Bridges burned: Panthers sign former Cardinal

TEMPE, Ariz. —
When we last caught up with offensive lineman Jeremy Bridges three weeks ago – two weeks before the Cardinals waived him – it was clear he was unhappy the team had chosen to place him on injured reserve Sept. 2 with torn thumb ligaments that required surgery.

Bridges was certain he would be able to come back by midseason, and that has proven true. The Cards reached an injury settlement with Bridges last week and then waived him, making him a free agent. Carolina signed Bridges on Tuesday to help its struggling offensive line, which surrendered seven sacks during Sunday’s 36-14 loss to the Denver Broncos. The seven sacks tied for the third-most allowed in team history.
Bridges, 32, played for the Panthers from 2006-08, starting 28 games.

When Cardinals training camp opened in August, Bridges was believed to be the leader to start at right tackle, with rookie Bobby Massie and D’Anthony Batiste in the mix, but by the middle of preseason, Batiste had supplanted Bridges for reasons never fully explained. When left tackle Levi Brown went down for the season with a torn triceps, the Cards were forced to move Batiste to the left side and slide Massie to the right side.

How or when Bridges fell so out of favor with the coaching staff is unclear. He played poorly in the preseason, but so did several other Cardinals, including quarterback Kevin Kolb. As a veteran, Bridges’ salary likely played a role in the Cards’ decision to waive him. If you’re only going to have a reserve player for less than half a season, why keep him around at a veteran’s pay rate?

On the flip side, the Cardinals offensive line has clearly been the weakest link on what has been an awful offense. Arizona has allowed a league-high 41 sacks and generated a league-low 3.4 yards per rush. Bridges had been a valuable reserve the past three seasons so he was a known commodity. Besides, it’s not like the Cardinals have an embarrassment of riches along the offensive line.

If Bridges plays well in Carolina, the Cardinals will be open to yet more criticism for a season’s worth of poor personnel decisions. As we highlighted in our midseason report card two weeks ago, none of Arizona’s 2012 draft picks or free-agent signings have made a significant impact.

Another oddity of this situation is the mixed signals the Cards sent on Bridges. On the one hand, coach Ken Whisenhunt has said the losses of Brown and Bridges to injuries have hampered the line’s play. At one point, Whisenhunt described it as the loss of two “starters.”

On the flip side, some within the organization have hinted that had Bridges not been hurt, he might have been cut before the season. The dueling messages provide a glimpse into the games teams play to try and steer perception.

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