The Bengals aren't willing to trade Carson Palmer, who wants to leave one of the NFL's least-successful franchises while he's still in his prime.
Owner Mike Brown said Monday that the 31-year-old quarterback asked for a trade a little more than a week ago. Brown told Palmer the team wouldn't trade him because he's central to its plans.
"He was told that, and that we count on him going forward," Brown told The Cincinnati Enquirer and the team's website in Mobile, Ala. "He was told that we are not in a position to trade him."
The franchise quarterback has decided it's time to leave his mess of a franchise.
Palmer hasn't talked to the media since making his trade request. A text message seeking comment wasn't returned. Agent David Dunn released a statement saying that "because of the lack of success that Carson and the Bengals have experienced together, Carson strongly feels that a separation between him and the Bengals would be in the best interest of both parties."
Palmer was the franchise's building block when it made him the first overall pick in 2003, Marvin Lewis' first season as coach. He led the Bengals to the playoffs in 2005 and 2009 — their only winning records in the last 20 years — and rebounded from severe knee and elbow injuries along the way.
His trade request is another telling moment for a franchise coming off a 4-12 season that was in many ways its most disappointing. Lewis' contract was up, but he decided to stay even though Brown refused to make any significant changes in how the team operates. Brown, Lewis and the staff are in Alabama to coach players for the Senior Bowl.
During the taping of an episode of "The T.Ocho Show" that will air Tuesday night on the Versus cable network, receiver Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens said Palmer was unhappy with Lewis and the front office.
"If he's asking for a trade, he obviously wasn't comfortable with the rehiring of Marvin Lewis," said Owens, who is a free agent. "He's been very stealth and discreet with his message, but he's saying there's a problem without saying there's a problem."
"At this point, I think he's frustrated with management and the head coach, management not embracing him ... a bunch of stuff," said Ochocinco, who also might not be back next season.
Palmer's request is an indication he doesn't think the team can win the way it currently operates. Brown said they didn't get into specifics of what was bothering Palmer.
"We'll just have to see how it plays out," Brown said. "We'll reach out to him and understand the things that are in his craw. Maybe there are things we can do that will appeal to him. We'll try to and see whether he can get it fit back together in the future."
Brown has a history of refusing players' requests for trades. When Ochocinco tried to get traded before the 2008 season, Brown dug in. Ochocinco expects the same to happen with his quarterback.
"Carson isn't going anywhere ... relax," Ochocinco tweeted on Monday.
Palmer has few options if the team decides it wants to keep him. The question is how having an unhappy quarterback will affect the organization.
The 2002 Heisman Trophy winner at Southern California became the game's most impressive up-and-coming passer when he led the Bengals to the playoffs in 2005, breaking a streak of 15 years without a winning record. He tore up his left knee during a playoff loss to Pittsburgh.
Late in the 2005 season, Palmer agreed to rework his contract to give the club more salary cap flexibility. He got six years added to the deal, which lasts through 2014. At the time, he said he wanted to finish his career in Cincinnati.
Since then, the Bengals have made the playoffs only one more time, losing to the Jets in the 2009 season. The offense has been in flux, bouncing from a run-based approach in 2009 to a mix of run-and-pass last season that didn't work. With Owens and Ochocinco as his top targets, Palmer completed 362 of a team-record 586 attempts for 3,970 yards and 26 touchdowns. He also matched his career high with 20 interceptions.
As the season went along, Owens openly questioned the coaches' play calling, saying the Bengals should throw more. Running back Cedric Benson, another free agent, said the team should have stayed with its run-first philosophy. Now, Palmer is throwing up his hands in frustration.
Brown thinks they can still coexist.
"The life of a pro quarterback is not always easy," Brown said. "When you're down the criticism will flare up. That's the nature of our business. We want him to re-up, be in good spirits and in time he'll come around. This was a deeply disappointing season for us, we have all suffered from it. I think we will rebound."