BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- On the surface of it, the price tag for Kevin Kolb seems steep.
But the cost of not getting him, for the Arizona Cardinals, may well have been immeasurable.
Yes, the Philadelphia Eagles did well to cop both a second-round pick and a good young cornerback in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, particularly because this one was a one-horse race from the start. And yes, if Kyle Orton is dealt, it may wind up looking like a comparable quarterback went for a much cheaper price, quite possibly for a third-rounder to the Miami Dolphins.
This is why you can analyze deals like this in a vacuum.
The bottom line here: If the Cardinals believe Kolb is a franchise quarterback, as the Eagles did when they traded Donovan McNabb away 16 months ago, then they had to pull the trigger on this one. All that was at stake was the life of the resurgence they've experienced under general manager Rod Graves and coach Ken Whisenhunt.
Kolb's not for everyone, to be sure. Quarterback-needy teams such as the Seattle Seahawks and Miami Dolphins flat-out passed, and opinion is split on whether he'll ever make it, which is why some got sticker shock when the Eagles put him on the block.
"In my mind, he's worth a two on the high end," said one AFC personnel executive. "Arizona just forfeited what could've been a real good corner tandem -- they drafted (Patrick) Peterson, remember. I thought the guy was worth no more than a two, and the Eagles got a two and commodities. So I'd give the edge to the Eagles."
But the Cardinals of 2008 and '09 were built around the passing game, in general, and super talent Larry Fitzgerald, in particular. It's who they were, and their reliance on that area of the game is a reason why the subtraction of Kurt Warner was so devastating in 2010.
If it's going to be who they become again, they needed the triggerman. And they also needed one, above all else, to have any prayer of holding on to Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald's contract is up after this season and he can't be franchised. If the Cardinals had simply gotten 34-year-old Marc Bulger, the message to the star would have been bad. In so many words, something like, "We're year-to-year on who's getting you the ball."
This trade, in tandem with the five-year contract Kolb got, is a sign the Cardinals are looking to stabilize a position that, even with Warner, has been put together on the fly by the club through the Whisenhunt era.
If he's Matt Schaub -- the player whose situation most compares to his -- it'll have been worth it to get Kolb. It gives the Cardinals a chance to keep Fitzgerald, and recapture their identity on offense.
The aforementioned price ain't cheap. Rodgers-Cromartie is a heck of a player, and will team with Asante Samuel to form a corner tandem, as our AFC executive referenced, among the top handful in football. Losing the second-rounder hurts, too.
But let's say the Cardinals, with Kolb, do what the Seahawks did last year, and win the NFC West. Say their pick winds up being 57th in the second round, where Seattle's was before it was traded to the Detroit Lions. Here are the last five guys to go in that slot: Mikel Leshoure, Terrence Cody, Paul Kruger, Chad Henne and Victor Abiamiri.
In the end, it's a price the Cardinals could live with. Consider what Houston wound up paying for Schaub -- two second-round picks (guard Justin Blalock and tight end Fred Davis went in those spots), and a two-pick swap-down in the first round that landed the Atlanta Falcons Jamaal Anderson and the Houston Texans Amobi Okoye.
Chances are, Houston would do that trade again, any day of the week.
And if Arizona winds up getting from Kolb what the Texans have from Schaub, and keeping Fitzgerald to boot, they'll be just fine with the haul that went to Philly as well.