Cardinals coach Bruce Arians still has Carson Palmer (3) at quarterback, but the pull is strong to find Palmer's replacement.
Bruce Arians knows his history, and he knows his Cardinals' history – especially recent vintage.
When quarterback Kurt Warner retired after the 2009 season, with a year left on his contract, the Cardinals were left in a bad place. The team is back in a similar situation, with Carson Palmer winding down his career, and Arians doesn't want a repeat.
Arians talked at length Wednesday during the NFL owners meetings at the Arizona Biltmore about the quarterback position and his team's need to find a Palmer successor – and he agreed it's part of his legacy to leave the Cards with a long-term QB.
"I saw what happened to Kenny (Whisenhunt) in that situation," Arians said. "I don't want that to happen to the organization
The organization doesn't either. It wasn't as if there wasn't a plan in place at the time. Matt Leinart had been the 10th overall pick after all, but when Warner retired and Leinart washed out, it led to stop-gaps, low-round guesses and the desperate need for a Kevin Kolb trade that didn't work out.
Palmer isn't gone yet, and Arians insisted that Palmer might have a hard time walking away from the game if he is still healthy and could play beyond 2017.
"So I don't know if it is mandatory this year (to get a quarterback), but it would be beneficial to all of us to get it out of the way," Arians said.
It's a consideration every year. Arians said the Cardinals had a quarterback's "name on a card" during the draft each of the past two years at some point, only to have another team pick that player "a pick or two" in front of them.
The Cardinals last drafted a quarterback in 2014, when Logan Thomas was a fourth-round pick. He lasted just one season and
now is trying to play tight end for the Bills.
Because of Palmer's presence, it still gives the Cardinals wiggle room, Arians said. The coach emphasized the Cardinals shouldn't take a quarterback higher than they have him rated, because "if you reach you're probably going to get a bust, because your expectations are out of whack."
But he wouldn't rule out trading up some spots, and with the Cardinals expected to collect up to four compensatory picks in the 2018 draft, General Manager Steve Keim might feel more comfortable dealing a pick or two to make that happen.
There's another advantage to chasing a potential quarterback now rather than later – a chance to work under Palmer, who has made it clear multiple times he would embrace a mentor role, and to also provide time for young quarterbacks who need time.
Arians wouldn't name names, but he said one of the quarterbacks in the draft is ready to start as a rookie. The rest need to learn the NFL game.
"If you're (looking) for plug-and-play, again, this draft is very small," Arians said. "But if you have time to bring them along, then this draft is large."