|Could Whisenhunt and Manning share the same sideline in 2012? (US PRESSWIRE)|
By Ryan Wilson
Kevin Kolb was traded to the Cardinals almost six months ago. The team was in desperate need of something resembling a quarterback after Kurt Warner retired following the 2009 season, and Derek Anderson, Max Hall and John Skelton took turns looking completely lost in that capacity in 2010. At the time, we thought that Arizona gave up too much for Kolb. (They sent cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round pick to Philly, then signed Kolb to a five-year, $63 million -- $20 million guaranteed -- contract extension.) As the regular-season progressed and Kolb struggled with consistency and injuries, Arizona came to the same conclusion.
Neither coaches nor front-office types came out and admitted it, but they didn't need to. Kolb played in nine games, missed seven more with injuries, and finished the season throwing for 1,955 yards (57.7 completion percentage), 9 touchdowns, 8 interceptions and taking 30 sacks.
By comparison, Skelton, the second-year backup made seven starts, threw for 1,913 yards (54.9 completion percentage), 11 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and took 24 sacks.
Statistically, not much difference between the starter and the guy behind him on the depth chart -- until you compare their salaries. According to Sportrac.com, Kolb counted $4,000,000 against the Cardinals' 2011 cap (it increases to $10 million in '12 and $13 million in '13); Skelton came in slightly less than that at $450,500.
It's understandable that the Cardinals might a) have reservations about Kolb's future and b) consider other options starting, well, now.
Arizona Republic beat reporter Kent Somers wrote Monday about the recent speculation that the Cardinals would have great interest in Peyton Manning should the Colts decide to move forward without him. CBS Sports' Charley Casserly mentioned this two weeks ago.
"One team to watch (should Manning become available)? The Arizona Cardinals," Casserly said at the time. "They can get out of the Kevin Kolb contract and also Ken Whisenhunt's been down this road before. A veteran quarterback coming in at the end of his career? Kurt Warner."
Somers is quite certain the Cards would be interested in Manning because "The entire NFL, minus the obvious few, will go after Peyton if the Colts dump him."
Fair point. Somers then went through the logistical gymnastics that would be required before an Arizona-Manning marriage could take place:
No. 1. Manning has to be healthy enough to play after missing 2011 with a neck problem. That's no small hurdle.In general, investing heavily in guys on the downside of great careers isn't the most efficient way to sustain organizational success from one year to the next. But Whisenhunt had Warner fall into his lap and they were one play away from a Lombardi Trophy. If Arizona has the chance to land Manning, they have to dump Kolb and do it, right? Because based on what we saw in 2011, the alternative, in all likelihood, is neither efficient nor successful.
No. 2. The Colts must decide to release Manning. As Darren Urban of azcardinals.com wrote, Manning is due a roster bonus of $28 million on March 8. Kevin Kolb is due a $7 million roster bonus on March 17. For obvious reasons, releasing Manning would not be an easy decision for Colts owner Jim Irsay.
No. 3. If Manning is released, numerous teams will express interest. But how many of those places will be attractive to Manning. This is, I think, where the Cardinals could have an advantage. Throwing to Larry Fitzgerald has to be an attractive prospect. With Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams, the Cardinals have two talented young running backs. There are questions on the offensive line, however. The Cardinals' defense was stout over the last half of the season. Under Whisenhunt, the Cardinals have proven they are willing to throw the ball and to mold their offense around the strengths of an older quarterback.
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