Filling holes is a time honored tradition. Every team, every draft season, fills holes. What comprises a hole is subjective, but, basically, it means a position manned by an inadequate starter that also lacks talented depth to push that starter. The Seahawks have their share, but so do the Steelers and the Packers. Every team has holes and no team ever completely fills their holes. As the season progresses, injuries puncture new holes. The Packers lost Ryan Grant, Jermichael Finley, Nick Barnett and Morgan Burnett for the season, have started Howard Green at defensive end, and will start Green at defensive end in the Super Bowl. Green will start alongside other journeymen like outside linebacker Erik Walden and strong safety Charlie Peprah. That is a lot of holes. Both of Pittsburgh's starting offensive tackles are on injured reserve. The Steelers offensive line has been labeled a hole in pressing need of filling for as long as I can remember. Holes. Holes. Holes.
Few of them filled and none of them stopping either team from making the Super Bowl. This isn't unprecedented or a twist or working from an exception to make a rule. Teams that play the 19 or 20 games it takes to make and win the Super Bowl always have holes. Injuries happen, depth is insufficient, sometimes the team started the season with the hole, or the drop from starter to depth wasn't dramatic, but however you frame it, a Super Bowl caliber team is not a team without holes, is not a team that starts good players at every position, it is a team like the Seahawks, but much better at a few key positions.
Super Bowl teams are not defined by who is missing, but who remains. No one remembers or cares that Kawika Mitchell and James Butler started for the Giants in Super Bowl XLII, that Green and Walden will start for the Packers this Sunday, or that D.D. Lewis and Marquand Manuel started for the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL. People remember Osi, Justin, Mathias and Michael tearing through the Patriots vaunted offense. People will remember what Troy Polamalu did, what Aaron Rodgers did, what Greg Jennings did. We remember Jones, Hutchinson and Matt Hasselbeck.
The argument against trading for Caron Palmer is typically: Seattle has too many holes. Seattle can not afford to trade picks, because it has too many needs. And it does. And Palmer isn't enough. Seattle has holes, tons of them, but more importantly, Seattle does not have enough total talent to be a great team. It isn't there, it isn't close and to get there it needs better talent on offense and defense. It needs to take a flier on a converted wide receiver and have that player produce like Sam Shields. It needs to sign an aged left tackle, stick him at right, and watch him run block like Flozell Adams. It needs -- to cut through the rhetoric -- to invest and see that investment turn into something more.
The argument against trading for Carson Palmer should be: He is not worth more than what Seattle will have to pay. He is not worth more for the Seahawks.
To answer the first, that is probably not true. Palmer will probably be more valuable than even the 25th overall pick, and a first round pick is quite a bit to ask. Whether Cincinnati will admit it or not, Palmer has the Bengals over a barrel. When Brett Favre exacted a trade, the Packers settled for a fourth round pick from the Jets. It wasn't as if Favre was washed up either. He averaged 7.2 ANY/A in 2007, an average Palmer has only surpassed once in his career. But even if that were the deal, Palmer would still likely be more valuable. An average 25th overall pick is worth 28 AV. Pro Football Reference lists Larry Triplett as representing an "average" 25th overall pick. Over the last five seasons, the presumed length Seattle can count on Palmer as a starter and the typical length of a late first-round rookie's contract, Palmer has been worth 52, and that includes a lost 2008 season.
To answer the latter, this might be true. The Seahawks have a handful of players with star potential and no stars. Some talent can be added through free agency, but the Seahawks also need to hit big on a few draft picks. There is the potential that even if Seattle lands Palmer, doesn't overpay, and Palmer plays well, the Seahawks will still take a step back. That 25th overall pick might typically become a Larry Triplett, but sometimes you land an Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Derrick Brooks, Darrell Green or even Dan Marino. Palmer might easily beat out the production of an average draft pick, but his potential to become an absolute steal is unlikely. The Seahawks need some absolute steals to build back towards being a great team.
We started here and we end here, because it is the only rational conclusion: If the price is right, if the party is willing, and if the Seahawks are the right fit. But from those sore platitudes, we can now set some parameters. Palmer is still very valuable, probably more valuable than what Seattle will pay in trade. Palmer is probably willing. He burned his bridges to Cincinnati, and watching him, watching Marvin Lewis, watching the sideshow that is Ocho and Owens, I think Palmer would rather retire than return. The Seahawks may or may not be the right fit. Seattle is not a Carson Palmer away from being a great team, a Green Bay or Pittsburgh. But Palmer could be part of the plan. Trading for Palmer could be one move in a series of moves that push the Seahawks back towards contention. Trading for Palmer could prove to be the most important move of all.