The offseason quarterback derby has settled as much as it is going to before the NFL draft. The franchise history of the Arizona Cardinals is far from glorious. However, they have spent most of the last decade as a competitive franchise that has gotten to the playoffs and done damage on occasion.
Still, this offseason has suddenly left them in danger of returning to laughing-stock territory for a couple reasons.
No long-term plan at quarterback
When Carson Palmer retired earlier this offseason, Arizona had zero quarterbacks on the roster. Going by that metric, this free agency signing period has been a smashing success for the Cardinals.
In reality, Mike Glennon is a career journeyman who barely lasted a month before being replaced by then rookie Mitch Trubisky in Chicago last year. Also, Sam Bradford has put up decent numbers in his career including 101 touchdown passes to just 57 interceptions. Despite that, he has never led a team to the playoffs and has only been healthy enough to start all 16 games in a season twice.
By all accounts except his own, Bradford’s knees are in bad shape. He has had two ACL tears as well as an additional procedure last season. It made the news wires when Bradford passed his physical last week. Usually, that only happens if a guy fails a physical. That should tell you a lot.
Even if it is just for a year, handing the keys to your franchise over to either one of these guys is not only risky, but also close to plain stupid. The Vikings, Browns, Jets, Broncos and Bills have all addressed the quarterback position this offseason. Some have added a quarterback. Some are in position to draft one. Some are clearly doing both. There is no way plans will work out for all of these teams, but at least you can see the plan beyond this year.
Meanwhile, Arizona only has the fragile Bradford for one year to go with Glennon for two. Glennon has just nine starts in the last four years. Logic would dictate that means Arizona needs to draft a quarterback early. However, being at pick No. 15, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield will all almost certainly be gone by the time the Cardinals are on the clock.
That leaves them with two options: trade up to get one of those guys, or reach for someone like Mason Rudolph. Neither option is particularly good. The Cardinals would have no negotiating leverage with another team on draft day, but there is no such thing as too steep a price for long-term stability at quarterback in the NFL. Either option would be helped out greatly by Glennon or Bradford panning out, but that is iffy at best.
The rest of Arizona’s roster is not terrible. A healthy David Johnson is something just about every team would kill to have in the backfield, Larry Fitzgerald is ageless and Patrick Peterson is now the leader of a defense that looks a little different, but should still be pretty good in 2018.
Even so, if you don’t have good quarterback play, the rest of your roster does not matter. A bunch of losses are in your future. Just ask last year’s Denver Broncos.
An unstable future at quarterback is not the only thing that has the Cardinals organization in a delicate spot.
The NFC West is loaded
The biggest key to any NFL team preforming well is playing well within the division. This will be a challenge for Arizona no matter who their quarterback is in 2018 and beyond.
Seattle is in the midst of overhauling its roster and Arizona has played the Seahawks well in recent years, but Russell Wilson is one of the best quarterbacks on the planet. It was him and him alone that kept the Seahawks in it until the very end of the regular season last year. If Wilson needs to, he can carry this franchise again. The defense is certainly not better in terms of name value, but getting younger in the secondary might actually be a good thing.
Then there are the 49ers and Rams. The Rams were reborn last year as rookie head coach Sean McVay and his high-powered offense took the league by storm. Los Angeles also acquired Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. As volatile as those two can sometimes be, that cornerback tandem is sure to give every offense in the league a hard time.
San Francisco ended the season on a five-game winning streak after Jimmy Garoppolo was inserted as the starting quarterback. There is no reason to think that won’t carry over.
Playing these three teams twice a year with Bradford, Glennon or a rookie is setting rookie head coach Steve Wilks up to fail. The Cardinals should have been more aggressive for guys like Kirk Cousins or Case Keenum. Drafting a quarterback will likely result in some growing pains for the Cardinals, but it is now their only chance at having a clear long-term direction for the foreseeable future.
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