By trading their franchise quarterback, the Cincinnati Bengals finally can move on.
The Bengals ended nine months of uncertainty Tuesday when they dealt Carson Palmer to the Oakland Raiders for two draft picks. Palmer told the Bengals in January that he wouldn't play for them again, and he wanted a trade, something that owner Mike Brown had adamantly refused.
Shortly before the trading deadline, Brown did an about-face and traded Palmer for a 2012 first-round pick and a 2013 conditional second-round selection -- a better deal than he'd expected for the 31-year-old quarterback.
NFL Network's Michael Lombardi reported that the 2013 second-round pick will become a first-rounder if the Raiders play in the AFC Championship Game in either of the next two years. NFL Network's Albert Breer also cited a league source in reporting that Palmer reworked his contract, which runs through 2014, to a maximum of $43 million as part of the trade.
"When you sign a contract, you're bound to the contract," Lewis said. "We're going to hold true to that until it's time for us to best benefit the football team. Just like Paul Brown said, we'll tolerate you as long as we need you. ...
"This was a good deal for both clubs. I know we're excited about it, and I think they are as well."
The Bengals can move ahead without having to account for Palmer in the budget. They had to set aside money to account for his salary should he change his mind and show up to play. Palmer had a base salary of $11.5 million this season, with three more years left on his deal.
Instead of saving budget space, the Bengals can try to extend deals with other current players.
"Now we open up some other doors," Lewis said. "There has been a lot written about, oh, you guys have this much (salary) cap space, but we had to have that space stay in there because if Carson were to walk in here, we had to be able to handle that."
The deal had little impact on Palmer's former teammates, who knew he wasn't coming back when he told the team in January that he'd retire rather than play another season in Cincinnati. The Bengals have just two winning records in the last 20 years.
The message board by the entrance to the Bengals' locker room Tuesday had an anonymous scrawled message: "Let My People Goooooo!" Otherwise, there wasn't much reaction.
"I don't think even one player in this locker room's even thought about that," left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. "We haven't worried about it. We've gone forward with the guys we have and tried to play as good as we can, and that's all we can do."
Palmer's former teammates were glad that he finally received his wish. Palmer was the first overall pick in the 2003 draft and led Cincinnati to those two winning seasons, only to have his career interrupted by knee and elbow injuries.
"Kudos to Carson," offensive lineman Bobbie Williams said. "Just good luck to everybody. I don't know about the details, but whatever it is, I'm pretty sure we got what we wanted, he got what he wanted, and we'll go from there.
"I'm happy with where we're at. I hope he's happy with where he's at. Good luck to him. I mean, who knows?"
Lewis said rookie quarterback Andy Dalton's solid play in the first six games made Brown more comfortable with trading Palmer. Dalton said Tuesday that he never felt like his performance would figure into what happened with Palmer.
"I knew coming in here that he wasn't going to be here and that the job was going to be open," Dalton said. "It's nothing that I've worried about."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.