JUDGE: Free agency leaves Cards' offense bare

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Clark Judge

This is not the day you ask to trade places with Jerry Sullivan. Sullivan is the offensive coordinator of the , and he just got the news that his top two playmakers won't be making the trip with him into this season. That would be quarterback , who just signed with Denver, and wide receiver , who joined the San Diego . All of which leaves Sullivan with ... "Trust," he said. "You've got to trust what we do at the next juncture." He's talking about free agency and the draft, but since the hired Dave McGinnis as their coach when did you trust them to do the right thing? They're $29 million under the salary cap, yet they let Plummer walk, and they let Boston walk. That leaves , who took 17 snaps a year ago, as the starting quarterback, and, let's see here, as its top wide receiver. Normally, you might point to someone like or , but they're free agents, too, and if we learned anything Wednesday it's that Arizona's players know how to find the exits. You can't blame Plummer or Boston for leaving. They want to go somewhere they can win. But how can you not feel sympathy for Sullivan? He was the best receivers coach in the business until Arizona made him its offensive coordinator seven weeks ago. Those were the days when Dallas tried to lure him away and when the Arizona offense didn't look all that bad. There was Plummer, Boston and hope for the future. I'm not sure it all didn't vanish Wednesday. "You try to find a light at the end of the rainbow," said Sullivan. "And we will. I'm just going to do what I said I would do when I took this job, which is to let 'er rip and see what happens." The loss of Plummer was expected. Though the club made him an offer in early February, it was little more than a token gesture — a signal that it realized it was time to part with its quarterback of six years. That he signed with Denver was no surprise, either, with stories circulating the past two weeks that it was all but a done deal. But who replaces him? McCown? A draft choice? ? The club met with Stewart on Tuesday and liked what it heard, but let's be honest, folks: Stewart is Plummer all over again. Sure, he's won more, but he was with a better club and a superior defense in . He's mobile like Plummer. He has a strong arm like Plummer. And he's as unpredictable as Plummer. So let's say the sign him. Does that mean he starts? Or is it McCown's time? I know of one general manager who thinks Arizona can win without Plummer, as long as the push the rushing attack. But let's talk reality again: Just how far do and take you? Then there's the loss of Boston, and, pardon me, but it's his departure that should frazzle the . The club had a chance to keep him last month but passed on making him its "franchise player" because of off-the-field concerns. So now it's San Diego that gains a big, physical playmaker who has the ability to take over games — which Boston demonstrated in 2001 when he had 100 receiving yards in seven of eight starts and finished with a franchise-record 1,598 yards in receptions. "You don't go into a Wal-Mart and say, 'I'll take one of those,'" Sullivan said. "Receivers like him are hard to find." There are a couple in the draft in Miami's and 's , but Rogers doesn't get past Detroit at the second spot and Johnson may not make it past Dallas at No. 5. That leaves the , who draft sixth, in a fix. OK, so maybe they go to free agency, except now that Boston is gone, is tagged and re-signed with the the cupboard is almost bare. The had an interest in free-agent , but then he re-signed with Seattle. Which leaves the in general and Jerry Sullivan in particular somewhere you don't want to be. "You never look back on decisions that you make," said Sullivan. "What I plan to do as an offensive coordinator is put this team and myself in a good position." Good luck. He's going to need it. Senior writer covers the NFL for and can be reached at his e-mail address:
Tagged: Bills, Giants, Seahawks, Cardinals, Steelers, Bobby Engram, Ike Hilliard, Thomas Jones, Kordell Stewart, Michigan State, Arizona, Oklahoma State, Josh McCown

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