>\n\nWorst to First: 26. Arizona Cardinals \n\n\n\n

Worst to First: 26. Arizona Cardinals

Written by Ben Morgan on 04/19/2010

In going through these reports, few teams have displayed the roster turnover that the Arizona Cardinals have. In addition to the free agent and trade losses and additions they could be facing a crisis in 2011 with a very large number of potential unrestricted free agents (if there's a new CBA). For a team that rarely splashes big money around that could mean a very very busy post draft season as they seek to lock up young players for not much money before they become free agents in a year. Still, I can't help but feel like this is a team in a big transition phase. A probably Hall of Fame QB (I'd call him a certainty if I had a vote) has retired, they've lost a long term Left Tackle and a great WR. They stand to lose even more next year and really aren't sure if they have Kurt Warner's replacement on the roster yet. Still, the NFC West is one of the easier divisions to make it to the playoffs which means despite all that turnover the Cardinals could still be picking in the 20s in next year's draft. Not the best place to rebuild a franchise from. What it means is they must draft very carefully, probably ignoring some needs in favour of best player available (with a couple of position exceptions) and look beyond 2010.

But let's go through the roster and check out what those needs are anyway.

2010 Free Agent Losses 2010 Free Agent Additions
Karlos Dansby ILB (Dolphins,UFA), Sean Morey WR (Seahawks,UFA), Neil Rackers K (Texans,UFA), Antrel Rolle FS (Giants,UFA-cut), Jerheme Urban WR (Chiefs,RFA), Kurt Warner (retired), Anquan Boldin WR (Ravens,trade)

Paris Lenon OLB (Rams,UFA), Rex Hadnot G (Browns,UFA), Derek Anderson QB (Browns,UFA-cut), Jay Feely K (Jets,UFA), Joey Porter OLB (Dolphins,UFA-cut), Kerry Rhodes S (Jets,trade)

2010 Unsigned Free Agents 2011 Potential Free Agents
Jason Banks DE (RFA), Bertrand Berry OLB (UFA), Ralph Brown CB (UFA), Mike Gandy T (UFA), Justin Green RB (RFA), Dan Kreider FB (UFA), Deuce Lutui G (RFA), Chike Okeafor OLB (UFA), Bryan Robinson NT (UFA), Brian St. Pierre QB (UFA)

Hamza Abdullah DB (UFA), Michael Adams DB (RFA), Anthony Becht TE (UFA), Monty Beisel LB (UFA), Alan Branch DL (RFA), Steve Breaston WR (RFA), Nehemiah Broughton RB (RFA), Jeremy Clark DL (RFA), Ben Claxton C (RFA), Early Doucet WR (RFA), Keilen Dykes DL (RFA), Ben Graham P (UFA), Tim Hightower RB (RFA), Kenny Iwebema DL (RFA), Brandon Keith OT (RFA), Bryant McFadden CB (UFA), Ben Patrick TE (RFA), Lyle Sendlein C (RFA), Stephen Spach TE (UFA), Matt Ware DB (UFA), Gabe Watson DL (UFA), Reggie Wells OG (UFA), Jason Wright RB (UFA)

Quarterbacks Minor Need
With Kurt Warner hanging up his cleats the keys to the Cardinals high powered offense are handed over to Matt Leinart. At least for preseason. But with Derek Anderson in house as well he'll be on a short rope. Anderson had a good season a couple of years back in Cleveland (though he passed for well under 60% completion rate) so there's some tools to work with there between him and Leinart. Brian St Pierre is doing the rounds of teams seeking a 3rd QB and he may or may not be back in Arizona so they could do worse than look for some more insurance for an unsure QB situation. I'm not convinced they'd consider using their 1st rounder on a QB like Tim Tebow but several people think if Jimmy Clausen doesn't get picked up by the Bills or 49ers he could tumble al lthe way to the bottom of the 1st. He could really be the fire under Leinart the Cardinals would like to light. With all that said, one glance at the massive roster turnover for the Cardinals this season, and the potential one next year as well, tells you the Cardinals don't really have the luxury of selecting another QB this year. They will almost have to be resigned to seeing what they can get from Leinart and Anderson and maybe pick up a developmental type later on.

Runningbacks No Need
With a pretty impressive stable including Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells the Cardinals are doing pretty good and with shifty LaRod Stephens-Howling and Jason Wright to work into the rotation as well there not much need here at all. Might be a good thing too. With an uncertain QB situation and the loss of Boldin the Cardinals will be leaning heavily on the running game.

Wide Receivers Minor Need
Losing Anquan Boldin has been coming for a while but the loss of Boldin probably won't be felt as badly as the loss of Kurt Warner. Boldin's missed some games the past couple of years and Steve Breaston has always stepped in and done a good job. The Cardinals seem to be able to find WRs though and now it's Early Doucet's chance to stake a claim. He should be the 3rd WR this year but as I mentioned I expect there to be fewer passes this season. Again, a good thing as I have little confidence in the likes of Ed Gant and Onrea Jones to be the next WRs off the production line. So there's some need here. Breaston could be a free agent next year if they can't extend him, unrestricted too if there's a new CBA. With 2 third round picks they could look for another option there. Leinart's going to need all the help he can get and I don't yet see a legitimate 4th WR on the roster, which would leave them struggling with just 1 injury. WIth a fair few good WRs in the top 100 picks there should be a worthwhile option available to them in round 3. Marshwan Gilyard is unlikely to fall that far, but he could be a nice fit if he did. Jordan Shipley perhaps?

Tight Ends Minimal Need
In 2007 Leonard Pope caught 23 balls. That's the best receiving year posted by a Cardinals TE in recent years. And that's why this position isn't ever likley to be a big need. Cardinals TEs block for the most part. With all the passes going to WRs there's just not much left for the Tight Ends. In Ben Patrick and Anthony Becht they have their blockers. I suppose it's possible with Boldin gone they expand the TE role but I'll believe it when I see it. Minimal Need for now.

Offensive Line Major Need
Well it looks like the Cards have called time on Mike Gandy's career with them. That's a big loss but one they hope to fill by shifting Levi Brown over to LT. Which in turn opens up a big hole at RT instead. Being as Matt Leinart's a lefty it might even be smarter to keep Brown at RT where he'll be protecting the blindside. They have some options on roster including Brandon Keith, Jeremy Bridges and the mammoth Herman Johnson. Johnson was a Guard in college but the signing of Rex Hadnot either says he's not ready to play, or they could use him at RT. Hadnot's a true journeyman but he's a decent starter and should push Reggie Wells or Lutui for their starting gig. If he doesn't win they have a good, versatile backup as Hadnot can cover Center as well. Lutui's been a bit up and down but last season was definitely an up, hopefully the light has turned on for him and more balanced offense should suit him too. At Center they could do with nailing down Lyle Sendlein longer term. He could end up an unrestricted guy in 2011 if a new CBA comes in. The Cardinals aren't known for their big spending either so getting him back at that point could be tough. Overall I think the Cards OL is in pretty good shape, especially if they focus on the run more. If they're worried about what they have being able to play RT (Bridges, Johnson, Keith) they should make drafting a Tackle a priority in this draft and it's a Major Need. If they're comfortable with one of those guys being a good RT it's only going to be a Minor Need because I think they lack a real backup option at LT. They're very likely to miss out on the top 6 or so Tackles and after them you're looking at smaller school guys or RT only prospects. If one of the top 6 (Okung, T Williams, Campbell, Bulaga, Charles Brown, Anthony Davis) falls to them it's be hard to say no to them. Davis may be the best fit, and the most likely to fall that far.

Defensive Tackles Minor Need
Having moved on from Bryan Robinson the Cards are putting a lot of faith in the idea that Alan Branch or Gabe Watson can be a dominant NT. Watson will start out as the most likely guy to succeed but there could be a draft pick spent here. With it being a good draft for NT types it's a distinct possibility. Terrence Cody could even be a thought with their first rounder. Cam Thomas is a possibilty in round 2. It's a key position in the Defense and they have other needs too but you never know...

Defensive Ends Minimal Need
Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell do a great job on passing downs. 3-4DEs don't often sack the QB much but these 2 are exceptions. They both have excellent pass rush ability but that's not the primary call for a 3-4DE. Mostly they're there to mop up blockers and free space for the OLBs to make the plays. And the proof is in the pudding. The Cards run defense wasn't good enough last year and their OLBs didn't make enough plays in the backfield. I do wonder if Dockett might be better playing inside in a 4 man front and Campbell on one of the ends... Pretty unlikely to happen though and maybe they just have to look to upgrading the NT slot to improve the run defense instead. Campbell represents a sizeable investment, as does Dockett. I don't see them looking to upgrade the end slots in this draft. They'll need Keilen Dykes or Jeremy Clark to step up some and join Kenny Iwebema in the rotation. A mid to late round pick might join them.

Linebackers Major Need
The Cardinals OLBs have a familar look to them. Especially if you spent a lot of time watching the Steelers in the early part of the last decade. At 33 years a piece Haggans and Porter aren't likely to offer much in the way of long term solutions. The Cardinals will hope some of that comes from second year players Cody Brown and Will Davis. Stevie Baggs also got picked up. He's a CFL pass rush expert. Don't expect too much, but you never quite know in this league. But with Davis being a late rounder it's conceivable they spend another pick this year on a prospect to develop as well. First and Second round guys are an option and it's something they really should consider. Porter has averaged double digit sacks in Miami the last 3 years and he'll be very comfortable with the system. Haggans was never that great in the first place. Got to look at this as a Major Need simply because of the time it takes to convert a college DE to 3-4 OLB. On the inside Geno Hayes is a solid citizen but the loss of Karlos Dansby clearly hurts. Paris Lenon is no replacement so they should look for Dansby's replacement early.  They could look at guys like Jerry Hughes on the outside or Sean Weatherspoon on the Inside. Both would be nice of course, but they will be lucky if they even have a shot at one of them. It's possible both Day 1 picks go on Linebackers.
 
Cornerbacks Major Need
Bryant McFadden didn't do nearly as well as they hoped having come in from Pittsburgh with a pretty good reputation. But in Pittsburgh the pass rush was better. McFadden could well be gone after this season too unless he improves. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has the ability to shut down one side so he should be fine. Greg Toler could compete with McFadden for the other starting slot but he was a 4th round rookie last year so it's asking a lot. Michael Adams should be good enough for the #4 role here but with McFadden a possible 2011 goner they really should look into Cornerback in this draft. They're not likely to be able to make a play for Joe Haden or Kyle Wilson in round 1, and a lot of the best options may be gone by their pick in round 2. But they're not looking for an immediate starter here, they'll want to see what they have in Toler and McFadden too. If they can improve their pass rush this year it'll help the corners a lot. Because of the time taken for corners to develop and uncertainties over Toler and McFadden I'm going to call this a Major Need, but with a few vets still out there they could opt to upgrade in free agency still.

Safeties No Need
The loss of Antrel Rolle would have been a tough one to make up for, had Rod Graves not worked a deal for Kerry Rhodes from the Jets. Rhodes is still a really good player and so is Adrian Wilson at the other slot. They both should have plenty of yearsd left on the clock too... and the Cardinals had to make that move for Rhodes because last year's 3rd rounder Rashad Johnson is not ready to start yet. Luckily Matt Ware offers some backup ability leaving not much room here for a draft pick. Could they use a bit more depth? Sure, but they have to hope Rashad Johnson can step up. 3rd round picks are a decent level of investment so they probably won't give up on him this year. They'll more likely hope Rhodes and Wilson don't miss much time.

Specialists No Need
With Ben Graham (Punter) and Jay Feely (Kicker) the Cardinals are pretty set but they'll probably bring in a couple of kids to save wear and tear on the starters legs in camp. Not a draft need though.

Return Game Minor Need
Stephens-Howling showed some good stuff on kick off returns but on the punt return side they'll likely need to find a replacement for Steve Breaston. With him moving full time into the starting lineup they shouldn't risk him on special teams anymore. They could use another WR. If they have a tough choice over a couple of wideouts, return ability could tip the balance.

Dream Day One
     
1.26 Anthony Davis OT Rutgers
2.58 Ricky Sapp OLB Clemson
 
Player Visits
Kareem Jackson CB Alabama
Sean Lee LB Penn State
Ricky Sapp LB Clemson
Sean Lissemore DT William & Mary
Eric Moncur DE Miami (FL)
John Skelton QB Fordham
Earl Mitchell DT Arizona
Dexter Davis DE Clemson

 

Last Edited: 04/14/2010




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