The retirement of starting quarterback Carson Palmer last month made things crystal clear for the Arizona Cardinals: They need to find their QB of the future sooner rather than later.
The Cardinals might look for their quarterback of the future in April's NFL Draft -- but the top three or four QBs in this year's draft could all be off the board by the time the Cards' pick comes around. Arizona could look to trade up in the draft, take the best QB available at No. 15, or hope to get a steal in a later round.
But regardless of what they decide to do in the draft, the Cardinals could look to sign a top free-agent QB, or trade for one, during the 2018 offseason. Doing so could allow them to bypass the draft entirely, or it could give a drafted QB time to mature in the NFL and learn behind a veteran QB for a season or more.
With that in mind, here are seven quarterbacks the Cardinals could potentially target via trade or free agency in the next couple months:
1. Kirk Cousins
Cousins is the golden goose among this year's free agents, and he won't come cheap. A soon-to-be free agent who has spent his entire six-year NFL career with the Washington Redskins, Cousins will likely seek a contract as rich as (or richer than) that of QB Jimmy Garappolo, who signed a record 5-year, $137.5 million deal from the 49ers last week.
Nonetheless, some experts think the Cardinals should pursue the 29-year-old Cousins, whose passer rating has been significantly better than Palmer's each of the last two seasons. Cousins, combined with the return of David Johnson and (potentially) Larry Fitzgerald, could make the Cards instant playoff contenders.
2. Nick Foles
After his incredible Super Bowl MVP performance, the Eagles may look to trade the former Arizona Wildcats quarterback, who would likely return to a backup role in Philly when star QB Carson Wentz returns from injury next season.
If the Eagles look to deal Foles, who has just one year remaining on his contract, some experts believe the Cards are viable suitors -- assuming they're willing to part with a likely high draft pick in order to acquire his services.
3. Case Keenum
Keenum is one of three Minnesota Vikings QBs on this list, as all three are set to become free agents. Like Foles, Keenum entered the 2017 season in a backup role -- but when starter Sam Bradford went down with a knee injury early in the season, Keenum stepped up and led the Vikings all the way to the NFC Championship Game.
The Cardinals reportedly wanted to hire Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur as their new head coach in part because Shurmur could potentially lure Keenum to Arizona with him -- but Shurmur decided to take the New York Giants' head coaching position. Regardless, Keenum could remain toward the top of the Cardinals' wish list.
4. Teddy Bridgewater
Another Vikings QB on this list, the 25-year-old Bridgewater was on track to become a star in Minnesota until suffering a devastating knee injury during practice in August 2016. Bridgewater is reportedly healthy again, but it remains to be seen whether the Cardinals are willing to take a chance on a man who hasn't started a game in two years.
5. Sam Bradford
The third and final Vikings QB listed here, Bradford is a viable NFL starter who had an outstanding 2016 season in Bridgewater's absence. But like Bridgewater, the Cardinals' interest in Bradford could come down to whether they believe he'll be able to stay on the field. Bradford's lingering knee problems could be a serious red flag for any potential suitors.
6. Tyrod Taylor
The 28-year-old Taylor was inexplicably replaced as the Bills' starting QB toward the end of the 2017 season, but earned the starting job back after his replacement, Nathan Peterman, was simply terrible. Nonetheless, Taylor's days in Buffalo seem to be numbered.
Like Foles, Taylor still has one year remaining on his contract in Buffalo. But if the Bills look to trade him, the Cardinals could show interest. The 2015 Pro Bowl selection isn't a star, but he's a good decision-maker and can make plays with his feet, as well.
7. Josh McCown
Wouldn't it be something if the team that drafted McCown in the third round of the 2002 draft returned to Arizona 16 years later? It could happen, and the Cards could do worse.
The 38-year-old McCown is coming off a better-than-expected season with the New York Jets, setting career records for passing yards and touchdowns, and finishing with the NFL's 11th-best passer rating (one spot better than Cousins). No, McCown isn't a long-term answer -- but if the Cards need a man who can help them win games for a season or two and don't want to spend a lot of money on a free-agent QB, he's a perfectly viable short-term answer.