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Make-Or-Break Candidate: Cardinals QB Kevin Kolb

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Big contract? Check.

Winnable division? Check.

Weapons? Oh yeah, Check.

Kevin Kolb appears to have all the tools necessary to have a successful season in Arizona. The fact of the matter is, he better. Even with four years left on his contract, Kevin Kolb may be playing for his starting job in 2012.

After an extremely successful collegiate career at the University of Houston, Kolb was taken #36 overall in the 2007 draft by the Philadelphia Eagles.  Being picked that early came as a surprise to several analysts, but Philadelphia was searching for a replacement for Donavon McNabb, whose career was coming to an end.  In a draft not necessarily known for the quarterback talent it produced, Kolb was the third QB taken behind JaMarcus Russell and Brady Quinn (#1 and #22, respectively). John Beck and Drew Stanton were also taken in the 2nd round.

Kolb played sparingly throughout his 4-year tenure with the Eagles. In pre-season 2010 he was named the team’s starter, but an injury in the first game paved the way for Michael Vick‘s resurrection. Though Kolb ended up starting eight more games for the Eagles that season, it was clear that Andy Reid‘s squad wanted to go with Vick for the future.

Kolb was traded prior to the 2011 season to Arizona for CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2nd round pick in the 2012 draft, and was rewarded with a 6-year/$65M contract, with $12M guaranteed. In his first year with the Cardinals he compiled an underwhelming 3-6 record with nine TDs and eight INTs. His QB Rating for the nine games he played in was 81.1. The performance not only needs to be better, but Kolb also needs to show that he can stay healthy. He has never played more than nine games in one season.

Considering last season was Kolb’s first as a full-time starter, let’s see how he compares to other QB’s who made their starting debut in 2011:

I’m sure the first thing noticed is the amount of rookies in this list. Kolb and Painter are indeed the only non-rookies that were named starters prior to the season in 2011. But in a year that was considered a good one for rookie quarterbacks, it is apparent that 1st year passers had a very average season. Of course, this is positive for several of them, as they can continue to progress throughout their career.

Kolb isn’t too old to progress, but one thing is for sure – he needs to perform at a high level in 2012.

Let’s look at Kolb’s contract.  Though it says he signed a 6-year, $65M contract, it’s extremely back-loaded. As our friends at Spotrac point out, he’s only set to earn a total of $4.65M in 2012, a $150,000 raise from 2011. His salary from 2013-2016 averages out to just under $10M per season, plus regular bonuses. Essentially, Kolb can be waived by the Cardinals following the 2012 season, and they would only be on the hook for the $6M remaining on his signing bonus.

If Kolb doesn’t improve from his 2011 numbers, the Cardinals very well may look to go in another direction. He has the tools around him, specifically WR’s Larry Fitzgerald and rookie Michael Floyd, and he is in a winnable division.

If the Arizona QB struggles, or gets hurt again, don’t be surprised if they elect to go in another direction.

Who would fit? Well, our last Make-or-Break article centered around Mark Sanchez. If he’s available he’d be a viable alternative. That being said, we don’t expect that to be an option for the Cardinals.

The contract status for Joe Flacco (#11 in our 2013 FA rankings) following the 2012 season is up in the air, and Arizona would likely jump at the chance to have him as well. However that also seems like a far cry.

So we turn to our last two options: Free Agency and the 2013 NFL Draft. Texans’ QB Matt Schaub could hit free agency, but other than that it’s a laundry list of re-treads or starters-turned-backups (Jason Campbell comes to mind).

Of course, the draft is always the wildcard. Depending on the Cardinals’ final record, they could be in play for Matt Barkley (USC), Tyler Wilson (Arkansas), and Landry Jones (Oklahoma).  Going with a QB early in the 2013 draft and planning to start him immediately could prove to be a valuable option for the Cardinals if they choose to go away from Kolb.

We’d love to hear what the readers think. Should Kolb be the focus of the team moving forward? Should they try sign a big name QB in the offseason? Or what about drafting their 2013 starter? Vote in the poll and leave comments below!

 

 

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