Are the Arizona Cardinals truly committed to a 37-year-old quarterback who just led the team to a 7-8-1 season and has only appeared in four playoff games during his career?
As a matter of fact, there's no doubt the team is married to Carson Palmer through the 2017 season.
When the Cardinals were at their worst last season, so too was the aging signal-caller, who tossed 14 interceptions for the seventh time in his professional career. Palmer struggled on the road, was sacked a career-high 40 times, and threw too many contested passes that could have resulted in an even greater number of turnovers.
Yet through the team's disappointing campaign, Arizona Cardinals' head coach Bruce Arians stuck by Palmer, doling out blame to a variety of players and position groups, but rarely, if at all, toward Palmer.
Arians' reluctance to blame Palmer is telling, and suggests the organization has a firm belief that if it's going to make a Super Bowl run in the immediate future, Palmer is the passer to take them to the top.
Throughout the 2017 offseason, the Cardinals have been linked to a variety of veteran quarterbacks including Tony Romo, Jay Cutler and Mike Glennon. And while Arizona has certainly admitted it's in the market for a successor to Palmer, who will likely consider retirement again after the 2017 season, there's no reason the Cardinals should be tied to more experienced players at this point in the NFL calendar.
Knowing Palmer is set to return next season, the odds of the Cardinals opting to start from scratch with a player like Romo, who's armed with a rough injury history, aren't just small, they're highly improbable. Though Romo has shown glimpses of brilliance and excellent stints of consistency throughout his career, the Cardinals shouldn't have interest in acclimating a new quarterback to Arians' system while attempting to capitalize on a roster built for an immediate playoff run.
Though Cutler and Glennon are certainly younger than Romo, neither player has the talent to come in and immediately supplant Palmer as the starter in 2017, and it's uncertain whether either quarterback would be able to pick up where Palmer left off in 2018. And because even backup quarterbacks command significant salaries in the NFL, signing or acquiring either player would prevent the Cardinals from filling out their roster with the playmakers to contend this season.
Essentially, because analysts and front office personnel around the league know the Cardinals are in the quarterback market, Arizona is going to be tossed around as a potential destination for any player that's on the move. But from now until after the NFL Draft in late April, that shouldn't be the case.
In the interim, the Cardinals' roster is set up for Palmer to lead the offense in 2017, and if he so chooses, he should be the odds-on favorite to hang onto the starting job in 2018, the final year of his contract. Because Arizona could potentially get two more years out of the former No. 1 overall draft pick, it doesn't make sense for the Cardinals to be lumped in to the rumor discussions involving players like Cutler and Glennon, who are veterans looking for a starting role, not players looking to compete for a backup job.
Though the organization is thinking about the future of the quarterback position, and general manager Steve Keim has admitted as much, what general manager in charge of a roster as deep as Arizona's is going to tie his career to a player like Romo, Cutler or Glennon?
When Keim talks about preparing for the future, he's talking about the potential options that may present themselves in the draft, or with younger players around the league who haven't yet earned an opportunity to start and may face a logjam on their own teams' quarterback depth charts.
Moving forward, Keim and Arians are looking for a leader of the future, not a player to step in and take Palmer's place right now. Even though 2016 represented a down year for the Cardinals' quarterback, it's abundantly clear Arizona is tied to Palmer through at least the 2017 season.