Originally Published: April 26, 2018 noon
TEMPE — It’s a new world for the Arizona Cardinals — a new head coach, new offense, new coordinators and an old problem.
The team still needs a long-term solution at quarterback.
When the Cardinals hired Carolina defensive coordinator Steve Wilks to replace the retired coach Bruce Arians, there was nary a quarterback on the roster.
General manager Steve Keim addressed that issue short term by signing Sam Bradford to start and Mike Glennon as the backup.
But the Cardinals would love to get a young good one in the draft and nurture him into the job. The problem is, it’s very hard to do, especially when Arizona sits at No. 15 in Thursday’s draft.
“I don’t think it’s any secret (how badly Arizona would love a franchise quarterback),” Keim said.
“I think the biggest issue comes with the supply and demand at the position. Where is the franchise quarterback going to be available? If you’re willing to trade, what’s the compensation for it? So, at the end of the day, again, it’s no secret, but are you willing to put the franchise in a position to be set back for years if you’re not right?”
Trading up to get one of the best quarterbacks is very expensive. Trading down might work. Both require willing partners, no easy find.
If the Cardinals stay at No. 15, the more likely scenario is drafting the player they want there — a cornerback, maybe — and picking one of the lesser-rated QBs later.
That would fit their history. Arizona hasn’t drafted a quarterback before the fourth round since Matt Leinart slid to them at No. 10 in 2006. That didn’t work out too well.
Here are things to consider as the Cardinals make their pick.
The past two successful Cardinals quarterbacks were obtained via trade (Carson Palmer) and signed as a free agent (Hall of Famer Kurt Warner). The two quarterbacks drafted by Arizona since Leinart were Ryan Lindley in the sixth round in 2012 and Logan Thomas in the fourth round in 2014.
So, if Arizona stays at No. 15, it’s likely that first-round pick will be a non-QB — perhaps wide receiver Calvin Ridley or cornerbacks Josh Jackson or Jaire Alexander — with a second-tier quarterback — Lamar Jackson? — selected sometime after that. That is, unless one of the top QBs slip unexpectedly.
The Cardinals have worked out and met with all the best quarterbacks. Baker Mayfield was in Arizona for a visit just last week.
DRAFT TRADE HISTORY
The Cardinals have made draft-day trades in four of Keim’s five seasons as general manager. In 2014, Arizona traded its first-round pick (No. 20 overall) to New Orleans for the Saints’ first pick (No. 27) and selected safety Deone Bucannon, now an inside linebacker and one of the team’s leading tacklers. They got a third-round pick in the deal and used it to select wide receiver John Brown. Last year Arizona traded up in the second round to get safety Budda Baker, who had an outstanding rookie season.
THIN AT RECEIVER
At wide receiver, the Cardinals have Larry Fitzgerald and not much else. The Browns — John and Jaron— are gone. Last year’s third-round pick Chad Williams hasn’t shown much. The team did add veteran Brice Butler in free agency. But expect the position to be addressed more than once this week.
HITS, MISSES AND BARGAINS
The list of Cardinals draft hits is impressive. Go way back to 2004, Arizona chose Fitzgerald third overall, then followed with Karlos Dansby, Darnell Dockett and Antonio Smith — the core of the 2008 Super Bowl team. Cornerback Patrick Peterson came as the No. 5 overall selection in 2011.
The biggest bargains include running back David Johnson in 2015. Chosen out of Northern Iowa in the third round, he was first-team All-Pro in his second season, leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage and touchdowns.
That draft also included standout outside linebacker Marcus Golden and the No. 1 pick, D.J. Humphries, now locked in at starting left tackle.
Another big bargain was safety Tyrann Mathieu. Keim took a chance on the “Honey Badger” in the third round in 2013 and, although hampered by injuries, was a big force on the defense and a model citizen in the organization.
Of course there are misses. The jury is still out on Robert Nkemdiche, the defensive tackle Arizona chose at 29th overall two years ago. Other first-rounders who disappointed were guard Jonathan Cooper in 2013, injury-plagued running back Beanie Wells in 2009, tackle Levi Brown in 2007 and, of course, Leinart.