The teams that have best navigated the NFL Draft in recent years are often the ones that have had the most success during the regular season and playoffs, which makes this year's draft a critical one for the Arizona Cardinals.
The team knows its championship window could be shutting soon, especially given the fact both quarterback Carson Palmer and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald are nearing the end of their respective careers.
With a potentially significant roster overhaul on the horizon, Arizona has made it clear through its offseason transactions that the organization is committed to doing everything possible in the short-term to make a serious Super Bowl push in 2017.
Though the team was bound to lose players like Calais Campbell and Tony Jefferson to free agency due to their ability to command multi-year deals at high price tags, the Cardinals have replaced them with veterans like Karlos Dansby and Antoine Bethea --defensive starters at the end of their careers who also want to secure a ring before their personal championship windows are slammed shut.
The manner in which the Cardinals have added and subtracted from their roster this offseason and the state of its existing personnel suggests 2017 could be an optimal time for Arizona to trade up in the early rounds of this year's NFL Draft.
Arizona is well aware it should receive additional compensatory draft choices due to this offseason's free agent losses in 2018, which gives the Cardinals some flexibility this year. If general manager Steve Keim so chooses, he can wheel and deal an early round pick in this year or next year's draft and move up the board to give Arizona an opportunity to draft another player it feels it really needs.
What would trading up look like for the Cardinals, and why would the team elect to consider this option when it has burned so many organizations in the past?
Because the Cardinals are in the market for a quarterback of the future, it's likely that trading up would indicate the team is looking to add both a signal-caller and an immediate impact talent, likely on the defensive side of the ball.
In all likelihood, Arizona wouldn't consider trading up ahead of the 13th overall pick, likely because it would cost the franchise too much draft ammunition to make a serious move. What that means is the Cardinals will likely stick with the 13th selection, and select either a quarterback the franchise is exceptionally high on, or a plug-and-play defender to fit in right away at the back end of its defense.
Say the Cardinals really like a player like Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer or Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes, but feel the passer of their choice will still be available late in the first round. It's conceivable Arizona could use the 13th overall selection to draft a defensive asset, and then, when the time is right, pull the trigger to move up into the back end of the first round or the very beginning of the second round to draft the quarterback the team so desperately needs.
Such a deal would likely force the Cardinals to give up their second and third round picks this year, and a second or third round pick next year, but because Arizona stands to gain compensatory selections in 2018, the deal wouldn't have such harsh ramifications.
By committing to putting its best foot forward at what could be the end of a championship window, Arizona knows it must take risks and gamble on its assets to give the organization a shot to win in 2017. Though trading up isn't necessarily an ideal strategy, it's one that could allow Arizona to find a solid defensive player in the short-term while giving the team a quarterback it can groom for the long-term.
In that scenario, the decision to trade up might not just help the team out in its current championship window, but if the team finds the right quarterback, perhaps that window ends up staying open longer than anyone anticipated.