The present or the future? When the Cardinals make their first-round choice in the NFL draft today, that will be the question likely dropped in their lap.
Barring a trade ahead of them, the Cards will be sitting with the 10th pick and the possibility that Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler is still on the board. He won’t play for them this year, as long as veteran Kurt Warner stays healthy. But he would serve as the possible long-term solution to the position.
Or the Cardinals could look for someone who could play immediately, perhaps start — for instance, Florida State linebacker Ernie Sims.
First, though, the Cards have to wait to see how the top of the first round plays out.
“Ever since we adopted this best player approach to the draft, it really doesn’t matter to us as much what happens ahead of us,” vice president of football operations Rod Graves said Friday. “We’re prepared to take whoever we feel is available from our top board. That concept has worked effectively for us the last couple of years.”
The Cardinals’ decision could be made for them. If a miracle happens and Maryland tight end Vernon Davis tumbles all the way to 10th, the Cards won’t worry about a quarterback. The Cards will consider Sims. They would look at Texas safety Michael Huff and perhaps Florida State defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley, if those players remain on the board. Most mock drafts have both Huff and Bunkley gone by the 10th choice.
One thing Graves has made clear, in part because it is unlikely to happen: If Texas quarterback Vince Young or USC quarterback Matt Leinart slip to the 10th pick, that player will be the Cardinals’ choice.
Late-week speculation has Leinart dropping out of the top five, which if it happened might make it tempting for the Cards to trade up. Reports Friday night, after the Texans shocked the NFL by agreeing to terms with defensive end Mario Williams and not Reggie Bush, were that the Cards had shown some interest in trading up for New Orleans’ second pick, perhaps to get Young or Davis.
But Graves had made clear earlier the Cards are not likely to trade up because of the cost involved. According to one NFL draft value chart — a system that provides point values for each draft pick — the Cardinals’ entire seven-pick draft wouldn’t be enough to obtain the Saints’ No. 2 overall choice. Just to move up to Buffalo’s eighth pick, Arizona would not only need to give up their 10th overall pick but also a fourth-round pick and a sixth-round pick.
That’s where coach Dennis Green’s philosophy comes in: Fall in love with 10 different players.
“We like the idea that we will take the best player on the board,” Green said.
It isn’t as if the Cards can’t get a quarterback if they pass on one in the first round. Arizona could take someone like Alabama’s Brodie Croyle or Oregon’s Kellen Clemens in the second round, or even seek a sleeper — such as Alabama State quarterback Tarvares Jackson, for instance — later on.
“My initial thought is get a difference-maker with that first pick,” Warner said. “Get a guy that will help us get there, because we haven’t got there yet.
“We were still 5-11 last year, even though we think we have a lot of pieces there, we still haven’t done it on the football field.”
The temptation, however, will be strong to take Cutler.
Former Giants quarterback Phil Simms wrote this week on NFL.com that Cutler is the safest choice of the three quarterbacks. Graves said he chuckled this week when he heard someone on ESPN say that Cutler was overrated.
“For a guy named player of the year in the SEC, one of the top conferences in the country and for what he achieved,” Graves said, “it blows me away he would be considered one of the most overrated players.”
EXTRA POINTS: The Cardinals signed a return man Friday when they inked receiver Troy Walters to a one-year contract. Walters played for Indianapolis last season, making 14 catches for 152 yards and three touchdowns and adding an 8.2-yard average on 21 punt returns. Walters was drafted by Green in Minnesota in 2000. The signing all but closes the door on signing free agent Az-Zahir Hakim. . . .
The Cards also signed safety Jack Brewer, who has made his mark on special teams since coming into the league with Minnesota in 2002. He played with Philadelphia last season.
10 choices at 10
A look at the past 10 players who have been the 10th overall pick in the NFL draft. The Cards select 10th today:
Year Name Pos School Team Comment
2005 Mike Williams WR USC Detroit Has been early disappointment
2004 Dunta Robinson CB South Carolina Houston Been a solid playmaker
2003 Terrell Suggs LB Arizona St. Baltimore To think, the Cards could’ve taken him sixth
2002 Levi Jones T Arizona St. Cincinnati Turned into an anchor on the Bengals’ line
2001 Jamal Reynolds DE Florida St. Green Bay Complete bust for Packers
2000 Travis Taylor WR Florida Baltimore Never lived up to draft status
1999 Chris McAllister CB Arizona Baltimore Played at Pro Bowl-level
1998 Duane Starks CB Miami Baltimore Started strong but career quickly faded
1997 Chris Naeole G Colorado New Orleans Been a steady starter his whole career
1996 Willie Anderson T Auburn Cincinnati A fixture for the Bengals for a decade
When: Today, 9 a.m. (Rds. 1-3), Sunday, 8 a.m. (Rds. 4-7)
Where: Radio City Music Hall, New York
TV: ESPN, ESPN2
Cardinals picks: Rd. 1 (10), Rd. 2 (41), Rd. 3 (72), Rd. 4 (107), Rd. 5 (142), Rd. 6 (177), Rd. 7 (218)
Draft party: At Jackson’s on 3rd (245 E. Jackson St.) in downtown Phoenix from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Admission is free. Prizes will be given away and players and cheerleaders will be on hand to sign autographs.