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Carson Palmer Or Not, Cardinals Need QB

Even with veteran returning, draft selection makes sense for cloudy future of position


Sometime soon, the Cardinals will need to find a quarterback to replace Carson Palmer.

INDIANAPOLIS – Steve Keim has his quarterback for now, but he needs one for later, and his Cardinals aren't the only one.

Even teams set at QB for 2017, like the Cardinals with Palmer, or the Steelers with Ben Roethlisberger, or the Chargers with Philip Rivers or the Saints with Drew Brees, know their veterans are closer to the end than the beginning. Sure, some teams are scrambling now and will draft a quarterback likely to start for them this season, but more teams still need to find long-term answers.

"It's not something you can ever say 'Woe is me' over because it's a fact," Keim said. "It's a fact there are probably less than 10 elite quarterbacks, a few (others) you can win with and everyone else is playing musical chairs. That's no secret.

"It's no secret that I have to tell the media we have to identify our next franchise quarterback. Everyone in America

knows that. My 4-year-old reminds me all the time."

Even if a team identifies, being able to make that choice is something else.

Keim often talks about not forcing a quarterback pick. That doesn't just mean taking one you don't believe in but also taking one you believe in higher than the risk warrants. Coach Bruce Arians said he sees "five or six really good arms" in the group, but that doesn't mean there are five or six excellent prospects. The Cardinals have to learn more about, as Arians says, the "heart and head."

"I can see his arm strength, I can see his feet, I can see him jump, but the two things he plays with, his brain and his heart, they're very hard to evaluate," Arians said.

The Cardinals have drafted one quarterback since Keim and Arians reached their current positions – Logan Thomas in the fourth round of 2014. Since moving to Arizona, the Cards have chosen only six quarterbacks in the first three rounds of the draft: Matt Leinart (first round, 2006), Josh McCown (third, 2002), Jake Plummer (second, 1997), Stoney Case (third, 1995), Tony Sacca (second, 1992) and Timm Rosenbach (first round in supplemental draft, 1989).

Leinart was drafted in a similar situation as this season. The Cardinals had a veteran incumbent in Kurt

Warner, and the 10th overall pick. Leinart was expected to be drafted before the Cards picked (the Cards would have likely drafted Jay Cutler, the 11th pick, had Leinart been gone), and Warner had not yet had his career renaissance in the desert.

Palmer is in a more stable spot at this point – not unlike a Roethlisberger or a Rivers. The future can't be ignored, however. Chargers GM Tom Telesco said there was no "fine line" between seeking a future QB and having an older veteran who was still could perform. The Chargers still look at QBs every year.

"You always have to be prepared to select a quarterback at some point," Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert said. "And (Roethlisberger) is aware of that. We've talked about it. He understands that if we add a guy into the mix—we'll do that at some point."

Chasing a championship can complicate matters. At 13, the Cardinals might want to take someone who can help now, rather than someone who will sit behind Palmer.

"It's a double-edged sword," Arians said. "We want to win now because we feel like we have that window but we have to take care of the future. But if that guys is available for us. … The ones we've liked haven't been available when we would have liked to have had them.

"If he is there, if he's the guy we want, I think we'll pull the trigger."

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