TEMPE, Ariz. — For the first time in a long time, the Arizona Cardinals are set at quarterback entering the NFL Draft.
Carson Palmer is the starter, and barring injury will take the field Week 1 when the Cardinals host the San Diego Chargers on Monday Night Football.
But what about the next season? Or the one after that?
Palmer is 34 years old and will be 35 in December, and is set to make $10 million in 2015. Of course, the deal Palmer signed with the Cardinals when they acquired him from the Oakland Raiders says if he’s on the roster five days after the Super Bowl, his 2015 salary is voided.
In short, there’s no guarantee Palmer will be the team’s quarterback after this season, and with only career backup Drew Stanton and former sixth-round pick Ryan Lindley on the roster, many are speculating the Cardinals will look to add a passer in next week’s draft.
“Like any other time, I think you have to always look for quarterbacks of the future, and there are a few quarterbacks that we like in this draft and we think they fit what we do,” GM Steve Keim said Thursday. “I’ve said this many times before: whether it’s at 20, 52 or 84, if they’re the best player on our board, we’ll take them.”
Still, it’s tough to see the Cardinals pulling the trigger on a signal caller with their first-round pick. While the team does not have any glaring needs, according to head coach Bruce Arians, it could stand to improve in a few areas. If they can do that, then a 10-win squad that just missed the playoffs in 2013 could win even more in 2014, and possibly make a deep postseason run.
Spending their top pick on a quarterback would essentially render that pick moot for this season, as the player is unlikely to make any kind of on-field impact as a rookie because in a perfect world he’d remain on the sidelines learning for at least one season.
“If you’re a building, rebuilding team…if you were one of those types of teams you would not really want to waste a pick to get a guy on the field 80 to 90 percent of the snaps this year for a guy that’s going to hold a clipboard,” Arians said. “But if you’re a good football team and you feel like the face of your franchise is sitting there, then I think you would roll the dice on that.”
According to most mock drafts, the top quarterbacks in this class are Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Central Florida’s Blake Bortles, both of whom are expected to be gone by the time the Cardinals are on the clock. After that is a muddled group consisting of Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Fresno State’s Derek Carr, Alabama’s A.J. McCarron and LSU’s Zach Mettenberger, among others.
Then, perhaps later in the draft, the team could look to Pittsburgh’s Tom Savage or Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas, the latter of whom Arians personally worked out in early April.
There will be no shortage of options for the Cardinals at quarterback, if they indeed look to add one. But unless they take one in the first couple of rounds, it sounds like the Cardinals may not take one at all.
“If the guy that you believe in is there then you make the move, but when you start talking about talking a quarterback in the third, fourth, fifth round, is he really going to beat out your second and third guy,” Arians asked. “Why is he in the third, fourth or fifth round? It historically doesn’t happen in this league where quarterbacks in that — there are a few — there’s only one or two Tom Bradys that beat out Drew Bledsoe, but that doesn’t happen very often.
“Because the guys are on your roster for a reason: they’re pretty damn good, so to think that you’ll just draft one in the third round and he’s going to beat out Ryan Lindley, that’s tough to do.”