Cardinals in bottom third of ESPN’s Future Power Rankings
Last week, John Clayton proposed that 2017 will be the final season of the Cardinals’ Super Bowl window.
He might be right, of course, with QB Carson Palmer and WR Larry Fitzgerald both nearing retirement and other key players’ contract situations needing to be resolved.
But unless you are the New England Patriots, nothing in the NFL is certain from year to year, so to say the Cardinals will undoubtedly slink back to mediocrity following this season or, perhaps, are already there, might be a bit premature.
However, according to the latest edition of ESPN’s future power rankings, that’s exactly what is going to happen.
The annual piece gauges the thoughts of a panel that includes Louis Riddick, Mike Sando and Field Yates, with the goal being to rank the teams in terms of how they will fare over the next three seasons. Roster, quarterback, draft, front office and coaching all factor into it, with each being weighted differently in making up the final score.
According to the panel, add it all up and the Cardinals come in at No. 22 overall.
Broken down, the Cardinals are tied for 10th in front office and 13th in roster, but sit 18th for draft, are tied for 24th in coaching and are a pretty dismal 28th in quarterback.
Why they’re here: It seems at least plausible that the Cardinals could undergo a major shift following the 2017 season. Carson Palmer will be a free agent and there’s no succession plan presently in place. Larry Fitzgerald also enters the final year of his contract. Their importance to the franchise — Fitzgerald is perhaps the greatest player in its history — cannot be overlooked. — Field Yates
Outside of the fact that Palmer’s contract runs through the 2018 season, the idea that both QB and receiver could be entering their final season in the desert is well understood. The Cardinals have some talented receivers on the roster but none that could replace Fitzgerald, and unless Blaine Gabbert develops into a franchise QB, don’t really have someone to take over for Palmer, either.
That, in turn, leads to this:
Biggest worry: Field mentioned it, but Palmer turns 38 in December and the Cardinals still don’t have his presumed replacement on the roster. Every hit Palmer takes could be his last, and he took a beating in 2016, getting sacked 40 times and hit countless others. The Cardinals’ decision-making team should be worried sick about the future of the QB position in the short and long term. — Louis Riddick
Most of the pre-draft conversation surrounded the idea of finding the quarterback of the future, with GM Steve Keim going so far as to say he is always thinking about finding that guy. They did not choose one in the draft, however, as three passers were chosen ahead of their No. 13 overall pick.
On the bright side, though:
What could change for the better: The longer-term coaching outlook could improve if Bruce Arians’ health issues subside. It has been speculated in the league and media over the past couple seasons that Arians might be forced to walk away, but what if that is not the case? At age 64, there is still a chance Arians could provide some solid seasons if his health stabilizes. — Mike Sando
One of the most successful coaches in franchise history, Arians in 2016 dealt with a couple of health-related issues, with diverticulitis during training camp and then chest pains following a loss during the season, but whenever asked about his future the fifth-year coach maintained he has no plans on calling it quits anytime soon.
Though the prognosis for the Cardinals appears bleak, some consolation may be found in two of the team’s NFC West rivals — the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers — are ranked below them, at 28 and 30, respectively.
The Seattle Seahawks, on the other hand, are second.
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