Cincinnati Bengals: 30 greatest players in franchise history

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /
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Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

(2003-10). Carson Palmer. 21. player. 56. . QB

  • 2x Pro Bowl w/Bengals (2005-06)
  • NFL passing touchdowns leader (2005)
  • NFL completion percentage leader (2005)
  • 2x 4,000 passing yard seasons w/Bengals (2006-07)
  • Cincinnati Bengals 40th Anniversary Team
  • Most completions (373), pass attempts (586) in a season for Bengals
  • Six passing touchdowns in a game vs. 2007 Cleveland Browns

Carson Palmer may never get the credit he deserves. Yes, he did win the 2002 Heisman Trophy at USC and did go No. 1 overall to the Bengals the following spring. However, his powerful right arm helped bring stability to three football situations that desperately needed it: his alma mater USC, the Bengals and later the Arizona Cardinals. Let’s just chalk up that Oakland Raiders thing as a wash…

Palmer did not see the field as a rookie in 2003, as he backed up veteran Jon Kitna. While Palmer was average at best in his first year as a starter in 2004, his breakout year in 2005 was incredible. Palmer led the NFL in passing touchdowns with 32, completing a league-best 67.8 percent of his passes for 3,836 yards and only 12 interceptions. It should come as no surprise that the Bengals made the playoffs for the first time since 1990 that fall.

However, that breakout year for Palmer wasn’t without heartbreak. In the Bengals’ AFC Wild Card Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, defensive tackle Kimo von Oelhoffen intentionally rolled up on Palmer’s leg and the Bengals signal caller tore his ACL. Cincinnati would lose the game, but a rule would be enacted that prevented defensive players from sacking the quarterback in that manner.

Palmer was able to return in time for the 2006 NFL season. He would make his second of two trips to the Pro Bowl with the Bengals that season. Palmer went over 4,000 yards passing for the first time in his career that fall with 4,035 yards that campaign. He backed that up with another 4,000-yard passing season again in 2007. That year saw Palmer throw for a franchise-record six touchdown passes against the division rival Cleveland Browns.

However, 2007 proved to be Palmer’s last good season with the Bengals. He probably should have had Tommy John surgery to repair a damaged ligament in his elbow, but elected not to. This led to Palmer only playing in four games for the 2008 Bengals, going 0-4 as a starter.

After the 2010 Bengals struggled to a miserable 4-12 record, Palmer requested a trade and was denied by owner Mike Brown. Cincinnati drafted another quarterback in the second-round in 2011 out of TCU in the form of Andy Dalton. Eventually, Palmer would make his way to the Raiders to replace the injured Jason Campbell. After two bad years in Oakland, Palmer looked like a shot fighter heading into the 2013 NFL season.

He would however experience a second wind in his NFL career with Arizona. Palmer was the Cardinals starting quarterback through the 2017 NFL season before retiring. His best season as a professional came in 2015, has he led the Cardinals to the NFC Championship before falling apart against the Carolina Panthers.

Palmer ended up with 22,694 passing yards and 154 touchdowns in 157 starts with the Bengals over seven seasons. Frankly, he might have been the most talented quarterback the Bengals have ever had.

However, he finds himself fourth all-time in Cincinnati signal caller lore due to a smaller body of work and a relatively short prime with the team. That being said, he did give the Marvin Lewis Bengals credibility in the mid-2000s with Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh on the outside.