If a self-reflection on the past three years sans Kurt Warner won’t do it for the Arizona Cardinals, then a glance across the league should awaken them to the fact that they need a quarterback to build around in order to contend. All the more reason for Arizona to trade for Josh Freeman.
With yet another retread placeholder at quarterback in Carson Palmer, Arizona has again delayed its long sought-after ascent from purgatory, a.k.a. the NFL’s middle class.
After averaging six wins the past three seasons, the Cards are the classic case of a team that is too good to net an elite quarterback prospect in the draft and too bad to attract game-changing quarterbacks in free agency—Peyton Manning ring a bell?
Not exactly a death row of quarterbacks for opposing defenses, right?
Fortunately for Arizona, Freeman could be a solution to this problem.
Lost in all the negativity surrounding Freeman at the moment—from his place in the NFL’s substance-abuse program to having his captaincy stripped in the offseason; there’s plenty to pick from—is the fact that in 2010 he was viewed as a rising star.
After leading Tampa Bay to a 10-6 record and throwing for 25 touchdowns and 3,451 yards, Freeman was labeled the next "it" quarterback.
This much is evident in SI.com's Chris Harry's characterization of Freeman. "Josh Freeman is not just a rising star, he's on the brink of being an NFL rock star," he says.
While I acknowledge that Freeman hasn’t since duplicated his 2010 performance, he’s by no means a one-hit wonder.
His performance in the 2011 season, in which he posted 16 touchdowns and 22 interceptions, was no doubt a stain on his resume. Still, after seeing Freeman rebound to throw for 27 scores and 17 interceptions last year, I surmise that 2011 was just an off year for Freeman. It happens.
What about his start to this season, you ask?
Well, I riddle you this. Who has nine interceptions, and like Freeman, zero wins this season? That would be Eli Manning.
Point being, bad games happen to the best quarterbacks. Three games isn't a large enough sample size to truly evaluate a quarterback.
In truth, you have to question Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano’s decision in benching Freeman in the first place. As awfully as he’s played, Freeman did lead what appeared to be the game-winning drive in Week 1 against the Jets. If not for a personal foul by Lavonte David, the Buccaneers win that game.
Fast-forward to Week 2 against the Saints and you see a familiar script. Freeman has the Bucs again in position to win, and the defense blows the game.
So, even though Freeman has been cast as the scapegoat for Tampa Bay’s winless start, the Bucs could have easily been 2-1 entering Week 4 against the Cardinals.
The same Cardinals that had head coach Bruce Arians far from stoic in the aftermath of their 13-10 win over Tampa. In reference to Arizona's offense, Arians said, "It was putrid," in his postgame press conference, according to Darren Urban of the Cardinals' official website.
I guess that answers the Carson Palmer question, right?
If age or his past two seasons of irrelevancy up in Oakland didn't tell you that Palmer is long past his days as a quality starting quarterback, then Arians' remark above should have hammered that point home.
After winning despite their offense, and Palmer, the Cardinals can afford to gamble on Freeman.
With ESPN's Ed Werder reporting that trade interest in Freeman is mild at best, it stands to reason that Arizona could get Freeman for a relatively low draft pick. I don’t know about you, but I’d think that for a franchise that has given up a lot more for substantially less—like, I don't know, Kevin Kolb—such a move would be worth the risk.
It’s not like the Cards would be stuck with Freeman if he faltered. Since Freeman’s in the last year of his deal, Arizona could simply wash its hands clean of Freeman and target a signal-caller in the quarterback-rich 2014 NFL draft that NFL.com's Gil Brandt calls the deepest in memory.
Ultimately, it comes down to this: What exactly does Arizona have to lose by making a deal for Freeman? Games?
They’ve lost those without him, we all know that much. What we don't know for sure is if Freeman can change that.
But, for Arizona, it's worth the risk to find out if he can.