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Kevin Kolb must carry the load for Cardinals

Around the League will examine one key figure under pressure on each team heading into the 2012 season. Next up: The Arizona Cardinals.

Under Pressure: Kevin Kolb

Under Pressure

Around the League will examine one key player under pressure on each team heading into the 2012 season:

AFC East
Bills | Dolphins | Jets | Patriots
AFC North
Bengals | Browns | Ravens | Steelers
AFC South
Colts | Jaguars | Texans | Titans
AFC West
Broncos | Chargers | Chiefs | Raiders
NFC East
Cowboys | Eagles | Giants | Redskins
NFC North
Bears | Lions | Packers | Vikings
NFC South
Buccaneers | Falcons | Panthers | Saints
NFC West
49ers | Cardinals | Rams | Seahawks

As we voyage from team to team as part of our "Under Pressure" series, the natural tendency is to focus on the quarterback position.

We've shied away from signal-callers when possible. They already garner too much attention and there's enough trouble on every roster to plant some other unsuspecting victim on the hot seat.

In Arizona, however, there's just no avoiding Kevin Kolb. He's a man draped in question marks. Kolb signed a six-year, $65-million contract with the Cardinals last summer, only to struggle through an injury-plagued season that saw backup John Skelton emerge with the hot hand by year's end. Not exactly a storybook scenario, but possibly the script for a one-man disaster film.

Ken Whisenhunt has voiced his desire for Kolb to win the job this summer -- and we don't doubt he'll start the season -- but will he stick? Kolb was handed the starting reins with the Philadelphia Eagles but couldn't finish a full season, giving rise to the rebirth of Michael Vick. He then lasted only nine games in his Arizona debut.

Kolb's spotty durability -- including a string of concussions -- was at least a factor in the Cardinals' offseason chase for Peyton Manning, but the money surrounding Kolb is equally concerning.

Since signing Kolb last summer, the team has dished out $17 million to a quarterback with a 6-10 career record in five seasons. That includes a 3-6 mark in 2011. Meanwhile, Skelton is 7-4 as Arizona's starter and will earn $490,000 this year (that figure, ladies and gentlemen, is an appropriate price tag for an unproven NFL passer).

Look, it's no surprise Kolb has to morph into a ball of fire this season. Had the team -- in another universe -- signed Manning, Kolb would be playing in another city at a vastly reduced rate. As it stands, don't expect Arizona to take on his $9 million salary in 2013 if he pushes out another, well, Kolb-like season. Not with Larry Fitzgerald in his prime, waiting for someone to fill Kurt Warner's shoes. We saw what this team accomplished with a top-flight passer. 

Too many jobs are on the line in Arizona to allow this pet project to float along past 2012.

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