- Josh Weinfuss, ESPN Staff Writer
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It didn't take long for the Arizona Cardinals to have a quarterback controversy this offseason.
But it doesn't involve the starter or even the back-up.
“It's competition,” Arizona coach Bruce Arians said Saturday after the final day of the NFL draft. “There is nothing being handed to this guy. He is not the quarterback of the future until he earns it. He has to be a pretty good guy to get that No. 3 spot. The No. 2 spot isn't changing. That's not a problem.
“It's just a matter of, can he beat out Ryan?”
In the weeks leading up to the draft, Arians said the Cardinals wouldn't take a quarterback if they didn't think he could beat out one of the two back-ups already on the roster. By simply drafting Thomas out of Virginia Tech, Arians showed his hand.
Then on Saturday, after general manager Steve Keim said a team should draft a quarterback later in the draft if it thinks he could eventually be a franchise player, Arians said Thomas fit that bill.
“He has the skill set to,” he said.
A decision won't be made on Lindley's future with the team until some point toward the end of training camp. Until then, it'll be a daily battle between Thomas and Lindley. Although he's likely to make the roster, Thomas' spot isn't guaranteed just yet. He was drafted as a developmental quarterback, Arians said, which means Thomas has to show progress for Arians and Keim to believe he can eventually be Palmer's successor.
Arians already knows what Thomas has physically. There are two intangibles, however, that Arians and Keim couldn't evaluate at the combine that will dictate what kind of quarterback Thomas turns into.
“The hardest things to judge are the heart and the brain because that's what they play with,” Arians said. “You have to have them in your huddle and in your (quarterbacks) room for a little while to really know what you've got. All the athletic stuff, he's got all that stuff.
“He's got the heart. If we can get him trained to play in this offense, his skill set fits what we love to do. He has a beautiful deep ball. He's got as pretty of a deep ball as (starter) Carson (Palmer), who I think has one of the best in the league. He can stand there and just drop it in the bucket.”
Arians said there's a drill that proves how well Thomas can throw a deep ball. The drill places a bucket 40 yards down field, four yards off the sideline. The goal is to throw the ball into said bucket.
“He'll put it in the bucket four out of 10,” Arians said, “which is unbelievable.”
Thomas only has from Monday until the end of the preseason to show the Cardinals how much he's improved. If he's not the starter, Thomas will be running the scout team, Arians said. And even then he'll only be getting half of the reps because back-up Drew Stanton will get the other half. Skill-wise, Arians thinks Thomas is ready to play now but how fast he progresses up the depth chart is all up to him.
What Thomas can offer the Cardinals that Palmer, Stanton or Lindley can't is the ability to make plays with his feet, Keim said. And that's exciting, but it may not be enough on its own to get Thomas snaps.
"Now, is he ready to play?" Arians asked. "No."
But Arians said Thomas will be playing quite a bit in the preseason because Palmer won't.
“The hardest part is you don't get enough practice,” Arians said.
“Once the season starts, the development is more learning the offense, learning why the ball comes out of your hand and it will show up the next offseason when he starts, again, attempting to move up the depth chart. But that first year it's all about coming in, beating out a guy that's already here who's pretty good, who's really improved in the year and (a) half that we've had him and that's Ryan.”