If Leinart is out … what’s next for Cardinals?

Because we’re allowed to speculate in this space, we take full advantage of it. Educated guessing and informed opinions also are allowed.

The Matt Leinart storyline continues to gain steam this week, much of it starting with the report by NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi that it’s a very real possibility the Cardinals could outright cut the former 10th overall draft pick. That report came out before the decision by Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt to start Derek Anderson over Leinart in the team’s third preseason game, against the Bears.

While Leinart believes he’ll still be the starter in the regular-season opener, Lombardi has been told otherwise.

“I do know that Matt Leinart will not be the starting quarterback on opening day,” Lombardi said Friday on NFL Network.

Bringing this full circle, what if the Cardinals do cut Leinart? If that’s a real possibility, we should take a look at what will happen next.

I continue to hear the Cardinals are high on rookie backups John Skelton and Max Hall. But they are rookies, and in the absence of Leinart, it’s very possible the Cardinals would bring in someone experienced to compete with and back up Anderson.

One line of thinking (this version by Mark Craig) is that Sage Rosenfels is available in a trade, given that the Vikings might be hesitant to try to sneak rookie Joe Webb through waivers. Reports have suggested the Jets have made Kellen Clemens available. I hear the Cardinals like Tyler Thigpen, who is the No. 3 quarterback in Miami and could be available if Chad Pennington proves to be healthy. Thigpen, like Pennington, is in the final year of his contract, according to The Miami Herald, and would come at a much lower cost than Rosenfels.

Keep in mind these are just talking points. And, with eight days to go until the first NFL cutdown date, other quarterbacks could become available. Lombardi notes the Cardinals likely won’t carry four quarterbacks into the season, so something is expected to change.

The Cardinals came to the conclusion (or non-conclusion, rather) that they didn’t yet know what they had in Leinart before the season, leading to the decision to obtain Anderson and pass on opportunities to acquire Donovan McNabb and Marc Bulger. Now, in a reversal of fortunes, they might be in a position where they are looking for a backup to Anderson … if Leinart is out.

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