Matt Kartozian/USA Today Sports

Position capsule: Quarterback

The Arizona Cardinals have three quarterbacks under contract for 2017, but the team's future at the position is relatively uncertain.

Position Capsule: Quarterback

Returners: Carson PalmerDrew StantonZac Dysert

Free Agents: N/A

Contracts: Palmer: 2017-$24,125,000, 2018-$20,625,000, Stanton: 2017-$4,000,000, Dysert: 2017-$615,000

Current Roster Number: 3

Ideal Roster Number: 2-to-3

2016 Performance: Despite finishing outside of the top half of NFL quarterbacks in passer rating and completion percentage, Palmer still put together an impressive season, especially at this stage of his career. Playing behind a patchwork offensive line, Palmer took 40 sacks, the second highest total in his career, but threw for over 4,000 yards for the fourth time in five seasons and tossed 26 touchdowns in an offense that lacked enough dynamic playmakers to rank among the league's elite units.

When Palmer went down with a concussion early in the season, Stanton stepped in and helped Arizona pick up a victory over the San Francisco 49ers, but that the type of defense that serves as a backup quarterback's dream. Though he earned a win, Stanton was shaky in Palmer's place, and didn't inspire confidence during his preseason efforts. Nevertheless, he got the job done and wasn't called upon again in meaningful minutes, and that's what counts.

Dysert beat out former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray to secure the Cardinals' practice-squad job, and was promoted to the active roster late in the season when reports surfaced that the Dolphins were interested in signing him to the active roster. Though Dysert didn't take a snap this season, Arizona was intrigued enough by his potential to keep him around.

2017 Readiness: The Cardinals are prepared to embrace 2017 with Palmer as their starting quarterback, which puts them in a much better place than most of the NFL franchises that missed the playoffs this season. Though Palmer doesn't have the type of resume many other quarterbacks his age do, he's a proven passer who shouldn't hold the Cardinals, even at the age of 37 in 2017. If the depth chart remains the same as last season, Stanton probably ranks as one of the better backup quarterbacks in the league, but no team is winning the Super Bowl with a backup. 

The long haul: If 2017 is Palmer's last season in the NFL, the Cardinals should be working on their contingency plan this offseason. Even though a handful of teams have won championships with average quarterback play, a top-tier quarterback has the ability to change the trajectory of a franchise and teams cannot wait for one to fall into their laps. Arizona knows this and because head coach Bruce Arians is an offensive coach, the Cardinals will likely be aggressive in their pursuit of a quarterback, whether it be through the upcoming draft, through a trade, or through free agency next offseason. By selecting a quarterback early in this year's draft, Arizona will give itself an opportunity to evaluate a signal-caller it thinks of highly, allow that quarterback to spend a year developing under Arians and Palmer, and then prepare that quarterback to take the reins of the offense in 2018. As for finding a backup quarterback of the future, the team's willingness to hold onto Dysert suggests the team may view him as a successor for Stanton as the No. 2 in Arizona. 

Draft Need: High priority

Position Overview: Even though the Cardinals have three quarterbacks under contract heading into 2017, the team could elect to draft a quarterback early and cut Stanton, which would save Arizona upward of $2 million in cap room that it could then allocate toward new resources on the offensive side of the ball or retaining some of the team's top performing talent and free agents on the defensive side. Arizona likely can't afford to enter next offseason without a firm direction of how they want to build their quarterback depth, so even if Palmer does plan on playing for two more seasons, the Cardinals need to look at selecting a signal-caller early in this year's draft. 


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