The 2011 free-agency period, when it finally started, featured an uncharacteristically high number of veteran quarterbacks, from Matthew Hasselbeck to Tarvaris Jackson to Alex Smith to Rex Grossman to (via trades) Donovan McNabb to Kevin Kolb. The dust finally settled on Tuesday, when the Bengals traded Carson Palmer to the Raiders.
And that move means Jason Campbell won’t be back next year with the Raiders.
Campbell, whose contract expires after the season, joins 49ers quarterback Alex Smith (and McNabb) as the biggest looming names on the quarterback free-agency market. (Kyle Orton will be a free agent, too. I’d already forgotten about him. Just like the Broncos have.)
In his sixth NFL season, Campbell was having a solid, but not spectacular, second season in Oakland. With the 49ers likely to keep Smith, Campbell could be the top target for teams looking for a veteran quarterback.
Traded out of Washington after the Redskins acquired McNabb, Campbell is having a much better season than Grossman, the guy who replaced McNabb. Campbell also is arguably playing as well if not better than the guy who will be replacing him in Oakland.
Palmer faded down the stretch in 2009, losing four of five games and playing poorly in back-to-back losses to the Jets that bridged the end of the regular season and the playoffs. Last year, there was a nagging sense that something wasn’t right with Palmer.
Some think it traces to his torn ACL from January 2006. But even though Palmer seemed to be skittish about sticking his plant leg out there once he came back, he threw for more than 4,000 yards in his first season after the injury, with a passer rating in excess of 90.
The more logical question is whether Palmer is still feeling the effects of the elbow injury that limited him to four games in 2008. Either way, he hasn’t been significantly better than Campbell in recent years, and Campbell will be available in March for a lot less than a first-round pick and a second-round pick that could become a first-rounder.