Cardinals have no quarterbacks under contract for 2018

Riddick: 'Wilks needs to address the quarterback first' (1:43)

Louis Riddick says that there will be a lot to deal with in Arizona for new head coach Steve Wilks, but the quarterback situation should be at the top of the list. (1:43)

With free agency approaching (March 14), we're analyzing the quarterback position on the Arizona Cardinals:

2018 cap hits of top returnees: None

Pending free agents: Drew Stanton, Blaine Gabbert and Matt Barkley

Key stat: When he was healthy, Carson Palmer put up statistics as good as anyone's in the NFL. In 2015, he was an MVP candidate who threw for career highs in yards (4,671) and touchdowns (35). He then threw for 4,233 yards and 26 touchdowns in 2016 but missed the final nine games last year because of a broken arm and retired after the season.

Money matters: Aside from paying Palmer $32.4 million from 2013 to '17, the Cardinals' only real investment in a quarterback was the $8.75 million they paid Stanton. Arizona never paid another quarterback who started for them from 2013 to '17 more than $775,000. Essentially, they didn't invest in the position they needed the most.

Big picture: Recently, the Cardinals haven't done well signing a quarterback in free agency or drafting one. In the past five years, Arizona has drafted one quarterback -- Logan Thomas -- but that experiment failed and Thomas is now a tight end in Buffalo. Since 2013, the Cardinals signed Stanton, Brian Hoyer, Barkley, Ryan Lindley, Gabbert, Zac Dysert, Caleb TerBush, Jeff Matthews, Dennis Dixon, Phillip Sims, Chandler Harnish, Aaron Murray, Jake Coker, Mike Bercovici and Trevor Knight, and only four started for them. Going back more than a decade, however, the Cardinals signed Kurt Warner as a free agent in 2005 and drafted Matt Leinart in the first round in 2006 -- Warner panned out; Leinart did not.

The game plan: Well, the Cardinals need one, for starters. They don't have a quarterback under contract for the 2018 season, so the plan is to find a starter and his backup(s) for next season. New head coach Steve Wilks has said the Cardinals will be "very aggressive" in their search for a quarterback, whether it's through free agency, the draft or a trade. It's likely Arizona will sign at least one QB in free agency and possibly draft one, depending on how the board falls. Wilks wouldn't guarantee the Cardinals will have four quarterbacks on their roster by the time they begin offseason workouts April 2, which could be a sign they are planning to draft one later that month.