INDIANAPOLIS – The quarterback is only one of 11 on offense, one of 22 starters, one of 53 on the roster.
Yet the quarterback is everything.
"It's the holy grail for an organization," Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim said. "Everyone … in this organization, in some ways, the success of their career is attached to the franchise quarterback. If you don't have one, you can't find one, the head coach and the general manager's stay is usually not very long."
The Cardinals need a quarterback. They actually need multiple quarterbacks, given that they have none under contract for 2018 as of now. But it's the right starter they must have, not only for this season but beyond, a chase that has never really ended since the Cards drafted Jake Plummer in the second round in 1997.
Plummer was supposed to be the long-term answer, and at first he was, leading the team to the playoffs in 1998. His time fizzled by 2003. Kurt Warner and Carson Palmer were veteran additions in 2005 and 2013, both becoming the most successful QBs in the team's Arizona (if not overall) history, but even in that time, long-term solutions were still sought.
Josh McCown was a third-round pick in 2002. Matt Leinart was a first-round pick in 2006, available in a drop to 10th overall that then-coach Dennis Green called a "gift from heaven." It turned out not so much, and while Warner's resurgence covered that for a few seasons, the miss on Leinart created a crater when Warner retired. The Cardinals traded for Kevin Kolb – with high hopes – in a 2011. That didn't work out either.
Keim, hired by the Cardinals as a scout in 1999, has been a part of the organization throughout this recent QB history.
Through experience you have a better understanding (how to search for a QB), but at the same time, it doesn't allow you to forecast what's going to happen," Keim said. "That's the million-dollar question."
The discussion at this point has been wide-ranging. Both Keim and Wilks have said multiple times all three potential avenues – free agency, trade, draft – are options. Using a couple seems likely, given that Wilks noted that ideally the Cards would sign a veteran for now and still draft one to develop.
Maneuvering for a free agent is different than grabbing a QB in the draft, however.
"I know that Steve has been through this process before, which is great," Wilks said. "We'll definitely going to be able to lean on him. Unlike the draft, (when) the guy is sitting there to take, free agency, it's all about how it falls into place for you."