Cardinals coach: Would like to have a young QB after Palmer, Stanton

Mar 7, 2016, 10:43 AM | Updated: 12:00 pm

Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis,...

Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

LISTEN: Bruce Arians, Cardinals head coach

It is no surprise that the Arizona Cardinals’ ascension to the top of the NFC has coincided with Carson Palmer’s resurgence as a top-flight quarterback.

While it is possible to win in the NFL without great play from that position (see Broncos, Denver), having a quarterback who can dissect a defense and lead an offense makes life significantly easier for a football team.

At the same time, less-than-stellar play from the position can make things that much more difficult, so when people look at the Cardinals and their championship window, they often cite Palmer’s age (36) as reason to believe it will not be open much longer.

Unless, of course, the team can find a young passer who can carry the torch when Palmer calls it quits, though that is easier said than done. Arizona picked Logan Thomas in the fourth round of the 2014 draft, but the athletically gifted but raw prospect lasted just one season with the team.

The 2016 NFL Draft does feature some intriguing options, and while the top players such as Cal’s Jared Goff and North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz are expected to be off the board long before the Cardinals are up at pick No. 29, there are other players — like Memphis’ Paxton Lynch, Michigan State’s Connor Cook and Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg — who could be available should the Cardinals decide to look toward their future in the first or second round.

A guest of Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Monday, Arians addressed his quarterback room, which last season included Palmer, Drew Stanton and Matt Barkley.

“The one thing about Carson, I don’t think he’s done by any stretch,” he said. “And a big priority for us is getting Drew back, who we trust totally to win a championship with.

“With those two guys, you would like to have a young guy that you feel like, three years from now, the franchise is set for the future, yes.”

Last season, in his return from a torn ACL, Palmer set career bests and franchise records in passing yards (4,671), touchdown passes (35) and passer rating (104.6). He posted 11 games with a QB rating over 100, which led the NFL, and was named second-team All-Pro while being voted into the Pro Bowl for the first time since 2006.

Though Palmer is getting up there in years, that he played the best football of his career last season does lend credence to the idea that he may not be in his football playing twilight just yet.

As for Stanton, the 31-year-old free agent appeared in just seven games last season — all in mop up duty — and completed 11 of 25 passes for 104 yards with two interceptions. The season before, though, he appeared in nine games, passing for 1,711 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions in relief of an injured Palmer.

Stanton, who signed with the Cardinals prior to the 2013 season, may look to see if a starting job will be available to him in free agency, but if one does not present itself it would not be a surprise to see him return to Arizona as the backup.

In terms of the Cardinals finding their quarterback of the future in the draft, just one mock in the Mock Draft Tracker has Arizona going with a passer in round one, with Fox Sports’ Peter Schrager predicting they would tab Lynch 29th overall.

Speaking with Off the Edge with B-Train last week, ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr. said Lynch would be an ideal draft-and-groom candidate for a team like Arizona.

“With his size, near 6-7, and with his arm and his mobility and his athleticism for a kid who is raw and needs work and needs coaching, he would be ideal because he would have a chance to sit, watch and learn with Carson, be there with a quarterback master in Bruce Arians, and certainly have a chance to be the  heir apparent to Carson Palmer with the Arizona Cardinals.”

Kiper added Cook and Hackenberg are likely to be chosen in the third or fourth round, and Ohio State’s Cardale Jones could be viewed as a developmental pick later in the draft.

“So I think those are some of the options that the Cardinals will be looking at,” Kiper said. “If they don’t want to go first, they’re going to have plenty of options in the third or fourth round.”

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