Rumors heat up around the NFL Draft every year, and Blake Bortles to the Arizona Cardinals is another one to keep an eye on.
As we all know Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer is at the tail end of his career at 37 years old. 13 seasons in the NFL — including the last four in Arizona — have taken a toll on the former Heisman Trophy winner out of USC. He’s got one, maybe two seasons of competitive football left.
The Cardinals will bring a quarterback this offseason. In one way, shape or form, there’ll be a young signal caller on the sideline learning and taking in any and all of what Palmer knows about today’s NFL. Drew Stanton, while versed in head coach Bruce Arians’ offense, obviously isn’t the long-term future in Arizona. He turns 33 in May and has only started one game in the last two seasons. The other quarterback on the roster is Zac Dysert, a four-year journeyman that’s never appeared in an NFL game.
This year’s NFL draft boasts a lot of talent at the quarterback position. DeShaun Watson, Mitch Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes, Deshone Kizer and Davis Webb are all hot names expected to go on either day one or day two. You could throw in Brady Kaaya and Nathan Peterman as options, too.
Make no mistake about it – this would be a huge risk on the part of both teams. Jacksonville would be left with Chad Henne and likely a rookie being forced to start on day one, while the Cardinals would be banking on the opposite, the idea that this draft class does not offer a viable solution ready to step in immediately. However, considering the sense of urgency in the desert with a roster with aging players in critical roles, and the year or so of house money for the new staff in Jacksonville, this deal could be positive for both sides.
Before diving into why Arizona should target Bortles, first let me say this: I know. I know that Bortles has struggled his first three seasons in the league. I know that a first-round pick for a player that’s struggled is incredibly ludicrous. However, crazier things have happened.
This deal doesn’t happen unless both teams are happy. We do know, however, that general manager Steve Keim liked Bortles a great deal coming out of college, per NFL.com. He was quoted saying “We thought, when you looked at his size, his athleticism, his ability to improvise. He doesn’t have quite the arm strength that Ben Roethlisberger had but he has some of the same skill set.”
The biggest issue with this trade isn’t Bortles, however. If Tom Coughlin expects to get a first-round pick out of a quarterback that’s completed just 58.8 percent of his career passes while throwing 51 interceptions to just 69 touchdowns, then he has completely lost his mind.
With that being said, Coughlin isn’t quoted saying he wanted first-round compensation for Bortles. But we do know he’s not all-in on a quarterback that has just as many pick-sixes as he does career victories, which now sits at 11 (per Pro Football Talk).
The right price for a Bortles trade is nothing more than a third- or fourth-round pick. Would Coughlin make that deal? Certainly, if he believes there’s a better quarterback available in this year’s NFL draft. If he truly doesn’t believe in Bortles now, then he has to be sure new head coach Dough Marrone and his coaching staff can turn things around.
Arians could be the ultimate decision-maker on this deal on Arizona’s side. I’m a firm believer that, for a team to be successful, the the general manager and head coach need to be on the same page when structuring a team. Can Arians work with Bortles? He clearly did a great job with both Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck, and coached Palmer to his best statistical season in 2015.
This is all contingent on how comfortable Keim and Arians are with this quarterback draft class and Coughlin believing a mid-level draft pick in return is fair. If Keim, for instance, wants to target Kaaya in the second or third round, this isn’t even a discussion.
What Bortles needs, though, is a fresh start. In some way, shape or form. A place that he’s not pressured to turn the franchise around from day one. Prior to Bortles going to Jacksonville they hadn’t won more than eight games in a season in the previous six seasons. As a starter he hasn’t won more than five, which came in 2015.