As the Arizona Cardinals begin their quest to cut the team's roster size from 90 to 53 by the end of the preseason, we're taking a look at every player at each position group and determining their odds of making the final cut.
Player: Carson Palmer
Experience: 15th NFL season
Contract status: 2017: $24,125,000, 2018: $20,625,000 (potential out: 2018 with a cap hit of $6,625,000)
2016 season quick review: Much like the entire Cardinals' roster last season, Palmer suffered through his fair share of ups and downs as the team's veteran signal-caller was unable to regain the form he found during a career year in 2015. Through the first four weeks of the season, Palmer led the Cardinals to a 1-3 record, throwing six touchdowns and five interceptions including four in the team's loss to the Buffalo Bills. Palmer would rebound at various points, but he struggled on the road throughout the season as Arizona's offense often stalled on nearly every east coast swing. The Cardinals' starter finished the season with 26 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, but took a beating as he was sacked over 40 times playing behind a patchwork offensive line. With a struggling line and a depleted group of wide receivers, Palmer still performed reasonably well, but wasn't good enough late in the year for the Cardinals to overcome the slow start they had to the season.
Projected roster status: Palmer's spot on the Cardinals' roster is safe, so much so that head coach Bruce Arians has no intention of having Palmer throw at the team's offseason training activities until the final week so that the starting signal-caller can rest his arm.
Projected depth chart status: Don't take the Cardinals' offseason addition of Blaine Gabbert the wrong way: Palmer is the starter for the Cardinals and will be until the day he decides to retire. Arians and Palmer have developed an excellent rapport, and even if Palmer struggles again this season, the leash is exceptionally long because he's clearly better than any of the team's backup options.
CardinalsSource analysis: Though it's entirely possible Palmer is past his prime, the Cardinals are in no position to turn away from the quarterback they've built this offense around. Arizona's current championship window hinges on whether Palmer is able to play at the level he reached in 2015, because as Palmer goes, so too does the Cardinals' offense. Sure, Arizona has outstanding pieces like running back David Johnson and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, but the Cardinals need Palmer to play at a high level because he's not built in the mold of a game manager. Palmer is always going to take his shots, and in Arians' offense, that's the expectation of the quarterback. However, as a result of that, Palmer will need to demonstrate a better commitment to ball security and showcase the same decision-making skills that made him so efficient when the Cardinals made a run to the NFC Championship game in 2015. If Palmer proves to be turnover prone, the Cardinals can only go so far. However, if Palmer plays up to his potential for an extended period of time, Arizona's offense has the pieces in place to make a serious run.
Overall value: No player on the Cardinals' roster drains salary cap space quite like Palmer, but such is life in today's NFL, where quarterback play is at a premium. Though Palmer's 2017 cap hit is the largest of his career to date, his $24 million salary won't be considered exorbitant if he plays at the level the Cardinals believe he's capable of playing at. Quarterback is the one position where teams intent on making a championship run absolutely must allocate resources toward, and it's not as if there's a wealth of signal-callers around the league who are capable of leading their teams to a title. If Palmer plays like a top-10 quarterback in 2017, the drain on the team's salary cap will be completely worth it. If he doesn't, it's not as if Arizona was prepared to abandon ship and start from scratch at the position, so the team's commitment to Palmer is essentially an affirmation that it believes he's the right man for the job.