The links: Palmer, Kolb rumors gain momentum

Carson Palmer, Kevin Kolb and (don’t fret) even a dash of Alex Smith highlight the links:

• Bengals coach Marvin Lewis knows his starting quarterback very well – he and Carson Palmer have been together since Palmer’s rookie year in 2003.

And according to Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, Lewis knows Palmer won’t return to Cincinnati. Palmer, 31, has said he would retire if the Bengals don’t trade him, a stance some have viewed as an idle threat by a star desperate to find greener pastures. The Bengals went 4-12 last year and have had two winning seasons during Palmer’s eight-year career.

“Marvin knows how stubborn Carson is, and he thinks no matter what happens, the guy won’t change his mind,” King quotes one club executive as saying.

King believes San Francisco, Arizona and Minnesota would be the most logical landing spots for Palmer, assuming Cincinnati deals him. Palmer grew up in Southern California and his wife, Shaelynn, was raised in San Francisco.

This past season, Palmer completed 362 of 586 passes (61.8) for 3,970 yards with 26 touchdowns and 20 interceptions, five which were returned for touchdowns. He ranked sixth in the NFL in yards and ninth in touchdowns. His 82.4 quarterback rating ranked 19th in the league, two spots ahead of Alex Smith (82.1). He posted a rating under 65.0 in six of 16 starts.

King is also reporting, via a “good source,” that the Eagles have been offered a first-round draft pick for quarterback Kevin Kolb, but are hoping to strike a deal with a team holding a higher pick. This, obviously, suggests the Niners aren’t the ones who have offered their first-rounder.

Eagles general manager Howie Roseman was asked about King’s report this morning at the NFL Owners Meetings in New Orleans and didn’t offer a denial.

“There’s a lot of interest in Kevin Kolb,” Roseman told the Philadelphia Daily News.

Is Kolb worth the No. 7 overall pick? King seems to think so: “I’d trade a very high draft pick to acquire Kolb instead of drafting one of the quarterbacks available this year,” he writes. “I’d want to reduce the risk of making a mistake high in the draft by taking the safe guy with ability? Kolb’s 26. He’s a coach’s son. He’s had some struggles running the Eagles offense in his seven career starts, but I saw him ruin the soon-to-be Super Bowl champion Saints with a 391-yard strafing in 2009; he played well enough to rout the playoff-bound Falcons and throw for 326 yards last season.

“We’ve seen him do it. All the rookies have question marks. I know I’d sleep better at night with Kolb on my team this summer.”

Fox Sports Adam Caplan offers the opinion that the Seahawks, Cardinals and Titans would have more interest in Kolb than the Niners, who he believes are looking to build from within.

• ESPN’s Mike Sando caught up with general manager Trent Baalke in New Orleans.

Jim Harbaugh, of course, has been rather effusive in his praise of quarterback Alex Smith. Baalke, in contrast, has taken a more measured tone. His comment about the quarterback of the future not being on the Niners’ roster was widely interpreted as evidence that he wasn’t interesting in retaining Smith.

Baalke has since said that it was merely a statement of fact – a nod to Smith becoming an unrestricted free agent.

Baalke reiterated that stance in his conversation with Sando. He also said he didn’t differ with Harbaugh when it came to Smith.

“I don’t think we differ,” Baalke said. “We want to make this team as competitive as we can. In order to do that, we have to create competition at every position, and certainly to do that we’re going to have to create it at the quarterback position when you don’t have an incumbent quarterback. That is all we are hoping to do.”

At the scouting combine last month, Baalke said the differing public comments regarding Smith were a reflection of differences in his and Harbaugh’s personalities.

“As you know,” he said, “Jim and I take two different approaches on some of this stuff.”

• My colleague Lowell Cohn wrote an excellent column on the relationship between Harbaugh and Bill Walsh, which, in some ways, is ongoing. Harbaugh says he wants to be a “great coach” and he is clearly using Walsh as a template.

In the complete Harbaugh-on-Walsh Q&A, Lowell relates a great story: Bill Walsh diagramming plays, with his finger, on the back of his wife, Geri.

When Walsh was finished scribbling, Geri turned to him: “Did it work?” she asked.

• In Sando’s scene setter from New Orleans on Sunday he notes that Harbaugh radiates intensity, even when walking around hotel lobbies.

“I have a feeling there isn’t a more driven coach in the NFL, and that is saying something,” Sando said.

The Kansas City Star did get a quote out of Jim Harbaugh following Blaine Gabbert’s pro day last week.

“(Gabbert) did an excellent job,” Harbaugh said of the former Missouri quarterback. “I think he really helped himself today.”

OK, it’s not much. But it’s more than Harbaugh has ever said about, say, Troy Smith.

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