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Quarterback might be on Arizona Cardinals' radar

By The Sports Xchange   |   Feb. 26, 2016 at 12:28 AM
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INDIANAPOLIS -- The Arizona Cardinals know they need to find quarterback Carson Palmer's eventual replacement. And they are trying, they promise.

The thing is, finding a good NFL quarterback is easy to talk about, but more difficult to actually do.

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Palmer, 36, probably has a couple of years left, at least. But Drew Stanton, his backup, is an unrestricted free agent. And coaches haven't seen enough of Matt Barkley, the No. 3 quarterback, to know if he can be a starter in the NFL.

The Cardinals haven't drafted a quarterback above round four since taking Matt Leinart with the 10th overall pick in 2006. They've tried to get by via free agency, trades and lower round picks.

Palmer's the best quarterback they've had since Kurt Warner retired after the 2009 season.

General manager Steve Keim said searching for a quarterback "keeps guys in my position up at night. You do realize you have to find the next guy, and if you don't find the next guy, you're usually not in that position very long. It's the cold, hard reality."

The Cardinals aren't intent on taking a quarterback in this draft, but it's possible.

"You have to continue throwing darts," Keim said. "You can't stop trying and you can't be ashamed to miss. That's part of the business."

A more pressing part of the business is re-signing a few of the team's 16 unrestricted free agents. Among that group is starting safety Rashad Johnson and cornerback Jerraud Powers.

But with free agency starting on March 9, Keim acknowledged that it's unlikely any deals will be done before then.

Since season's end, Keim and head coach Bruce Arians have hinted at making changes. A day after the season, Arians said the team wanted to get "longer" and more athletic at safety.

At the combine this week, Keim said the possibility of losing Johnson and Powers is a concern, but it also could represent an opportunity.

"There's a concern from the standpoint that you get to a point with your roster you get comfortable," he said. "To me, I don't know that it's a bad thing to get out of your comfort zone a little bit, to try to get better in certain areas.

"The thing we like about those two particular players is they're smart, they're instinctive, good teammates, yet at the same time, I have a lot of faith and trust in our scouting department that if we had to replace them we could find guys who are talented players where we can improve."

--Arians coached Peyton Manning in the quarterback's first three NFL seasons in Indianapolis, and the two have remained close over the years. On Wednesday, Arians defended Manning, who has been the subject of news stories about an alleged sexual assault while in college.

"If we're all going to be nit-picked for what we did in college, we're all in trouble," Arians said. "We all did things in college while we were growing. It's just a bigger story now because of who he is and what he just did (at the Super Bowl).

"To me, it's sensationalism, someone trying to get their name out there and use him for a stepping stone. That's just my personal opinion."

--Running back Andre Ellington faces a critical season. He's missed 10 games over the past two years, and there are questions about his durability.

"Andre's a dynamic player, there's no doubt about that," Keim said. "We love his skill set, but it's no secret the guy has had durability problems. As an organization, you have expectations and if a guy doesn't fulfill those expectations, you may have to move on.

"Hopefully, Andre's not in a situation where we have to move on. I'd love to keep Andre long term, yet at the same time, he's got to stay healthy."

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