Starter: Carson Palmer
Contract: 2 Years
Happily, with the media spotlight focused intently on the desert for the time being, we already have access to plenty of quality Carson Palmer content. Check out Jess' article on how the Cardinals compare at QB compared to the rest of the NFC West or join our little choir in a rousing rendition of "Still Got It!"
Back-up: Drew Stanton
Contract: 3 Years
Stanton is less of a known quantity. A former second-round pick, a variety of unfortunate circumstances have prevented him from ever really getting a shot to lead a team. There aren't many players that break out in the league at the age of, or beyond, 28, either. I'll take the team's word for it that Stanton will be a reliable back-up, but I won't expect much more than that.
Watching Ryan Lindley in 2012 was comparable to watching an asphyxiating man dangling from a noose. The body twitches unpredictably even as the ligaments stiffen and the light dims. Onlookers may take a moment to pause and consider the value of the life, of what could have been accomplished had circumstances been slightly different. Then someone asks who the man was, where he had come from, what he had done. No one in the group has an answer. People shrug and return home. The grisly memory fades.
The Cardinals may want to look into paying their third-string quarterback by the hour instead of by the week. However, both players fit the archetype of third QB's: one is a borderline talent who brings experience to the film room and sideline while the other has enough youth and upside to intrigue some coaches. With the combined experience of Palmer and Stanton, the team should benefit the most from trying to develop a young player like Lindley with that roster spot... if they keep a third QB on the roster at all.
Even with the depth chart already set in stone, I find myself plagued by clinging doubt from recent seasons. Will the team stay healthy? Will we be able to get the ball out? Can adding a competent quarterback hide the deficiencies of an offense that hasn't been upgraded in any other area? For these answers, I looked to the stats.
The Raiders experienced a sharp drop in the number of sacks surrendered in 2011, the year they added Carson Palmer. Similarly, the Cardinals' sack totals ballooned in 2010 after Kurt Warner retired. Interesting facts, but not a story on their own.
Between 2009 and 2012, the Raiders drafted a new left tackle and moved their incumbent to the right side. They also upgraded their center through the draft and changed their left guard. While the difference between Palmer and not-Palmer was striking, the Raiders have been intentionally building up their offensive line over the course of some time.
Palmer alone may help. Through his career, he has averaged 20 pass attempts per sack. In two years with the Cardinals, Kevin Kolb averaged 10 pass attempts per sack. Palmer has only surrendered more than 26 sacks once in his career (2006). In 2012, Kolb surrendered 30 in six games. With the exception of two season-ending injuries in the distant past, Palmer has managed to stay relatively healthy. He has missed seven games over the last two seasons, but six were due to his holdout in Cincinnati. Referencing this article again, analysts appreciate Palmer's ability to handle pressure, move around in the pocket, and get the ball out. This reduces the amount of hits on the body, and keeps the offense moving.
I can't tell you how our line compares to Oakland's currently, or back in 2009. I know that the changes they made sound incredibly similar to the ones that have been proposed for our team recently. I also know the Cardinals have surrendered over 50 sacks three years in a row and have finished last in the league in rushing two out of those three seasons. Having added the quarterback, they must also add the linemen. Getting Levi Brown back should help. The rest will have to come through the draft.
2014 & Beyond:
Palmer's deal has an easy-out option after one year and will automatically expire after two. He's 33. This isn't a long-term solution for the team. Stanton has a three-year contract which gives us some stability at back-up QB. He'll be 30 by the end of Palmer's deal. NFL players aren't caterpillars. They can't molt their back-up quarterback skin and emerge with the hardened shell of a starter through a biological miracle. Even if Stanton somehow does manage it, age and an expiring contract will be factors by then.
Unfortunately, the Cardinals' quarterback vortex must continue. They bought a couple years, but no more. The team will need a new starter and they're going to want to kick the tires on new players who would fit farther down the depth chart in the meantime. Needing a new quarterback in two years isn't that different than needing a new quarterback now. They know it's coming. They have the opportunity to prepare.