The Arizona Cardinals finished the season 8-8 and really made some strides towards the end of the year. Things seem to be on the rise, but there are still glaring holes on the roster.
Areas of concern are the offensive line, cornerbacks, wide receivers not named Larry Fitzgerald and defensive tackle. The team has the 13th overall draft pick and almost certainly will select an offensive lineman.
That leaves the other positions as problems, and that's where free agency makes the most sense. Read on for six players the Arizona Cardinals should target in free agency to fill the holes on this team.
Carl Nicks is an anchor of the New Orleans Saints offensive line, and plenty of teams will inquire about his services this offseason. It's not often you see a Pro Bowl-caliber lineman enter free agency, and teams will look to snatch him away from the Saints.
Nicks was drafted in the fifth round of the 2008 draft and has started 61 of his 64 games with the Saints. The organization has already committed big-time money to fellow offensive lineman Jahri Evans, and it will be tough to pay Nicks the money he will command.
Nicks is the kind of player the Arizona Cardinals really need on the offensive line, and he would instantly form a nice combination with guard Daryn Colledge. That would allow the Cards to address the offensive tackle or defensive tackle need in the first round and dramatically improve the team.
The Cardinals are not known to spend that kind of money, but you have to think they would strongly consider spending if they could get Carl Nicks.
Mike Wallace is an absolute speed demon and is a threat on every single play. Wallace was originally a third-round pick in 2009 and has improved dramatically since he entered the league.
Wallace is due for a huge pay increase from his $480,000 base salary he earned this season, and might be a little too expensive for the Pittsburgh Steelers under the salary cap instituted under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Wallace is a restricted free agent, thus allowing the Steelers to match any offer—but a big enough offer would probably signal his departure.
The Cardinals need to make an offer to Wallace as soon as possible. His ability to stretch the field is exactly what the team needs opposite Larry Fitzgerald and would make the offense very tough to stop.
Before going down in Week 5 with a torn pectoral muscle, Mario Williams was having an excellent season and looked to be heading strong in to free agency. He seemed to be destined for a large contract and, despite the injury, will still get just that.
There's no denying his talent, as he is a premier defensive force when healthy, and he will get paid this offseason to do so. He can play either defensive end or linebacker, and the Cardinals could really use him.
Williams would line up as a linebacker for the Cards and would give them a young, dynamic linebacking core destined for success. He would take off a lot of pressure from the secondary and provide the dynamic pass-rusher the Cardinals desperately need.
DeSean Jackson is a supreme talent when in the right mindset, but that's a big if. His desire for a new contract has been well documented, and probably scared some teams away from signing the big-play receiver.
There is no doubting his ability, and luckily for other teams, he seems to have worn out his welcome in Philadelphia. Even with the contract negotiation issues, he should get paid somewhere around $8-10 million a year.
Like Mike Wallace, Jackson could be dynamic in the Cardinals' passing game. He is a downfield threat every play, and would make it tougher for opposing defenses to double Larry Fitzgerald. If Jackson has the right mindset, then the Cards should definitely inquire about his services.
Terrell Thomas was lost for the season when he tore his ACL in the preseason, and his recovery has gone well so far. Thomas looked to be on the verge of a huge season after a 101-tackle performance in the 2010-11 season.
Thomas has now had two ACL surgeries on his right knee, and there could be further injury risk in the next couple years. When healthy, Thomas is more than capable of being a No. 2 cornerback and would form a solid duo with Patrick Peterson.
The Cardinals had problems in the secondary throughout the season and could really use an upgrade at the cornerback position over A.J. Jefferson. Terrell Thomas could possibly come cheap and would be a huge pickup for the team.
Robert Meachem is one of many key free agents for the New Orleans Saints and is also a part of a very deep receiving core. He might be the odd man out in New Orleans if the Saints decide to re-sign Marques Colston, Drew Brees and Carl Nicks.
The Saints would definitely love to keep Meachem on the team, but he is an up-and-coming receiver bound to be targeted by other teams. This would make his return to New Orleans dependent upon how much money the team spends on the other in-house free agents and Meachem's willingness to give the team a discount.
I can't see there being much money left over in New Orleans, so the Cardinals should swoop in and try to sign the young playmaker. He would be yet another receiver who could take pressure off Larry Fitzgerald and dramatically improve the offense.