On July 29, 2011, the Arizona Cardinals announced that they had come to terms with former Philadelphia Eagles backup quarterback Kevin Kolb on a five-year, $65 million contract with $12 million guaranteed. That guarantee included a $10 million signing bonus, and Kolb's first-year base salary. The original deal was more expensive to the Cards, though -- not only did they throw about 1/10th of their 2011 salary cap on an unproven signal-caller; they also traded a 2012 second-round draft pick and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to the Eagles for the pleasure.
One year later, the move seems ill-advised at best. The Cards have now added a $7 million roster bonus for Kolb in 2012, which means that they've paid him $19.5 million guaranteed in just over a calendar year. What they've received in return? In one injury-shortened season, Kolb completed 146 passes in 253 attempts for 1,955 yards, nine touchdowns, and eight interceptions. He also fumbled seven times, looked extremely balky in the pocket under any manner of pressure, and struggled to maintain command of deep passes and stick throws.
It appeared that the Cards had made the same mistake once made by the Miami Dolphins with Scott Mitchell, and the Buffalo Bills with Rob Johnson -- they put all their chips in on a hothouse flower in an ideal offense without considering the schematic ramifications of such a move.
Worse yet, as it turned out, Arizona may have had a better quarterback all along for a far lower price. John Skelton, selected in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL draft by Arizona, played in Kolb's stead last season, and while his stats weren't anything to write home about (151 completions in 275 attempts for 1,913 yards, 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions), he fumbled just once and showed far more ability in and out of the pocket. While Kolb seemed to balk at pressure, Skelton could at least stay in there, take a hit, and make a throw -- valuable characteristics when your offensive line is as leaky as Arizona's has proven to be over the last few seasons.
Going into Season 2 for Kolb and Season 3 for Skelton in Arizona, things are far from conclusive. Kolb has looked fairly rancid in two preseason starts -- he's put up a 0.0 quarterback rating so far -- and a report from ESPN's Adam Schefter on Tuesday revealed that Skelton actually has the pole position for the starter's job right now.
"I obviously know how much we invested in Kevin," Cards coach Ken Whisenhunt recently said. "I want Kevin to be successful. I want him to be our quarterback, but I'm not going to ignore the fact that John Skelton worked pretty hard and did a good job in there when he was playing, too. He's earned the right to compete for that spot."
Skelton, by the way, is set to earn $540,000 in base salary this season. Whisenhunt has said that he will start Kolb this Friday against the Oakland Raiders, but if things don't turn around for the supposed starter pretty soon, a change will need to be made -- whether it's to Skelton or to somebody else. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported on Tuesday that Arizona may be looking to bring in another signal-caller -- perhaps Cleveland's Colt McCoy, or Seattle's Tarvaris Jackson.
The good news for the Cards, if there is any, is that they've pushed all their guaranteed money into the Kolb experiment. Per Brian McIntyre of NFL.com, Kolb has four years and $43 million left on his contract starting in 2013, but none of it is guaranteed. If Kolb loses the quarterback battle or otherwise fails to impress, Arizona can release him before a $2 million roster bonus is due on the fifth day of the 2013 league year.
As Kolb has a set base salary of $9 million for 2013, you can be pretty sure that will happen, unless Kolb somehow becomes the successor to Kurt Warner the Cards thought they were getting when they made one of the most regrettable deals in recent NFL history.