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Carson Palmer Broke His Arm, and the Cardinals Are in Trouble

Arizona’s quarterback is expected to miss eight weeks as the team stares down an offseason rebuild

NFL: International Series-Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams Photo by Steve Flynn/USA TODAY Sports

The Rams shellacked the Cardinals, 33-0, on Sunday, but it wasn’t Arizona’s biggest loss of the day. Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer broke his left arm in the second quarter and will need surgery. Palmer will likely miss eight weeks, according to head coach Bruce Arians.

It’s fair to wonder whether the 37-year-old quarterback will return to Arizona, or anywhere, at all. Palmer has already had one late-career renaissance. In his magically resurgent 2015 season, he threw for 4,671 yards, completed 63.7 percent of his passes, threw 35 touchdowns, and led the league in yards per attempt as the Cardinals offense was one of the most dynamic and dangerous in the league. In the season and a half since then, Palmer has looked washed. His declining arm strength is such a concern that both he and Arians have publicly addressed it. Now his other arm is broken. If the Cardinals are out of the playoff picture in two months, they probably won’t rush Palmer’s return for a likely meaningless final two games.

That scenario appears likely. The Cardinals sit at third place in their division at 3-4, just got demolished by division-leading Los Angeles, and stand virtually no chance of competing in a crowded pit of NFC mediocrity with Drew Stanton at the helm.

Stanton finished the game with five completions on 14 attempts for 62 yards and an interception. He’s not the team’s quarterback of the future, and it is alarming he is a part of their present. The other option on the roster is Blaine Gabbert (throws up in mouth and swallows). Arizona’s aggressive offensive scheme relies on deep passes more than just about any in the league. That is great when Palmer is on his game. It can be a nightmare when Stanton is the one under center. The Cardinals had a big enough challenge replacing David Johnson’s high usage in their scheme after he dislocated his wrist in Week 1. Without Palmer, the scheme goes out the window.

Looking to the Cardinals’ future, it’s not as bleak, but it’s not bright. The Cardinals did not draft a quarterback this year even though Palmer’s decline has been sharp and inevitable. Arizona will be desperate for a quarterback in the offseason—just like a third of the teams in the league. The once-vaunted 2018 quarterback class might be a mirage based on how poorly this year’s top prospects—including USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, and Wyoming’s Josh Allen—have played at times. Arizona going another draft without landing a serious QB of the future could leave the Cardinals entering 2018 with a 38-year-old Palmer and his $20.6 million cap hit, and little else.