Carson Palmer (04/19/13)

By John Ewing

Leading up to the NFL Draft we will take a look back at some of the big moves during the NFL Free Agency. We will grade each signing, analyze fantasy impact, and look at prop bets for each player acquired where appropriate. This is all done through 50,000 simulations of last season with the signed players joining their new teams. Previously covered: Mike WallaceWes WelkerReggie Bush.

The Contract:

Arizona dealt a 2013 sixth-round pick (176th overall) and a 2014 seventh-rounder (conditional on Palmer starting at least 13 games) for Palmer and the Raiders’ seventh-round pick (219th overall) in 2013. Palmer agreed to a $16 million two-year contract with $10 million guaranteed.

Arizona’s Motivation:

Since the 2010 season the Cardinals have had six different starting quarterbacks. Those same quarterbacks have a combined win/loss record of 18-30. The starters also combined to complete only 54% of their passes for 42 touchdowns and 63 interceptions.

Twitter Reactions:

Larry Fitzgerald's reaction to the Arizona Cardinals acquiring Carson Palmer

The Numbers:

Below is a look at Palmer’s numbers over his nine-year career. Career: 62.5% completion, 29,465 passing yards and 130 touchdowns.

Season CMP % Yards Touchdowns
2004 60.9 2,897 18
2005 67.8 3,836 32
2006 62.3 4,035 28
2007 64.9 4,131 26
2008 58.1 731 3
2009 60.5 3,094 21
2010 61.8 3,970 26
2011 60.7 2,753 13
2012 61.1 4,018 22

Our Projections:

Here are our projections through 50,000 simulations of last season. Point of clarification, we are simulating Palmer on the field for Arizona as the starting quarterback. It is important to remember that these projections are rough estimates since we are using last year's schedule, assuming all players are healthy, and not accounting for all the changes throughout the NFL.

CMP% Yards Touchdowns Interceptions
60.9 4,148.4 22.6 19.8

Free Agent Signing Grade: C

As a baseline, we simulated the entire season without the addition of Carson Palmer (or Rashard Mendenhall). On average we projected the Cardinals to win 4.6 games while losing 11.4. Arizona finishes last in the NFC West.

After accounting for the addition of Palmer (and Mendenhall) as the starting quarterback and primary running back the Cardinals win on average 7.2 games and lose 8.8 games. Arizona finishes 3rd in the NFC West.

Carson Palmer has been an average quarterback in the last few seasons. But average is better than below average (Ryan Lindley, John Skelton, and Brian Hoyer) and as a result the Cardinals should improve from horrendous to mediocre. Palmer is not the long-term answer for the Cardinals at the quarterback position. Arizona may spend their 7th overall pick on Matt Barkley and let him develop for two years under the tutelage of Palmer. This could be detrimental to the long-term success of the franchise (Barkley is not a lock) when their greatest need is on the offensive line. In our objective draft we have Arizona selecting offensive tackle Lane Johnson, for a complete list click here. The Palmer acquisition grades out as a C because it is nothing more than a stopgap.

Fantasy Impact:

Carson Palmer: Two problems preventing Palmer from being fantasy relevant. First, his offensive line cannot protect him - last season the Cardinals quarterbacks took a league-high 58 sacks. Second, Palmer throws too many interceptions. Palmer ranks 25th among 29 qualifying quarterbacks over the past three seasons in touchdown-to-interception ratio. Palmer is currently projected as the 24th quarterback selected. If his offensive line can gel and he cuts back on his interceptions he could prove useful in two quarterback leagues.

Larry Fitzgerald:  Palmer may not have great fantasy value but his presence greatly improves Fitzgerald’s significance. Fitz was selected as the 2nd overall receiver in last year’s draft and finished with six-year lows in receptions (71), yards (798), and touchdowns (4). With Palmer throwing the ball we project Fitz to have 79.2 receptions, 985.1 yards, and 7.9 touchdowns. Fitzgerald is currently projected as the 14th wide receiver taken in the draft. His average draft position is more aligned with his potential production than last season. If Palmer can stay upright then Fitz’s number could improve.

Rashard Mendenhall: Mendenhall is looking to resuscitate his career after an ACL injury two years ago. The 2012 season was a disappointment for Mendenhall, humbled by injuries and a one-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team, who only accumulated 182 yards rushing and 0 touchdowns. Assuming he can stay on the field for a full season (big if) we project Mendenhall to lead the team in rushing yards (636.9) and rushing touchdowns (6.6). He is currently projected to be the 34th back taken in fantasy drafts. At best he is a bye week play.