As the Cardinals kept winning games last season and their draft position sank deeper and deeper down the first round, the notion a quality long-term answer at quarterback might be available dimmed.
The uncertainty of the QB class has possibly changed that dynamic. While it still seems unlikely the Cards will take a quarterback early even if one or two drop, Carson Palmer knows it could happen.
The veteran QB, who turned 34 in December, has been through both sides of the equation. He was the No. 1 overall pick back in 2003, when the Bengals already had Jon Kitna at quarterback and Palmer sat his entire rookie season. At the end of his tenure with the Bengals, his retirement talk pushed the Bengals to draft Andy Dalton.
The Cardinals picking a quarterback would be understandable, Palmer said.
“If you are in a position to draft the best player on your board, and that’s the best position to be in as an organization, and (a quarterback) is he best player on the board, you are not only making your team better by creating competition but you are helping out the future,” Palmer
“But that’s the reality. That’s the business. It doesn’t matter how you feel about it, whether it irks you or you don’t care. That’s the game.”
Palmer is coming off a solid season in which he improved as the offense as a whole grew to understand the system of coach Bruce Arians. He threw for a career-high 4,274 yards with 24 touchdowns and 22 interceptions, although his TD-to-INT ratio was 16-9 over the last nine games of the season (and that included a four-interception game in Seattle in which Palmer heaved the game-winning TD pass.)
From the moment the season ended, Arians and Keim have expressed their faith in Palmer. Arians believes quarterbacks must play to improve, which would make for an interesting rookie/Palmer combination this season.
More importantly, in a draft featuring quarterback names like Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr, A.J. McCarron, Zach Mettenberger and Jimmy Garoppolo, Keim has repeatedly said the organization must be in love with a prospect to take him high in the draft.
“It’s a lot easier to judge (prospects) when you have a quarterback you think you can win games with,” General Manager Steve Keim said earlier this offseason. “When you have a player like Carson, who has had some success and you feel comfortable with, even though you are looking for the next guy – which you always are at every position – it helps you look through the lens a little bit clearer.”
Palmer likes the support – “You hope they would say those things,” he said – but as a fan of the draft, he understands that players grade out the way they do and certain positions carry premiums you might not be able to pass upon.
Palmer is looking forward to the draft anyway, and knows with a 10-win team every pick could push the Cards toward the postseason berth they narrowly missed on last season.
“The last thing you want is to take a guy who doesn’t immediately impact this team, this 2014 season,” Palmer said. “I love the draft. I am a fan of it. I am a fan of the league and a fan of the Cardinals. Whoever (good) is available, I am hoping for that guy. Being selfish, I am hoping for offensive players. I feel good where we are offensive-line-wise but I’d love to see us add another skill player, wherever that is.”
The additions offensively in free agency haven’t been lost on Palmer. The Cards added tight end
Palmer said he’s already talked to Ginn to find out what he likes to do and to explain the Cards’ offense to the new wideout. As for pairing Veldheer and 2013 No. 1 draft pick
“I love where we are sitting,” Palmer said. “I can’t wait to get going. We get started next week (Monday the voluntary workout program begins) and we have a lot of things to get done.
“There’s a ton of work, but I am excited about where we are and the mindset of the guys who have been around, bumping in to guys here and there. Guys are talking about football, not what they did yesterday. ‘Did you see we got (Antonio) Cromartie, did you see this?’ Guys see a bright future.”