Arizona Cardinals on the Verge of a Rebuild

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

The Arizona Cardinals are working to stay competitive, but could be in for a rebuild if things don’t go perfectly

The word “rebuild” is not one that fans of any team wants to hear. The Arizona Cardinals, and their supporters especially don’t want to think about it. They’ve been contenders for the past few seasons, and despite a down season in 2016, they believe they can rebound in 2017.

The coming season brings some reasons for optimism. Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald both announced that they’d return, securing their positions for another year. They also should be healthier at the wide receiver position, giving the offense more flexibility.

There are, however, some indications that trouble might be just ahead for the Cardinals. This offseason has seen the loss of several key players, especially on defense. Calais Campbell is the biggest loss, as he brings not only great play on the field, but he’s a leader on the team as well. His replacement is not evident. The team also got much older at safety and linebacker.

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If the Cardinals can get the most out of the veteran acquisitions, and the offense can get back on track, the 2017 season could be a good one. After that, though, things could get rough.

It seems almost certain that Palmer and Fitzgerald are playing in their final years. The loss of two more leaders, especially a quarterback, could mean trouble. Finding a franchise quarterback is no easy feat. The team could also find themselves searching for yet another linebacker and safety.

The 2017 NFL Draft is crucial for Arizona. They need to find good players, and preferably a few guys ready to start right away. If they don’t hit on a number of good players, disaster is at hand.

The biggest issue, going forward, is clearly at quarterback. When Palmer retires, the Cardinals are left without a viable option. There are a couple of schools of thought on this.

Obviously, picking a quarterback in this year’s draft is the immediate option. Arizona selects 13th overall, and could pick one of the top passers available with that pick. Some, possibly including Cardinals management, aren’t big fans of the quarterbacks in this draft. If that’s true of the Cardinals, then they will use that pick to fill another hole. They could use a later pick on a quarterback, but the chances of finding a franchise passer after the first round decrease greatly.

Free agency would be the next option. There isn’t really a good option this offseason, and franchise quarterbacks aren’t usually available in free agency, so this might not work either.

They could also wait and draft one next year. Like this year, though, there’s no guarantee that a good player will fall to them then either.

Having a franchise quarterback isn’t the only thing that matters to NFL teams, but it is the most important thing. The Cardinals, however, have questions at numerous positions.

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General Manager Steve Keim has the team at a crossroads. The loss of several defenders this year, and the pending loss of their starting quarterback and top receiver next year, will have a major effect. The potential for a huge decline is there. Keim and company have to make some decisions, and it has to be the right decisions. If they don’t get a quarterback of the future, and replace guys like Campbell, a rebuild is exactly what they’re going to have to do.