 times in 608 pass attempts. By contrast, Palmer was sacked 28 times last year in 585 throws.
The Cardinals have released Skelton and Kolb and have signed Hoyer to a tender offer. They also have signed free agent Drew Stanton, the backup last season to Andrew Luck in Indianapolis, where Arians was interim head coach.
Palmer was the first overall draft pick in 2002 by Cincinnati and, enduring a severe knee injury and an elbow problem, was with the Bengals until his trade to Oakland two years ago. In two seasons with the Raiders, he started 24 games, completed 61 percent of his passes for 6,771 yards and 35 touchdowns and 30 interceptions. His career passer rating is 85.5.
“We’d like to thank Carson Palmer for his services over the past two seasons,” Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said in a news release, “and we wish him well with the Cardinals.”
For his career, Palmer has completed 62.5 percent of his passes for 29,465 yards and 189 touchdowns with 132 interceptions.
He would be the fourth different starting quarterback to open the season with Arizona since Kurt Warner retired in 2009.
A few years ago, Arizona acquired another quarterback thought to be well past his prime. All Warner did was lead the team to the Super Bowl.
‘Kurt was a phenomenal player, came here and just lit people up,” Palmer said. “I’d love to be compared to some of the things that he did here when it’s my time to leave.”