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Free Agency Primer 2016: Quarterback

Backup quarterback a question mark with Drew Stanton's contract set to expire

The Cardinals' front office is surveying the free agent landscape, hoping to complement a core which went 13-3 last season and advanced to the NFC Championship game. Free agency begins on March 9, and we'll break down the team's needs at each position leading up to the signing period.

More free agent analysis:TE I RB

Free agent primer:Quarterback

Cap numbers of players under contract for 2016: Carson Palmer ($17.88 million); Matt Barkley ($705,000)

Scheduled free agents: Drew Stanton

Need: Medium

Images of notable quarterbacks scheduled to hit the free agent market

Analysis: Despite a rough end in the NFC Championship game, Carson Palmer was stellar in 2015 and will return as the unquestioned starter. Behind him, there is uncertainty. Drew Stanton has been a reliable backup the past three years, winning five of eight games in 2014 when Palmer was injured. At age 31, this could be his final chance at competing elsewhere for a starting job, although that may not materialize. If Stanton can't find a better scenario, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him return. The Cardinals like him as a security blanket to Palmer because Stanton knows the playbook and can manage the offense.

Matt Barkley is under contract and will fight to make the roster during training camp. He was acquired from the Eagles for a seventh-round draft pick before last season but didn't get much time to show his ability. If Stanton leaves, the Cardinals would have to decide whether Barkley, a free agent pickup or a draft pick would be the best choice to back up Palmer in 2016. The free-agent class is short on high-upside quarterbacks, and the ones with the most potential – Kirk Cousins, Brock Osweiler, Sam Bradford – will be out of the Cardinals' price range for a backup. If the Cardinals add a quarterback of the future this offseason, it will almost certainly come through the draft.

Notable past free agent QB signings by the Cardinals: Stanton (2013); Derek Anderson (2010); Kurt Warner (2005); Shaun King (2004); Boomer Esiason (1996); Jim McMahon (1994); Steve Beuerlein (1993).

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