Cardinals GM Steve Keim: We 'can’t get caught flat-footed' in quarterback search

The Arizona Cardinals are lacking a quarterback in the aftermath of Carson Palmer's retirement. Luckily, Palmer chose a good year to step away from football as this offseason's free agent class of quarterbacks is relatively stacked compared to previous years. The Cardinals could also draft Palmer's successor with the 15th overall pick.

On Friday, Cardinals general manager Steve Keim, who just got done replacing retired coach Bruce Arians with Steve Wilks, spoke with Arizona Sports 98.7 FM about his search for their next franchise quarterback. He didn't reveal any specifics about the free agents or prospects he might target, but he did lend some insight into the process behind his search.

"You have to have Plan A, B, C and D," Keim said, via the team's official website. "Whether that is a, addressing it with a free-agent quarterback, B, trade option, C, draft, or all of the above … but at the end of the day you can't get caught on (Plan) 'A' because there are factors that go into decisions by a free-agent quarterback (or) any trade process that you can't put your finger on.

"We just have to be prepared to move on to No. 2 or No. 3 and we can't get caught flat-footed if the first opportunity doesn't pan out."

Let's start with the class off free agents. The good news is that with future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald opting to return for another season, Keim can use Fitzgerald (as well as running back David Johnson) as a selling point when he pitches free agents.

"I don't think it will per se affect the search part of it," Keim said. "Now it will affect the recruitment part of it if in fact it's through free agency. There is no doubt Larry Fitzgerald's name and his reputation carries a lot of weight.

"We will, if we go down that path, certainly use Larry and David Johnson and all the other current stars on our roster to try to make sure any potential franchise quarterback understands that this is a special place."

There are the headliners in Kirk Cousins, who will likely become the game's highest-paid player when he does get signed, and Drew Brees, who is unlikely to leave New Orleans. And then are several solid cheaper options in the available bridge quarterbacks like Case Keenum, Sam Bradford, and Josh McCown

On Friday, CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora speculated that the Cardinals will chase someone like Bradford instead of hunting Cousins.

The Cardinals have to find a quarterback, and the hunch I get is that its far more likely they go for a bridge guy like Sam Bradford than a mega-deal with Kirk Cousins. I expect them to draft one high as well.

Which brings us to the rookie class. Four quarterbacks -- Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield, and Josh Allen -- are regarded as sure-fire first-round picks, but it's not clear which one, if any, will drop to No. 15. If the Cardinals believe one of those four guys is their future franchise quarterback, they might need to trade up to grab him. Another scenario could see the Cardinals taking a developmental quarterback later in the draft and then letting him sit on the bench behind Bradford or another bridge quarterback for an entire season if not longer. 

If you take a look at our mock draft page here at CBSSports.com, you'll see that three of our six mock drafters have the Cardinals taking a quarterback at No. 15. Jared Dubin has Allen falling to No. 15 while Pete Prisco and R.J. White both have Mayfield going to Arizona. Meanwhile, Chris Trapasso has the Cardinals moving up to No. 5 to take Rosen.

CBS Sports Writer

Sean Wagner-McGough joined CBS Sports in 2015 after graduating from UC Berkeley. A native of Seattle, Sean now resides in the Bay Area. He spends his spare time defending Jay Cutler on Twitter. Full Bio

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