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4:26 AM Tue, Nov. 20th

Sports Column: New QB Palmer worth the gamble for Cardinals

Carson Palmer is a worthwhile gamble heading into 2013.

I know he's lost quite a bit of his luster since undergoing reconstructive knee surgery in 2006, followed by a partially torn elbow ligament in 2008.

He hasn't been the same since. And by "the same," I mean entering his name into Pro Bowl talks. In all likelihood, those days are long gone from the conversation.

Even though he's not Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees or Ben Roethlisberger, just to name a few, so what?

If you look at recent history, the Arizona Cardinals made a smart investment by acquiring Palmer in a trade with the Oakland Raiders on NFL Draft night this past April.

Even if it's only for the short term (given that Palmer is 34 years old), it's a starting point.

This decision will help the Red Birds get back on their feet and fly back into NFC West contention.

Palmer brings experience, consistency and credibility to the Arizona Cardinals, something they haven't had in a quarterback since Kurt Warner (who led the Cards to the NFL playoffs in 2008 - which resulted in a trip to the Super Bowl versus Pittsburgh - and 2009).

Completing 60 percent or more of his passes in seven of the past eight seasons, he won't need to worry too much about obtaining similar - if not higher - numbers because of one well-known number: 11, as in wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

It should be an interesting development. Fitzgerald will be paired with a guy who won't have much difficulty finding him down the field.

Palmer also has his first major target since Chad Johnson (a.k.a. "Chad Ochocinco," if that rings a bell).

In 2005, Palmer and Johnson helped the Cincinnati Bengals reach their first postseason berth in 15 years. Palmer had T.J. Houshmandzadeh as his No. 2 option.

The thing that will remind you of Palmer's days with the Bengals will not only be Arizona's Fitzgerald, but also the emerging second-year receiver Michael Floyd.

Fitzgerald and Floyd are fast, smart and creative guys. They'll make Palmer a happy man.

This will only be extra motivation for a guy who already has a knack for getting struggling teams back on track, not just Cincy.

The past two seasons, he started 24 of the last 25 games in Oakland.

He brought consistency to another team that still needs to solidify their quarterback situation, a long-term need.

Palmer threw for 6,771 yards with 35 touchdowns during his tenure in the Black Hole.

Granted, his 30 interceptions during that time are off-putting. But that's only because the offensive line has been one of Oakland's most significant concerns for the past decade.

Although new head coach Bruce Arians currently has a young, inexperienced offensive line, they can change for the better.

Arians can formulate an offensive system that can revolve around Palmer and allow him to be creative in playmaking, similar to what he did for then-rookie quarterback Andrew Luck.

That was when Arians was the Indianapolis Colts' interim head coach in 2012.

I suspect he wants to run something similar in Arizona, meaning the offensive linemen will absolutely need to step up to protect Palmer.

The pieces are there. They started a new regime to get back into playoff talks.

Can Palmer rise to the challenge, be healthy alongside Fitzgerald and company, and lead the Cardinals back into contention?

That's still to be determined, starting with Arizona's season opener at St. Louis next Sunday at 12:25 p.m.