2014 NFL free agents: Can the Cardinals avoid drafting a QB in 2014?

USA TODAY Sports

Should the Cardinals stay true to their history and avoid taking a quarterback early in the 2014 NFL draft, who are some alternatives to take over for Carson Palmer?

The Cardinals have not done a good job of drafting quarterbacks over the years, but part of that stems from a lack of effort. Due to starting QB Carson Palmer's age and short-term contract, the team will be under a lot of pressure in the coming off-season to turn over every stone they suspect of hiding an NFL-caliber passing talent. Much attention has been paid to the possibility of drafting an heir apparent, but what if the team honors its heritage and looks to a different source of talent -- free agency?

Though rare, it's possible that a few talented quarterbacks will hit the open market in 2014. Who are they, and would they really fit with the Cardinals?

Jay Cutler

Cutler and the Bears seem to agree that it's in both of their best interests' to wait on extending Cutler's contract. Cutler thinks he can be a winner and earn some extra cash; the Bears are afraid that he can't stay healthy, play with consistency or emerge as a proper franchise quarterback.

In terms of scheme, Cutler seems like an ideal fit in a vertical passing offense like the Cardinals will be running under Bruce Arians. He has the arm, but you'd like him to quit holding on to the ball and cut down on turnovers. Playing in a bad offense has made him look like an average player, and maybe that's all he is now. After all, he's only three years younger than Carson Palmer and has taken as many sacks despite playing in 30 fewer games. Because of that, even if Cutler does hit free agency he's probably not a realistic option for the Cardinals. Unless Palmer completely bombs, Cutler doesn't look like enough of an upgrade to make him worth the money.

Josh Freeman

Despite his talent, Freeman has never really managed to put it all together on the field. He'll show immense promise for a couple of weeks, then regress suddenly and struggle for the next half of the season.

The Buccaneers are determined to make Freeman prove he's worth a contract extension. If they wait too long, they might not have time to come to terms and even if they find a way to lock him down, it's hard to say if he'll want to stay with the team.

With his size and throwing ability, Freeman is probably as close as you can come to Ben Roethlisberger without the disturbing off-season stories or Super Bowl rings, so he'd fit well in an Arians offense. Though entering his NFL prime at age 26, Freeman seems to have untapped potential. He'd be joining a staff with a reputation for developing young quarterbacks, which might make Arizona one of his best options... if he makes it out of Tampa Bay.

Mark Sanchez

Though his contract may not be set to expire, Sanchez' time with the Jets probably is. A tough sell, he's still relatively young and should be incredibly grateful to whatever team gets him out of New York. He's a .gif waiting to happen. Beyond that, I don't see much appeal.

The best case scenario for Sanchez' post-Jets career may be with a team that would allow him the opportunity to compete for a starting job. If the Cardinals part ways with Palmer after 2013 and bring in a rookie, signing Sanchez to compete or be a back-up might not be a bad idea. It's possible he'll remain with the Jets, but he has a lot to prove.

Mentionables: Michael Vick, Jimmy Clausen, Colt McCoy, Chad Henne

There's no guarantee that Arizona will want to replace Palmer after the 2013 season, but it's no secret that the clock is ticking. Be it a developmental quarterback who could benefit from sitting on the bench for a year or two, or a player who can step in and act as an immediate replacement, the Cardinals' hunt for a franchise quarterback must go on.

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