The Arizona Cardinals find themselves in a real mess going into the 2012 season. After the 2011 lockout, the Cardinals took a chance and made an expensive with the Philadelphia Eagles for Kevin Kolb. They then immediately re-signed Kolb to a lucrative contract extension.
That was when it all went wrong.
Kolb missed nearly half the 2011 season due to injury. Exactly how many games he missed because of the injury is up for debate, as it is speculated that Kolb was held out at the end of the year because team management believed that backup John Skelton gave them a better chance to win.
In short, Kolb appears to be a $65 million bust. The part that complicates things is the Cardinals have already paid Kolb $21.5 million in guaranteed money and he is owed a $7 million roster bonus in March. So the question with Kolb is – do you cut your substantial losses and get rid of Kolb before his roster bonus is due or do you pay him once again and give him another year to turn things around?
Then, there’s Skelton. The backup had an up and down season during the time he was on the field, but as a whole, he was quite competent. It is understood that he is well liked within the organization and was heralded as a breakout candidate when he was drafted. During the 2011 season in limited action, he had a completion percentage of 57.6% in games where he made more than 15 passes with an average passer rating of 87.4. So while Skelton may not be spectacular, he has good numbers for his experience level.
So should the Cardinals say goodbye to Kolb? At this point it’s difficult to say, but the Cardinals are a team that have all the tools to be a playoff contender if they have a serviceable quarterback. It wasn’t so long ago that they were contending with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the Super Bowl. What’s the biggest difference between then and now? Kurt Warner retired.
Warner became known as one of the greatest redemption stories in NFL history after returning from the wilderness to lead the Cardinals within an inch of glory. It could be the memory of that which prompts them to give Kolb another chance. But could the real answer lie in free agency?
The obvious candidate when he is released (yes, I said when) is Peyton Manning. Manning has some serious injury concerns but in a league where four quarterbacks had 5,000 yard seasons, Peyton is right up there among the very best in the business.
If the Cards miss out on Peyton, there are a few other good options out there including Green Bay backup Matt Flynn, comeback kid Alex Smith, former Bears, Broncos and Chiefs quarterback Kyle Orton and Jason Campbell of the Raiders. The dark horse however could be the elder statesman of the group — Donovan McNabb. Prior to playing with the Redskins and Vikings it was understood that McNabb was extremely interested in playing for Arizona as he lives and trains in Arizona during the offseason. McNabb is also good friends with superstar receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Watch out for McNabb in this race – could he be the next Kurt Warner?
So what’s the best option? Well, if Peyton Manning wants to play in Arizona, then he’s the best option by a long way. If not, it really is a crap-shoot. If everything stays fair, Skelton is arguably the best quarterback on the Cardinals roster right now and deserves a legitimate shot at the starting job in 2012.