OAKLAND —The Oakland Raiders are at a crossroads when it comes to their massive overhaul under general manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen: stay the course with aging quarterback Carson Palmer or cut ties and go with a younger, cheaper player.
On Thursday, a Yahoo Sports story said the Raiders asked Palmer to take a pay cut from $13 million to $10 million in base salary for 2013 and that Palmer refused to do so.
The story also intimated that Palmer, 33, is forcing the Raiders hand by balking at a pay cut so that he can play for another team in 2013, one presumably with a better chance at winning the Super Bowl, after being released or traded.
Two people familiar with the situation said the Raiders did not ask Palmer to accept a $10 million salary for 2013 and that the speculation about Palmer's future is being fueled from outside the organization.
Sure, the Raiders aren't thrilled about paying Palmer a salary commensurate with the likes of Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. At the same time, they realize that their best chances of winning next season lay with Palmer at the helm and not Terrelle Pryor or someone they might select in the NFL draft a month from now.
Palmer might not be as productive as he was in his prime with the Cincinnati Bengals, but he still is capable of playing at a level better than most quarterbacks as evidenced by his passing for 4,018 yards in 15 games last season.
For those writing off Palmer, they are overlooking the fact that releasing or trading him would cost the Raiders $9.34 million in dead money on the 2013 salary cap. Therefore, paying someone like Matt Flynn the $5.25 million he is slated to earn in 2013 is about a financial wash for the Raiders either route.
That doesn't even ake into account the cost of acquiring Flynn from the Seattle Seahawks via trade. A CBSSports.com report earlier this week said the Raiders are one of three teams interested in trading for Flynn.
McKenzie is already without a second-round pick — part of the cost of the Raiders trading for Palmer — and a fifth-rounder this year.
Other options include turning over the reins to Pryor, who has made one start in his two-year NFL career or using the No. 3 pick on someone such as Geno Smith and starting from scratch.
The one certainty is that the Raiders have time on their side. They boast $7.6 million in cap room as of now, Palmer's contract isn't going to change and there isn't an urgency to make any rash decisions just yet.