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The Quarterback Search

Posted Dec 4, 2013

Cardinals always looking to improve, but Palmer definite 2014 option

Quarterback Carson Palmer waits to run out of the tunnel Sunday in Philadelphia.

Carson Palmer wasn’t going to say yes.

The quarterback isn’t satisfied with how he has played this season, and it doesn’t help with the most recent loss.

“You live week-to-week in this league,” Palmer said. “You come off a loss, Monday sucks, Tuesday stinks, and then Wednesday you start getting out of the coulda-woulda-shoulda mode and you have to start forgetting about last week. Losses linger; it doesn’t matter. You take it week-to-week, and I didn’t play well enough last week for us to win.”

Palmer may be living week to week, but the Cardinals in many ways cannot, at least when it comes to the quarterback. Like many teams across the league, this is about the time of year where discussions must start – if they have not already – about a team’s future at the most important position.

Some situations are obvious, like New Orleans with Drew Brees or Seattle with Russell Wilson. Those teams are set. There are other obvious situations the other way, like in Jacksonville or Cleveland, where it is pretty clear a quarterback is still needed.

Then there are teams like the Cardinals and the Rams, teams that have quarterbacks in place that could remain.

The Rams head into Sunday’s game with backup Kellen Clemens starting because Sam Bradford tore his ACL earlier this season. Bradford is due millions on his contract going forward and St. Louis has yet to win with him at the helm, but coach Jeff Fisher didn’t sound like a man who would be moving on.

“If you’ve got one, then there is no discussion,” Fisher said. “There are teams out there that are rotating guys, trying to find a starter and don’t have them. That’s their issue. I took this job here because of the owner and the quarterback. We have a quarterback here.”

That theory could be tested if the Rams end up with a top three pick, a likelihood since they own the Redskins’ No. 1 choice.

The Cardinals, though, are in a different spot. Their push in the playoff race means they won’t have a top 10 pick. A potentially good quarterback draft has already taken a couple of hits – Oregon’s Marcus Mariota announced he is returning to school, LSU’s Zach Mettenberger just tore his ACL – and taking one doesn’t always mean the answer is found anyway.

“When you are a personnel guy you are always looking ahead,” General Manager Steve Keim said. “You are always looking for long-term solutions. Regardless whether it is quarterback, left tackle, pass rusher, we are always trying to find the next guy – the guy that is a young, long-term fix.

“But the danger in that, particularly at quarterback, supply and demand is an issue at the position, and if you go into the draft and you don’t fall in love with one of the quarterbacks and you force and you take a guy in the late first or second round and that guy doesn’t pan out or takes a while to pan out, you are setting yourself back even further. That’s the dangerous part of building a roster.”

Palmer is very much an option for the Cardinals in 2014. He is under contract. And while he has struggled at times with turnovers, the organization believes that can be helped if there is more improvement made on the offensive line and with better protection. Palmer will have had a year to learn the offense as well.

Palmer will be facing heavy pass rushes the last four games of the season, particularly against division foes St. Louis, Seattle and San Francisco. But right now he is on pace to throw for more than 4,000 yards, 26 touchdowns and have the second-most attempts and completions in franchise history behind Kurt Warner’s prolific 2008 season.

A team can win adding good players around a veteran, Keim said. That was the idea with bringing Palmer in and spending the first-round pick on guard Jonathan Cooper this season. Keim’s philosophy has always been getting players that you think will succeed, regardless of position, which is why the Cards won’t just automatically grab a quarterback early. It’s the same reason the franchise won’t reach for a left tackle, although that remains an important need.

“You have to have to have the weekly plan, the seasonal plan and the long-term plan,” coach Bruce Arians said. “You would hope all of those are on your ballclub right now, or you’re starting to look at that position, and it’s a problem when you have to look at the position.

“There are a handful of elite guys. But there are guys you can take and when you put a great defense around them, they can win games.”

 

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