The Cardinals paid Kevin Kolb his bonus Friday and he remains in the thick of the team's quarterback plans for the 2012 season.
The day after the 2011 season ended, Kevin Kolb was asked about how the following season would be crucial in the future of his career.
"I don't know if I want to put that kind of pressure on myself, but that's kind of how it feels," the quarterback acknowledged.
The first step in creating Kolb's future came Friday, when the Cardinals exercised his $7 million roster bonus to keep him with the team at about the same time reports were coming in that free-agent quarterback Peyton Manning wouldn't be coming to Arizona despite not yet having made a final decision on his own future.
After keeping mum for the week while pursuing Manning and hosting him at the team facility, the Cardinals broke that silence Friday when Kolb received his money – insuring Kolb would indeed return for 2012. Not long before the deadline, ESPN reported the Manning camp informed the Cards they should proceed without Manning.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt then released a statement, which began by saying "regarding today's developments and our quarterback position, acquiring Peyton Manning is no longer an option for us."
Manning has yet to choose a team, but the Cardinals revert to the quarterback structure that had been expected once the season ended: Kolb and John Skelton, with Rich Bartel as the probable No. 3.
"Since the end of last season we made it very clear that our plan was to head into 2012 with Kevin Kolb and John Skelton, let the process play out and -- like at every position -- go with the quarterback who gives us the best chance to win," Whisenhunt said.
Whisenhunt called the chance to get Manning "unique and unexpected."
"We've said it many times: if there's an opportunity to make our team better we'll explore it," Whisenhunt said. "We view the potential of adding a first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback as one of those.
"The organization quickly put together an aggressive plan to go after it. We're proud of that and feel very strongly about what we have to offer as a team and as an organization. In the end it didn't work out but from our perspective it was very positive and we certainly don't have any regrets about it."
The Cardinals will continue to look in free agency. They will still consider another offensive lineman – they had tackle Demetrius Bell in for a visit earlier in the week and he remains unsigned – and there is a chance they will look at other receivers and perhaps linebackers.
There are also probable roster moves coming to clear more salary cap space.
One thing the Cards will not do is go after any other quarterbacks. That is clear now that Manning is out of the picture and Kolb remains very much in it.
"We sit here today in the same spot we were heading into the offseason," Whisenhunt said. "That's with two experienced quarterbacks who have both demonstrated positive things in the past and who we feel good about. Like we said at the end of the season when we won seven of the last nine games, carrying the momentum of that strong finish into 2012 is important and that remains unchanged."