Is it time for Cardinals to draft QB of future?

Carson Palmer turns 35 this year, and the Cardinals do not have an obvious long-term replacement on the roster.

Matt Kartozian

TEMPE, Ariz. — Last season, Bruce Arians noted that he and veteran quarterback Carson Palmer are tied at the hip as they enter the latter stages of their careers in Arizona. He even compared the duo to a couple of old cowboys riding off into the sunset.

"This is his last hurrah, as it is mine," Arians said.

It’s a nice image, but the plan is for the Cardinals coach to stick around after Palmer has departed. Palmer will be 35 in December and is due to make $9 million this season. Palmer’s contract must be addressed after the 2014 season. A third and final year of the deal (2015) voids if Palmer is on the roster five business days after the Super Bowl in Glendale. So it’s possible he’ll play another year in Arizona, but what about after that?

Backup Drew Stanton hasn’t thrown a pass in a regular-season game since 2010, and the Cardinals haven’t shown any signs that they think third-string QB Ryan Lindley, a 2012 sixth-round draft pick, is their QB of the future.

Isn’t it time the Cardinals drafted that guy? The short answer: It’s complicated.

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Arians insists he’s content with the three QBs he has heading into next season, but that’s what you’d expect to hear from a guy known as a players’ coach — a fiercely loyal man who defends and sometimes immortalizes the players on his roster.

When general manager Steve Keim took over last season, he said he’d like to draft a QB as often as the draft allowed because the position is critical to success in today’s NFL and also difficult to evaluate.

But Keim, who has the final say, also said he won’t get into a situation where he is drafting based on need. He’ll have to fall in love with the player first.

And just last week, Arians addressed that topic in regard to this year’s crop of draft-eligible QBs with reporters at a charity event.

"I don’t know how many of them have a ‘wow’ factor, but there are some really, really good ones, guys that are going to play in the league for a long time," Arians said. "I don’t see an Andrew Luck, a Ben Roethlisberger or Peyton Manning, but I do see some guys that are very capable of playing." 

Does that mean the Cardinals won’t use their first-round pick on a QB? Probably, but if a guy like Central Florida’s Blake Bortles falls to that spot, that could change. 

I don’t see an Andrew Luck, a Ben Roethlisberger or Peyton Manning, but I do see some guys that are very capable of playing.

Bruce Arians on this year's QB draft class

The Cardinals haven’t taken a QB higher than the fifth round since selecting Matt Leinart 10th overall in 2006 (we’re not going there). They did, however, deal Pro Bowl cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round pick to Philadelphia for Kevin Kolb in 2011 (we’re not going there, either), but at some point, they’ll need to find the guy they feel will take them into the future.

Palmer played much better over the second half of the 2013 season as he grew accustomed to the offense and his personnel — and after the coaching staff made adjustments along the offensive line and in passing routes to compensate for various shortcomings. 

But the Cardinals will need that second-half Palmer, the one who went 7-2 and had 16 touchdown passes with nine interceptions, to return. And what if contract talks hit a snag after this season? Are the Cardinals really prepared to hand the keys to Stanton?

There could be value in the second, third and fourth rounds of this year’s draft, which runs May 8-10, where it makes more sense for the Cardinals to take a QB. They only have to look within their own division to see the merits of such an approach. Seattle’s Russell Wilson was a third-round pick, and San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick was a second-round pick.

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