Way back in 2013, the Arizona Cardinals picked up Carson Palmer from the Oakland Raiders for a steal. The veteran quarterback cost them a sixth-round pick in 2013, and a conditional seventh-round pick in 2014 -- in addition to the two-year, $28 million contract Palmer was saddled with. At the time the move was frowned upon after Palmer's mediocre, seasons. Instead, it's turned out to be a genius move, with Palmer having gotten better every year -- and being one of the very best quarterbacks in the league this season.
But the Cardinals weren't the only ones interested in Palmer at the time: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wanted him as well, with Mark Dominik and Greg Schiano doubting Josh Freeman's competence as a starter -- justifiably, in hindsight. Ultimately the Bucs bowed out of the pursuit of Palmer, but with the Arizona quarterback playing in the NFC championship today it may be interesting to speculate about what would have happened had the Bucs traded for Palmer.
Greg Schiano would have stayed on longer
The quarterback wasn't the only thing that was wrong with the Bucs in 2013, but having Mike Glennon as a backup to Josh Freeman certainly didn't help. As good as Glennon was for a rookie, he was still just a rookie and lost the team a lot more games than he won. Had the Bucs had Palmer they still would've had to deal with MRSA, an incompetent running game and locker room rifts. But they would have won more games, would likely have moved on from Freeman in the preseason instead of after three games, and would have had more of a perspective for the future on offense. That may have been enough to get the Bucs to six or seven wins instead of four, and that could have saved Schiano.
Darrelle Revis and Mark Barron would be key players on this defense
Schiano's defense was inconsistent and fundamentally flawed, but its results were still better than Lovie Smith's over two years. And Schiano would not have moved on from Darrelle Revis or Mark Barron -- instead, he would have turned them into important players. Barron fit Schiano's blitz-heavy scheme much better than he did Smith's philosophy and he's playing well in more of a hybrid linebacker role in St. Louis. With Schiano staying at least an extra year, the Bucs would not have turned to Lovie Smith -- and whoever they did turn to would perhaps have kept both Revis and Barron.
Other players that would likely still be here: Jeremy Zuttah, Donald Penn and perhaps Dashon Goldson.
But they'd also be looking at new quarterbacks
Carson Palmer is 36 years old. As well as he's playing now, he won't be around forever. And that means the Bucs would be prepping for the future at quarterback once again. This time, without Jameis Winston -- it's hard to see them earning the number one pick if they have Palmer playing quarterback after all. And with no Winston, there's a lot less perspective for the future.