The Cardinals will be bringing in a veteran quarterback -- probably a starter -- once the labor situation is settled. The question is, who will that be?
A lot has happened to the Cards at quarterback since Kurt Warner decided to retire in January of 2010.
Including the preseason, the Cards had four different players start at the position last season. Five got playing time once Rich Bartel played a chunk of the season finale. Yet the starter in 2011 is likely not even on the roster.
Who the Cardinals chase in free agency or a trade once the labor situation is settled is up for and has been up for debate since March (and debated it has been – almost too much so). The candidates are likely the same names that have cropped up over and over, guys like Kevin Kolb, Kyle Orton, Marc Bulger, and maybe even Matt Hasselbeck or Carson Palmer.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt, unable to be specific about any one player, has acknowledged multiple times that the Cards "feel good" about a number of quarterback candidates they could chase in both free agency or in a trade. Mostly there has been a lot of waiting.
"We're going to come out of the gate (after the lockout) trying to do our best to get one of those to have that question answered," Whisenhunt said recently.
Speculation has made Kolb, the Eagles' backup to Michael Vick and a free-agent-to-be after the 2011 season, the name to watch once teams can begin to make moves. The price the Eagles demand for Kolb figures to be a factor. His potential is just that – potential – and no sure thing. Does Orton make more sense? Or, given the fact both Orton and Kolb are scheduled to become free agents after 2011, maybe the Cards wait and pick up a free agent this year. After the position as a whole underperformed last season, any added veteran projects to an upgrade.
Because of that, it is clear there will be turnover at quarterback. John Skelton, 2010's fifth-round draft pick, made strides as a rookie and won a couple of games as a starter when he got playing time at the end of the year. Of the four QBs that remain on the roster right now, Skelton is the only one assured of a spot for 2011. It's possible Skelton could emerge as a starter but, assuming the Cards get a veteran like a Kolb or Orton in trade, Skelton will have to continue honing his skills in a backup role.
Veteran Derek Anderson is still on the roster but after his struggles in 2010 and a hefty 2011 salary, he likely would be released once the Cards have assured themselves of another veteran signal-caller. Max Hall, last year's backup, will likely have to battle Bartel for a spot on the roster as the third quarterback.
There are plenty of other places on the team that need to be addressed as the Cards maneuver through the small transition window available before the season, but the quarterback is unquestionably the top priority. Not only is the position the most important on the team, but wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who is going into his contract year, would like to see what the Cardinals do at the position before committing to a long-term extension.
Once the league year starts, the Cardinals figure to know who the quarterback is for 2011 within a few days. And an offseason of speculation can finally end.
KEY PLAYER IN 2011: Well, we don't know the answer to that yet, do we? Safe to say whatever veteran the Cards bring in qualifies.
CONSIDER THIS: Since moving to Arizona in 1988, the Cardinals have had just two quarterbacks start at least 10 games in two different seasons: Jake Plummer and Kurt Warner.
ROSTER CHANGE CHANCES ON 1-10 SCALE: Let's call it a 10. Never has there been more of a sure thing. Whether that player brought in absolutely starts or if Skelton has a chance to usurp him remains a question, but there will be new blood.