NFC West Draft needs: Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals went from Super Bowl contender to rebuilding mode in a hurry. The offseason thus far has been characterized more by losses than additions. Karlos Dansby played under the franchise tag in 2009 but was too expensive to retain and signed with Miami in free agency. Disgruntled wide receiver Anquan Boldin was traded to the Baltimore Ravens. Antrel Rolle signed with the Giants after the team released him due to a high salary. But the biggest blow was dealt when quarterback Kurt Warner retired at season’s end. Former first-round pick Matt Leinart will take the reins in 2010 as the team puts its offseason focus on building around the young signal caller and retooling the defense.
Arizona will make seven selections on draft day spread across every round but the fifth. They hold two third-round choices after acquiring the Ravens’ third- and fourth-rounders in exchange for Boldin. They currently hold picks No. 26, 58, 88, 89, 123, 195 and 233.
The offense is well set but a need remains along the front five. Starting left tackle Mike Gandy wasn’t re-signed in the offseason and Levi Brown is expected to move over to fill his shoes. That creates a hole at right tackle, which happens to be Matt Leinart’s blindside as a left-handed quarterback. The team is high on third-year tackle Brandon Keith and he may step in at right tackle, but he’s played in just four games in his young career with no starts.
Matt Leinart takes over at quarterback for Arizona, and the team no longer has Kurt Warner as a Plan B option.
The young passer will also need weapons. Arizona is set at wide receiver, but tight end is a concern. Last season, Ben Patrick, Stephen Spach and Anthony Becht combined for just 23 receptions. All three were re-signed in the offseason, but adding a pass catching threat would go a long way. Tight ends can be an inexperienced quarterback’s best friend because they provide a nice outlet. Getting Leinart a reliable target at the position would be a smart investment.
The biggest additions through the draft will come on defense. In the secondary, the hole left by Rolle was immediately filled by acquiring Kerry Rhodes from the Jets. However, depth is still needed at cornerback. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a shutdown corner on one side, but Bryant McFadden has been a free agent bust so far. Greg Toler, a fourth-round pick from a small school last April, was raw in his first season but played in 13 games and should see his playing time increase in 2010. There is little proven depth on the roster outside of him.
Moving one level down, the linebacking corps took a major hit by losing Karlos Dansby, one of the better players in the league at his position. Dansby was simply too expensive for the team to retain and was allowed to walk in free agency. The team will need to find a replacement for him in the middle. The Cardinals could also use an elite pass rusher at linebacker, as it currently takes multiple players to pressure the quarterback. Bertrand Berry was tops on the team among linebackers with six sacks, but he’ll be 35 years old in August. Clark Haggans came in second with five, but he too is getting old at 33, as is recently acquired Joey Porter. Cody Brown should be in the mix this season after spending his rookie year on injured reserve, but the team may opt to grab another young edge rusher.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: TE Anthony Becht (re-signed for one-year at $900,000), LB Monty Beisel (re-signed for one-year), T Jeremy Bridges (re-signed for three-years), CB Ralph Brown (wasn’t re-signed), LB Karlos Dansby (wasn’t re-signed), T Mike Gandy (wasn’t re-signed), FB Dan Kreider (wasn’t re-signed), WR Sean Morey (wasn’t re-signed), LB Chike Okeafor (wasn’t re-signed), K Neil Rackers (wasn’t re-signed), DT Bryan Robinson (wasn’t re-signed), QB Brian St. Pierre (wasn’t re-signed), S Matt Ware (re-signed for one-year)
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: S Hamza Abdullah (wasn’t tendered, re-signed for one-year), WR Steve Breaston (received first-round tender at $2.396M and signed), C Ben Claxton (wasn’t tendered, re-signed for one-year), FB Justin Green (wasn’t tendered), G Deuce Lutui (received second-round tender at $1.759M), TE Ben Patrick (received second-round tender at $1.684M and signed), C Lyle Sendlein (received second-round tender at $1.684M and signed), TE Stephen Spach (wasn’t tendered, re-signed for one-year), WR Jerheme Urban (wasn’t tendered), DT Gabe Watson (received second-round tender at $1.759M and signed)
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: CB Michael Adams (tendered and signed), FB Nehemiah Broughton (tendered and signed), DE Jeremy Clark (tendered and signed)
PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: TE Anthony Becht, LB Monty Beisel, T Jeremy Bridges, S Matt Ware, S Hamza Abdullah, WR Steve Breaston, C Ben Claxton, G Deuce Lutui, TE Ben Patrick, C Lyle Sendlein, TE Stephen Spach, DT Gabe Watson
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: G Rex Hadnot (signed for three-years), LB Paris Lenon (signed for three-years), QB Derek Anderson (signed for two-years), LB Joey Porter (signed for three-years), K Jay Feely (signed for two-years), S Kerry Rhodes (via trade with New York Jets), WR Darren Mougey
PLAYERS LOST: LB Karlos Dansby (signed with Miami), WR Sean Morey (signed with Seattle), K Neil Rackers (signed with Houston), WR Jerheme Urban (signed with Kansas City), CB Ralph Brown, T Mike Gandy, FB Dan Kreider, LB Chike Okeafor, DT Bryan Robinson, QB Brian St. Pierre, FB Justin Green, S Antrel Rolle (signed with New York Giants), Pago Togafau (signed with Tennessee), DE Jason Banks
TIGHT END -- Arizona re-signed all three of its tight ends from last season, but they combined to catches just 23 passes for 245 yards and three touchdowns. Leinart could use a dependable target in the middle of the field. A reliable outlet at tight end would be a great safety valve for the young passer.
CORNERBACK -- Arizona gets good pressure on the quarterback, but the passing defense sill ranked 23rd as they allowed 233.7 aerial yards per game. Rodgers-Cromartie is a lockdown player at one cornerback spot, but Bryant McFadden was a big disappointment after signing as a free agent a year ago. The team needs another young corner to improve the passing defense.
INSIDE LINEBACKER -- The team will have to replace Karlos Dansby, who led the team with 109 tackles and was always around the football.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKER -- Age is creating a need at this position as Bertrand Berry, Clark Haggans and Joey Porter are all 33 or older. Cody Brown was drafted in the second-round last year and should see a lot of playing time in 2010 after spending his rookie season on injured reserve. Another young edge rusher would be a nice addition.