The Raiders are staking this season's playoff chances -- and their future -- on the belief that Carson Palmer is among the elite quarterbacks in the NFL.
"We're chasing a championship," coach Hue Jackson said with Palmer flanked beside him at an introductory news conference Tuesday afternoon. "I'm very excited about this football team and where it has a chance to go."
Palmer arrived from Cincinnati in exchange for a hefty sum: a first-round draft pick in 2012 and a conditional second-round pick in 2013 that could become a first-rounder.
In the wake of a broken right collarbone suffered by Jason Campbell on Sunday, the Raiders hope Palmer is the man who can steer their ship toward multiple playoff runs.
"I went to bed at 10:30 a retired football player and got a text message at 4 a.m. and was told to get on a plane to Oakland," Palmer said. "So it's been a whirlwind, and I understand what is expected of me. I've played in this league for eight years. I know what it's about. I know what playing quarterback is about, and it's about winning."
Jackson called it "the greatest trade in football," and he'll get no argument from Raiders fans provided Palmer is the player he was from 2005 through 2007 rather than the one whose performance level appeared to slip during the past two seasons in Cincinnati.
"This isn't about numbers," Jackson said. "This is about the person because I know his heart. I know his passion. I know his
Jackson wouldn't say if Palmer would start Sunday against Kansas City, preferring to see him in practice before making that decision. Palmer said he would be ready when called upon.
Palmer declined to get into specifics about his departure from Cincinnati, where he walked out on a contract that was to pay him $11.5 million this season, saying it was "time for me to move on, it was time for them to move on, and I'm thankful they got this trade done."
Cincinnati team president Mike Brown had insisted he wouldn't trade Palmer, but the value of compensation (the 2013 pick becomes a first-rounder if the Raiders advance to the AFC title game this year or next), as well as Palmer's relationship with Jackson helped forge a trade.
Jackson said he never hesitated at the thought of parting with the draft picks and taking the proposal to Mark Davis, the son of late Raiders owner Al Davis, and CEO Amy Trask, because of his background with Palmer.
Palmer attended USC in part because of the recruiting pitch of Jackson, who was his quarterbacks coach. In Cincinnati, Jackson coached wide receivers from 2004-06.
Palmer, 6-foot-5 and 236 pounds, is the kind of classic downfield thrower the Raiders love, although an elbow injury in 2008 seemed to affect his arm strength. He understands people want to know if he still can throw the deep ball.
"I've been throwing and my arm feels as good as it ever has," Palmer said. "I feel confident in it. It's my job to answer that question. The only way I can do that is on the field, throwing it."
Although Palmer spent the offseason training as if he would play, he conceded he hasn't done much throwing since the regular season began.
The price the Raiders paid to get Palmer raised some eyebrows throughout the league, although similar prices have been paid in recent years with deals involving Kevin Kolb (Philadelphia to Arizona), Jay Cutler (Denver to Chicago) and Matt Schaub (Atlanta to Houston).
The difference is that those quarterbacks were all in their early- to mid-20s at the time they were traded. Palmer turns 32 in December.
"I know a lot of people think we've mortgaged the future of the organization," Jackson said. "I don't see it that way. I don't think you ever mortgage the future of an organization when you're putting a real big-time franchise quarterback on your team."
The Raiders at present have 2012 draft selections only in the fifth and sixth rounds, having dealt the first, second, third, fourth and seventh draft picks. They are expected to be assigned a compensatory pick or picks for the loss of free agents based on a league formula, and could trade players for draft picks.
Palmer reportedly agreed to a $2.5 million salary this season in a restructure, escalating to $12.5 million in 2012, $13 million in 2013 and $15 million in 2014 with $7.5 million guaranteed next season.
It remains to be seen whether Campbell, in the last year of his contract, will be put on injured reserve or be kept on the roster as a potential reserve down the stretch. He had surgery Monday.
"I am really glad to have had the opportunity to work with Jason, watch what he did and how he led this team," Jackson said. "We're going to miss him and we wish him a speedy recovery."
A list of the 13 Raiders players who were first-round selections in the NFL draft and the teams that selected them:
Year Player Pick Pos. College Team
2010 Rolando McClain 8 LB Alabama Raiders
2009 Aaron Curry 4 LB Wake Forest Seattle
2009 Darrius Heyward-Bey 7 WR Maryland Raiders
2008 Darren McFadden 4 RB Arkansas Raiders
2007 Jarvis Moss 17 DE Florida Denver
2006 Michael Huff 7 S Texas Raiders
2006 Kamerion Wimbley 13 LB Florida St. Cleveland
2005 Jason Campbell 25 QB Auburn Washington
2003 Carson Palmer 1 QB USC Cincinnati
2003 Kyle Boller 19 QB Cal Baltimore
2002 John Henderson 9 DT Tenn. Jacksonville
2001 Richard Seymour 6 DL Georgia New England
2000 Sebastian Janikowski 17 K Florida St. Raiders