The quarterback position is easily the most discussed position amongst fans and members of the Arizona media. People want to know what head coach Bruce Arians and general manager Steve Keim are going to do with the position before the start of the 2013 season.
And frankly, little has been said up to this point. They said that they will search high and low to find a quarterback, yet that statement leaves too much room for interpretation. Many expect the duo to target a quarterback in the draft or in free agency, while others expect them to roll with the $62 million man.
With free agency just seven days away, we may found out what the team's plans are sooner rather than later. For now, let's rank the seven best options Arizona has based on the open market, the draft and their current roster talent.
Shortly after Bruce Arians arrived in the desert, rumors started to fly about possible quarterback options that could land in Arizona alongside Arians. Obviously, Andrew Luck and Ben Roethlisberger were out of the picture based on their success and contract situations in their respected cities, so the next logical option was Drew Stanton of course.
All jokes aside, except it's not a joke, many media members tend to think he is a great fit for the Cardinals new offensive system.
In all fairness, he did have the opportunity to learn Arians' system last year as the Colts backup to Luck. Yet, he offers no long-term stability at a position that needs it, and his overall ceiling as a player is relatively low.
Over the course of his five-year career, Stanton has garnered playing time in 13 games and made four starts. His record as a starter is 2-2 with both of his wins coming during the 2010 season.
After injuries to Matthew Stafford and Shaun Hill, he was asked to step in and pick up right where they left off. Amidst his two-game winning streak against the Packers and Buccaneers, he threw for two touchdowns, two interceptions and 369 yards—very pedestrian-like numbers.
This is why I find it hard to believe Arizona would bring him in and hand him the starting job. I could see him coming in as a backup type behind the starter, but to anoint him as the starter or even give him the opportunity to start would be pushing the envelope.
E.J. Manuel is a quarterback in the 2013 draft class who has a live arm and passes the eyeball test based on his big and tall frame. Yet, as we all know, that's simply not enough to be considered a first-round talent.
This is why I believe Manuel would be the perfect fit for the Cardinals in the second round. He's raw and will have to prove that he can play in a true pro-style offense before he goes inside the Top 50.
Nevertheless, he may have a higher ceiling than any quarterback in this year's draft if given the time to develop. Given his current skill set, I compare him to Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers, without the polish. Patience will be key in bringing him along as you try to implement the mental characteristics of the quarterback position.
It's truly his biggest weakness right now. Whether that side of the game can be taught in one offseason remains to be seen. Keeping Kolb would allow Arizona to sit Manuel down, so he can continuously learn, ultimately readying him to start the 2014 season as the No. 1 guy.
However, if the Cardinals were forced to start him in 2013, he may be the least ready quarterback in terms of making an immediate impact. Undoubtedly, he would make a few big plays under center, but the bad plays would outweigh the big plays by the time it's all said and done.
There isn't a potential draftee who is linked to the Arizona Cardinals more (per Josh Norris of NFL.com) than North Carolina State's Mike Glennon. Evaluators of the draft pinpoint him as the quote, unquote "perfect" quarterback for Arians' offense. His size and arm strength definitely translate to the next level, which is why he's a highly sought after prospect.
However, he has his fair share of limitations as well. According to Dane Brugler of CBS Sports, "He [Glennon] is very unpolished with his footwork and needs to refine the details of the position."
Yet, the same can be said about every other quarterback in this year's draft class, so it's easy to see why he is viewed as potential top-10 pick amidst a draft class that has no real standout at the position.
His ability to get the football to All-Pro wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald would be welcomed by just about every Cardinal fan possible. But they are also smart enough to realize that very few quarterbacks succeed behind a porous offensive line, ultimately making left tackle and offensive guard an equally important position at No. 7.
I really like Glennon to Arizona if they can find offensive line help in free agency. For him to be successful at the pro level, he will need a clean pocket with plenty of time and space to operate.
After Glennon comes, who seems to be the second-most linked draft prospect to the Arizona Cardinals (per Chris Wesseling), Matt Barkley. Barkley is coming off a disappointing senior season that saw him turn in six multi-interception games, according to Rob Rang of CBS Sports. Not to mention, four of those six multi-interception games were the final four of his career.
His gamble to come back for one final stand is looking like it may not pay off based on his slipping draft stock. However, it has rebounded as of late, considering some mock drafts have him back inside the top-10. If coach Arians wants a guy who has immense leadership skills, pinpoint accuracy and football knowledge that blows you away, then Barkley is his guy.
He doesn't have great size at 6'2'', and his arm strength is less than impressive. The two things Arians values more than anything in a quarterback are arm strength and size, so the rumors of Barkley being drafted by Arizona seems to be nothing more than one big smoke screen.
Nevertheless, the perceived smoke screen may turn out to be genuine interest. If that's the case, Barkley could be taking plenty of snaps under center in 2013, and that wouldn't be the worst thing, as he is viewed as the second-best quarterback in this year's draft by some talent evaluators.
Here's a name who hasn't received much love in a weak free-agent quarterback class, but Matt Moore is a name to watch out for. To me, he has just as much—or more—talent than any quarterback in this year's draft. When given the opportunity to start, he has shown that he can win ballgames and push the ball down the field.
Despite going undrafted out of Oregon State, Moore has turned some heads while collecting a 13-12 record as an NFL starter. His best run came in 2009 when he went 4-1 after replacing Jake Delhomme as the starting quarterback in Carolina.
Yet, his leash was short the following season as he only started five games after turning in a disappointing 1-4 record as the starter.
The following season, he signed in Miami with the hopes of getting another shot to start. Lo and behold his opportunity came a knocking after the teams porous start to the 2011 season. It took a while for Moore to find his rhythm, but once he did, the Dolphins won six of their final nine games.
Not bad, considering their lack of playmaking skills on the offensive side of the ball.
His ability to make the tough throws, decipher different coverages and be a leader of men ranks him high on my evaluation chart. Like Glennon, he would have no problem getting the ball to Fitzgerald. If you don't believe me, go back and look at the type of season Brandon Marshall had in 2011.
Admittedly, there are few people who have been harder on Kolb than I have been. As a member of the Arizona Cardinals, he has had trouble staying healthy, and his decision-making at times has been suspect at best. But that doesn't mean he isn't one of the top options for them at the quarterback position in 2013.
I say this because we haven't been able to see what he can do behind a sound offensive line and a strong rushing attack. The last two years, he has seemingly been running for his life time and time again. Not to mention, the organization has a big chunk of money invested in the 28-year old, University of Houston product.
Much like Barkley from USC, his skill set doesn't match Arians' philosophy on quarterbacks. Yet his approach to Kolb may differ a bit based on the fact that he is already on the roster and costs the team a small fortune. Factors of that nature could sway him to tailor his offense around No. 4's strengths for at least a year.
No one is telling Arians that he has to stick with this guy long-term, but in the short-term it may end up making the most sense. Or even in a scenario I suggested with Manuel, he will need Kolb to be the starter in 2013.
And last, but definitely not least, is West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith. After much deliberation early on in the draft process, Smith has finally settled in the No. 1 quarterback spot in this year's draft class. Many believe that he won't get past the Jaguars at No. 2 or the Raiders at No. 3 (per Chris Mortensen of ESPN, h/t Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk).
But if he does, you should fully expect him to be in play for the Cardinals at No. 7. The athletic, big-armed quarterback threw 42 touchdown passes, piled up 4,205 yards through the air and completed 71.2 percent of his passes as a senior.
Sure, his stats are inflated due to the Mountaineers high-flying passing attack, yet that shouldn't discount all the things he does well from a mechanical standpoint.
Scouts label him as a franchise quarterback and the most pro ready in comparison to any other quarterback in the 2013 draft. The only thing to be leery of is the fact he took almost every snap from the gun in 2012.
This may cause some teams to devalue his stock, but one has to think it wouldn't bother Arians. He has been a big proponent of the shotgun over the course of his lengthy career. Moreover, he could slowly work in plays from under center while developing him throughout the season—much like the Rams did with Sam Bradford back in 2010.
If Smith is there and the Cardinals don't take him, they are doing themselves a disservice. Franchise quarterbacks don't just fall in your lap.