How do the Arizona Cardinals value the backup QB
By Erich Becker
Will Drew Stanton be backing up Carson Palmer next season for the Arizona Cardinals, or are there other plans afoot?
Next week we’ll see how the Arizona Cardinals value the backup quarterback on their roster, a role that seemed insignificant last season, but all you need to do is turn the clock back two years to see how valuable a good backup can be.
Drew Stanton will hit free agency, a staple of the Bruce Arians system in Indianapolis as well as Arizona, Stanton doesn’t have remarkable career numbers, but what he does have is experience, knowledge, and the ability to actually play the game. The former second round draft pick by the Detroit Lions has a career completion percentage of 54.6%, 12 touchdowns to 16 interceptions. Serviceable when you come in to play clean-up, but also able to get a win when you really need one.
In the 2014 season, the Cardinals really needed a few wins, and they got them with Stanton under center. Then tragedy struck twice and Stanton went down with an injury that thrust Ryan Lindley into the quarterback position on the Cardinals, and we all know how that ended.
Stanton now finds himself able to enter free agency again, something he did the same year that Bruce Arians came to Arizona, and Stanton had been (un)officially the first string quarterback until Carson Palmer was brought in to lead the team. The perpetual backup has nothing but kind words to say, and has said all the right things thus far:
"I want to surround myself with good organizations that have good people within them. I think this is one of those places. So I don’t want to leave here, but at the same time, if I have to, then I will."
When you look at that quote you have to wonder what value the Cardinals put on this position, as well as what they have in store. Letting former draft pick Logan Thomas go before the season and trading for Matt Barkley spoke volumes about where the team was behind its number one and number two options.
Transitional is the word.
Many believe the Arizona Cardinals will be very active in the free agent market, but with only, currently, about $20m to spend, and players to re-sign before making a splash, that number could be much less.
The biggest need coming out of the season was a pass rusher, something that is very expensive in free agency and hard to hit on in the draft because of the transition from college to the NFL as well as scheme changes, but, what if the biggest need was the one we didn’t think about, quarterback.
Carson Palmer is signed until 2017, so two more seasons and he will account for nearly 11% of the salary cap next season at $17,875,000 in salary, bonuses and incentives. That’s a lot of money, but, completely worth it with the level of play the team got from the former Number 1 draft pick, but, beyond those two years, the team will need to do something. The last time an aging quarterback left the team, when Kurt Warner retired at the end of the 2009 season, the team floundered for years until Arians, Keim and Palmer came together to form the current trio many Cardinals fans cherish.
The draft affords the Arizona Cardinals to do a few things, bring in raw talent at quarterback to learn behind Palmer (and maybe Stanton) for several seasons, then, take over the team in the 2018 season at a very reasonable price. Maybe this is why Stanton hasn’t been re-signed as of yet, if the plan is to get the quarterback of the future, there needs to be a spot for him. That could lend itself well to Barkley being cut, Stanton resigned and the new draft pick taking over the number three spot, but the team could just as easily save the money on Stanton, who may want more than two years, draft a player, and let Stanton try the market.
Make no mistake, Stanton will be signed, a good quarterback, especially one coming from an Arians-based system, even with accuracy problems, are a hot commodity, and some team may be desperate to make a backup a starter (see Houston, for example), but the team needs to not only plan for now, but for the future as well.
The window for winning is open now, the team may be able to prop that window up with fresh, new talent at that position, and a nine year, career backup, maybe not be the best use of limited salary funds.