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How will Cardinals decide whether to keep two or three QBs?

TEMPE, Ariz. -- One of the most important roster decisions Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians and general manager Steve Keim will make late in training camp will be whether to keep two or three quarterbacks on the 53-man active roster.

If they choose three, both Drew Stanton and Blaine Gabbert likely will make the team.

If they choose two, it’ll be Stanton or Gabbert.

Until then, since neither is a candidate for the practice squad, Stanton and Gabbert will be battling not just to back up starter Carson Palmer but also to convince the Cardinals that they are necessary.

So what goes into the Cardinals' decision whether to keep two or three on the 53? It’ll all depend, said coach Bruce Arians, on whether the third quarterback is better than the fifth linebacker, sixth wide receiver or fourth tight end.

“Who’s the best player, regardless of position?” Arians said. “Obviously, he’s not going to help special teams, and if you think there’s one you really, really like for the future.”

Neither of the quarterbacks vying for a roster spot is concerning himself with the numbers game.

Stanton, the incumbent backup for the past four seasons, knows better than Gabbert what’s at stake. His mindset heading into camp hasn’t changed. He knows he needs to impress in order to make the roster.

“The position we’re in as backups, you’re always competing for a roster spot,” Stanton said. “Every day we’re evaluated on how we perform. I’m aware of that. I’ve been in this business long enough to realize that.

“As long as I’m cognizant of it and identify that, that’s fine. I think also the maturity that comes with realizing I don’t have any bearing [over] what he does -- I have bearing over what I do.”

Gabbert, who signed with the Cardinals on May 11, said he’ll approach camp the same way and not think about competing for the backup job.

“Quarterbacks’ mindsets never change, whether you’re the starter or the backup,” Gabbert said. “You approach each and every day with that same mindset. You’re going to come out here do my best and get better each and every day, and then you’ll see that gradual improvement leading into training camp and the season.

“Regardless of where you are on the depth chart, you come into work with the same mindset every day.”

Before he can make a case to either supplant Stanton as Palmer’s backup or be Arizona’s third quarterback, Gabbert has work to do “mastering” the playbook and learning how the offensive tempo operates on the field, he said. And Gabbert also said that instead of trying to anticipate how many quarterbacks Arizona will keep, he’ll just “let things play out.”

Through OTAs and minicamp, in meetings and in practice, Gabbert lived up to the expectations that Arians set when he told the staff Arizona was signing the former 49ers quarterback, according to offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin. “The arm, the intelligence is there,” Goodwin said. “He’s a guy who wants to learn. He’s there on days he doesn’t have to be there. I’m kind of excited about the future for him.”

Like Gabbert, Goodwin also is waiting for the quarterback duel to work itself out. “I know when they’re talented, you try to keep them all,” said the coordinator.

Stanton isn’t spending his summer break stressing out over the competition with Gabbert. He’ll take whatever comes his way during training camp.

“As far as what’s going to happen this year, whatever’s going to happen is going to happen,” Stanton said. “I think I’ve been fortunate enough to be in this organization for five years. I feel extremely comfortable with everything that’s going on here and have a good relationship with everybody.

“When the dust settles, we’ll see what happens.”