The Arizona Cardinals kicked off the 2019 NFL Draft by selecting a quarterback in the top 10 for the second year in a row, choosing Oklahoma signal-caller Kyler Murray first overall. The move almost certainly heralds the end of the Rosen era in Arizona, which lasted less than one year after the Cards traded up to select the UCLA QB 10th overall in 2018.
Rosen was underwhelming in his rookie year, but so were the 3-13 Cardinals. While fellow rookies Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold stood out and Lamar Jackson went to the postseason, Rosen struggled behind a makeshift offensive line, completing 55 percent of his passes and throwing 14 picks to 11 touchdowns. Out went Steve Wilks and in came Kliff Kingsbury, ringing in a new Cardinals regime that no longer sees Rosen as its franchise quarterback.
So what does Arizona do with Rosen now? The QB has three years and a fifth-year option left on his rookie deal at an AAV of $4.4 million (31st among QBs).
Will they trade him? When? Keep him? For how long? There are a lot of options on the table for Kingsbury and general manager Steve Keim.
The Cards can seek to ship Rosen to a QB-needy or -curious team that has not yet not selected in the first round. Rosen has reportedly garnered second- to third-round compensation in trade talks, making him an attractive, cheaper option than drafting a first-round QB, albeit with one year of wear and tear on his treads. Potential suitors here include ... well, nearly every team, but most likely the New York Giants, Miami Dolphins, Washington Redskins, Los Angeles Chargers and New England Patriots.
However, Arizona's leverage to get rid of Rosen here is the lowest it's ever been. Why would inquiring suitors trade a second- or third-round pick for Rosen, his reported max value, when it's obvious the Cardinals want nothing to do with the QB going forward?
2. Wait for end of first round:If the Cardinals want to take a night to celebrate their new normal and let the dust settle on what was an unpredictable first round, then that's an option as well. Three quarterbacks were selected in this year's first round (Murray, Jones, Haskins). By Friday morning, demand for a young QB will remain the same, but the supply will have decreased by three prospects. One or two of the aforementioned organizations could cough up a little more compensation after sleeping on it. Then you have a bidding war.
3. Keep him until training camp, hope for QB injuries elsewhere: Wait, you say, wouldn't this make things awkward? Perhaps, holding onto Rosen through the summer would complicate relationships in the Cardinals' facility. But how often would Rosen and Murray be in the building together? Voluntary organized team activities begin May 20 and last 10 days over three weeks, and then there's a three-day mandatory minicamp starting on June 11.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals can wait for another starting quarterback elsewhere to sustain an injury and trade Rosen to a desperate team then. This was the strategy employed by the Philadelphia Eagles after they drafted Carson Wentz second overall in the 2016 draft. Sam Bradford entered the offseason as the club's presumptive starter, but then Wentz impressed and Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater went down with a season-ending knee injury. Philly shipped Bradford to Minnesota for a 2017 first-round pick (Derek Barnett) and 2018 fourth-round pick (Josh Sweat).
Of course, Bradford wasn't once considered Philly's QB of the future or drafted by the Eagles in the first round just one year prior, as is the case with Rosen. But there's a blueprint for the Cardinals to be patient, stomach a melodramatic offseason and reap the first-round-plus compensation they think Rosen deserves.
When I penned this the night before the draft, this seemed like an unlikely scenario. But as the hours go by and as Rosen remains on Arizona's roster, a lengthy standoff between potential suitors and the Cardinals seems more inevitable.
Keim sounded in his post-draft interviews like he was comfortable keeping both QBs on the roster long-term. Keim told NFL Network's Steve Wyche late on Thursday night that he was "excited about both of these young men," meaning Murray and Rosen. He then cited "attrition" and injuries as a reason to "create depth" at the QB position.
Was Keim's hardball pitch convincing? Does the Cards GM intend to keep two first-round QBs on the roster at the same time? Do teams believe him?
We'll soon find out ... or not. Keim is preaching patience.
"Bottom line is Josh is a really good football player," Keim concluded. "We're not going to get in the business of letting good football players walk out of here."