Matt Kartozian/USA Today Sports

Cardinals need quarterback to keep championship window open

The Arizona Cardinals have repeatedly stated they are in the market for a quarterback of the future in this year's NFL Draft, and head coach Bruce Arians thinks this year's draft class features a deep group of arms.

Even though the Cardinals haven't reached the Super Bowl under general manager Steve Keim and head coach Bruce Arians, the Keim-Arians era has already rewarded Arizona's fans with plenty of memorable moments.

For a franchise that spent decades attempting to battle out of the NFL's cellar, Keim and Arians have spent the last four seasons turning the Cardinals into a model organization for the league.

Still, though, the duo is feeling the pressure entering their fifth season working together, as veteran quarterback Carson Palmer's career begins to wind down. 

Knowing that finding a quarterback of the future is in the team's immediate future, Keim and Arians spoke Tuesday about the team's pre-draft process and how important finding a successful signal-caller is for the team's post-Palmer era.

"I'd like to keep my job for awhile, I have four small kids," Keim said. "It's certainly going to be beneficial to doing that but it's, coach can answer it better, if you don't have a quarterback, I mean, you're going nowhere."

Arians echoed Keim's sentiments, acknowledging that the teams that go the furthest in the NFL are the ones led by franchise quarterbacks. 

"I can't think of, in the last three years, any playoff team that didn't have a good one," Arians said. "Just to get to the playoffs, let alone win. You don't have a chance, if you've got the greatest defense in the world, you still have to have a helluva quarterback to score points."

Though the team is committed to Palmer in 2017 and he's under contract for the 2018 season, Arians said Tuesday that the franchise is in a strong position to draft a potential quarterback of the future next week because of the unique situation such a player would enter.

Last season, Palmer began sitting out during the team's Wednesday practices to rest, and Arians said that should Arizona draft a quarterback this year, the rookie would have the opportunity to work with the first-team offense at least once a week while Palmer takes a breather.

"If we were to get a rookie quarterback, he's going to get a unique situation in that Carson doesn't practice on Wednesdays," Arians said. "The rookie is going to get first-team game reps with the starting offense on Wednesdays. That ain't a normal rookie. So this is going to be a very unique situation if a guy falls to us." 

Throughout the offseason, Arians and Keim have indicated that they don't believe there's a quarterback in this year's draft class who is capable of stepping in and thriving immediately, but that won't deter the team from picking a signal-caller with strong measurables who projects well to the next level.

On Tuesday, Arians gave the example of Cardinals' cornerback Brandon Williams, the team's third-round draft pick in 2016, who was skilled enough to play at the beginning of the season, but didn't excel in his on field reps because of the other elements players need time to adjust to in the NFL.

Arians said like Williams, a rookie quarterback may be talented enough to play, but would likely struggle with communication, signals and picking up the playbook because the adjustment to the NFL is so challenging.

"If you look, Brandon (Williams) got thrown in early and had a rough game, just because of communication, not because of skill," Arians said. "Because of signal. He busted a coverage, gives up a touchdown. That doesn't have to do with skill, his skill was fine, he played his ass off in December playing man-to-man on those guys. It's all about deciphering the amount of information that's going to get thrown at them. Because a college playbook is like this and an NFL playbook is like that."

Keim and Arians have reportedly met with or worked out about five of the top draft-eligible quarterbacks in this year's class, which should give the team a bit of flexibility next week. If the Cardinals think they can get the player they want with the 13th overall pick in the first round, Arizona can pull the trigger. However, Keim also said that he's willing to wheel and deal when it comes to the Cardinals' draft picks, and he won't be afraid to move up or back to position Arizona to draft the player the team feels it needs the most.

"It's fast-paced, yeah, you've got to make a decision instantly and again, that is why it's so important to have that board stacked the way it is because if you trust it, then you won't veer away from what you believe in," Keim said. "If you feel like you can get some value, like a few years ago when we traded from 20 to 27, still got Deone (Bucannon) and then were able to acquire John Brown with that third round pick we gained, obviously we were pretty happy."


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