With NFL free agency prepared to hit the internet like a meteor this week, the one so-called lock is that Philadelphia will trade backup QB Kevin Kolb to Arizona, either for a draft pick (2nd round?) or cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. I attended the Real Madrid-Philadelphia Union game Saturday night in Philly and was told by someone tangentially connected to the Eagles that it was a “done deal,” but wasn’t given specifics.
(I’d like to go on record saying I think Philly would be foolish to trade Kolb – Mike Vick, for all his running talents, is still somewhat fragile, and the offensive line isn’t incredible. I’d venture a guess that the chances of Vick getting hurt or dinged up this year are greatly than that of your average QB. Keep Kolb. You’re still a playoff team in the NFC with Kolb at QB; that’s not the case with 3rd stringer Mike Kafka. If Vick goes down early and doesn’t return, you can write the season off and I’m not sure Andy Reid would return.)
With Kolb under center, does Arizona become a contender to San Francisco in the still-awful NFC West? Without question, the answer has to be yes.
1) St. Louis, which narrowly missed the playoffs last year, has a new offensive coordinator (Josh McDaniels). The Rams are changing the offense, but do they even have the pieces in place to scare people? The draft didn’t net any impact players on offense. The 49ers have QB issues of their own, but probably have the most talent in the division; the Seahawks also have no clue who their QB will be. But an 8-8 record probably is good enough to win this division.
2) Derek Anderson and Max Hall are your options if you don’t trade for Kolb.
3) Arizona’s schedule opens very soft – which is usually great, but doubly so when you’re jamming a QB into a new system with a new team and not much time to brush up on the playbook. They open at home against Carolina, which was the worst team in the league last year, and then travel to Washington, which at the moment is led by a QB named John Beck. A 2-0 start would bolster confidence and set up a week three game in Seattle where the Cardinals could open up a nice lead in the division. If Arizona’s on the playoff brink, the late schedule isn’t exactly brutal – vs. Cleveland, at Cincinnati, vs. Seattle. You know who is quarterbacking those teams? Colt McCoy, TBA (maybe rookie, Andy Dalton) and who knows, maybe Charlie Whitehurst.
4) One place Kolb can’t do anything is on defense, where the Cards were pathetic last year. They were 30th in the league in defense (27.1 ppg), an area they clearly looked to upgrade in the draft (Patrick Peterson, LSU; Quan Sturdivant, UNC; Sam Acho, Texas). Sturdivant and Acho should both bolster a front seven that was terrible against the run (30th). Peterson is a sick athlete who is expected to be a factor immediately. Losing Rodgers-Cromartie would be a tough blow to the secondary, but in the long-term, you’ll soon see why they can part with him …
5) The biggest reason the Cardinals need to make this trade – and why overpaying in the form of Rodgers-Cromartie isn’t a bad idea – is to keep franchise WR Larry Fitzgerald happy. If you lose Fitzgerald, you might as well consider the team rebuilding. Fitzgerald turns 28 next month has caught 90 or more passes four years in a row, and has to be considered a top 3-4 receiver in the NFL. He’s durable, has great hands, and is the focus of every defense they play. Imagine if rookie Ryan Williams from Virginia Tech can give them the running game they’ve lacked since … Ottis Anderson in the early 80s?
I’ll leave you with one question: Why would the Eagles trade one of the most capable backups in the league to a team in their conference who they play in November? How badly will the Eagles’ front-office get pummeled if the Cardinals and Kolb beat the Eagles, and then squeeze into the playoffs ahead of them on a tiebreaker?