Current Roster Number: 3 (Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton, Matt Barkley)
Ideal Roster Number: 2
Returning Starter: 1/1 (Palmer)
Draft Need: Moderate Priority
Roster Composition: Carson Palmer is 36 years old. While that number, which will be 37 by season's end, is cause for concern in many circles, the Cardinals recognize Palmer as the signal-caller that led the franchise to a 13-win season and a NFC Championship game appearance just last season.
Increasingly, quarterbacks are playing into their mid-to-late 30's in the NFL, and Palmer is another classic example. The former No. 1 overall draft pick back in 2003 tossed 35 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, while racking up a career-high 4,671 passing yards last season.
Though Palmer's playoff performances left something to be desired, he played through a dislocated right index finger that undoubtedly impacted his throwing ability.
Prior to the injury, Palmer was in the midst of one of the greatest seasons of his professional career, and with the offensive weapons surrounding him, there's little reason to believe he can't guide the team to success this year if he remains healthy.
So long as Arizona shores up its offensive line and Palmer remains healthy, young assets like running back David Johnson and wide receiver John Brown should continue to develop and ease the load on their quarterback.
Palmer's contract situation is also favorable for both the player and the team, which is an issue that has hurt many teams (See 49ers, Eagles) in dealing with quarterbacks in recent seasons. Over the next two seasons, Palmer is set to make a combined $37 million, which makes him the highest paid Cardinals' player.
Though the contract seems enormous for a player on the wrong side of 35, Arizona is only locked into it for two more years, and the $17 million Palmer will make this season doesn't even rank him in the top half of NFL quarterbacks this year. The money quarterbacks make in the NFL is staggering compared to players at other positions, and Arizona is one of a handful of teams with a player under center who is actually worth the money he's making.
With Palmer accounted for, the Cardinals also have a solid NFL backup in Drew Stanton, which is more than most teams in the league can say. The 10th year veteran out of Michigan State performed well in eight starts when Palmer was out with an injury in 2014, and most importantly, Stanton proved he could hold the team together in the face of adversity.
Third-string quarterback Matt Barkley is on the roster to provide depth, as both Palmer and Stanton have had injuries in recent years, but Barkley has only thrown 50 passes in three seasons in the NFL and likely wouldn't be active on game days if the Cardinals hold onto him past fall camp.
There comes a point in time for every franchise that has sustained a successful run where it begins to consider how to shape the future of the organization.
After Palmer's finger injury led to playoff struggles, many began to consider this offseason a prime opportunity to start the search for a franchise quarterback of the future.
Though drafting a quarterback in 2016 would give the Cardinals the chance to take at least one, and in all likelihood two seasons to develop an NFL-ready signal-caller, this team is still on the upswing.
If the Cardinals were to use their first round pick on a quarterback, it could be denying the team the opportunity to draft an immediate impact player who can contribute to a win-now mentality. A first round draft pick on a quarterback assumes the end of the run is near, whereas a draft pick of a defensive lineman or cornerback the team can plug in and play right away would almost assuredly keep the team going in the right direction.
In the 2017 offseason, the Cardinals will have to deal with the expiring contracts of players like Calais Campbell, Chandler Jones, Kevin Minter and Tyrann Mathieu, but right now, the team has stability and veteran leadership.
Should the Cardinals decide that drafting a quarterback is an important nod to the team's future, we believe the team should pursue that option in the fourth round or later and give itself every opportunity to add to a roster that already holds so much promise and expectations heading into 2016.