2012 NFL Free Agents: 6 Free Agents Who Fit the Arizona Cardinals' System
If you take a look at the Arizona Cardinals during the last eight games of the season, there would be little to complain about. The defense—powered by Calais Campbell—was firing on all cylinders, the offense was doing enough to win games and the players had gelled into a formidable group.
For those who paid attention, however, the Cardinals' late-season success didn't cover up the organization's pressing needs.
Arizona needs to fill some key holes in order to start winning games decisively and stop relying on fourth quarter comebacks and overtime thrillers for wins.
Every team has a wish list for free agents they would like to land this offseason. Here is the Cardinals' list.
Carl Nicks, G, New Orleans Saints
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The New Orleans Saints have yet to begin contract talks with arguably one of the key components of their offense.
No, not Drew Brees. He's been in talks for some time now.
The key figure I'm referring to is offensive guard Carl Nicks.
They never talked to me at all about it really, which I thought was kind of weird, Nicks told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. I talked to (GM Mickey Loomis) the last day before exit meetings, and he said they were going to do their best to try to keep me. So that's the gist of contract talks.
By all indications, Nicks is likely to be free to sign with any ball club that he wants to.
The woes of Arizona's offensive line stretch far and wide. Other than center, each position along the offensive line needs to be upgraded. The guys at profootballfocus.com graded Nicks as the second best guard in the NFL.
Adding Nicks to the big men up front would cement the offensive line and open up the passing and ground game. It's a big wish, but one that would help the offense tremendously if granted.
Demetrius Bell, OT, Buffalo Bills
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We’re going to draft a tackle if we can, Buffalo Bills GM Buddy Nix recently said. If there’s one there is what I mean. If there’s one there that we think can play we’re going to draft a tackle. You can never have too many tackles. (via BuffaloBills.com).
That's not what left tackle Demetrius Bell wanted to hear from the Bills. Reading the tea leaves, Bell may need to take up residence elsewhere in 2012.
Arizona would be a nice fit.
Bell doesn't have the same notoriety as other offensive linemen in the league, but he's just as talented. He's able to establish running lanes with ease and, most importantly for the Cardinals, can hold his own in pass protection.
Take note, Levi Brown.
In 2011, Bell suffered a fractured collar bone and torn meniscus, which kept him holding his helmet rather than wearing it. As a result, little attention was given to the big guy.
The Cardinals should give him the attention he deserves and bring him to the desert to protect No. 18—yes, Peyton Manning.
Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts
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The Cardinals are set up nicely to put Manning in a Cardinals jersey.
If the Cardinals were to have a chance at securing Manning, they would have to make some significant moves to clear the salary cap space.
First, draft bust Levi Brown would have to restructure the final year of his contract where he is set to bring in (read: steal) $18 million. He could even be released, although finding decent blocking at the tackle position is a daunting task.
Then, Arizona would need to set its sights on free agent disappointment Kevin Kolb. Kolb is due $7 million in mid-March. The Cardinals could shift that money in Manning's direction if they released Kolb prior to paying him the roster bonus.
With Manning under center, the Cards wouldn't be as pressed to find a talented second wide receiver opposite Larry Fitzgerald. Manning turns average wide receivers (Blair White, Pierre Garcon) into solid No. 2's.
The Cardinals would still have to secure the offensive line to ensure the safety of their new fragile leader. And by conducting a smart draft, Arizona could land two offensive linemen in the first three picks.
Besides, Manning's freakish knowledge of opposing defenses and quick reads and releases will keep him upright and healthy.
Because Kolb was unable to separate himself from backup quarterback John Skelton, and because the latter will cost the Cardinals more than 15 times what the former would, something has to be done at the quarterback position this offseason.
Manning is Arizona's answer.
Robert Meachem, WR, New Orleans Saints
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There's been a nauseating amount of Peyton Manning talk the past couple of weeks. So much so that NFL Insider Adam Schefter almost forgot a Super Bowl was being played.
Just the rumor of Larry Fitzgerald and Peyton Manning having dinner sent Cardinals fans into a tizzy (via AZ Central).
The fact of the matter is that Manning will probably not suit up in an Arizona jersey in 2012. And the Cardinals organization has to plan accordingly.
Either Kevin Kolb or John Skelton—and sometimes Richard Bartel—will be under center. That means funding the wide receiver positions with the best talent on the market has to be a priority for the Cards.
Andre Roberts and Early Doucet are not worthwhile options as a No. 2 wideout. Free agent Robert Meachem is, however. Meachem is a solid deep-threat receiver and possesses excellent blocking skills.
The Cardinals need help in both of those facets of the game.
Mario Manningham, WR, New York Giants
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New York Giants wide receiver Mario Manningham has been the odd man out in the G-Men's receiving corps.
Tainted by injury (knee), Manningham's fourth NFL season was a disappointing one. The 5'10" wideout caught only 39 passes for 523 yards and four touchdowns. There's no question that Victor Cruz has surpassed him on the depth chart.
The Giants' loss can be the Cardinals' gain—and a gain that won't break Arizona's bank.
Manningham has already proven that he can be a solid No. 2 wide receiver in the NFL. In his third year, Super Mario logged legitimate stats: 60 catches, 944 receiving yards and nine touchdowns.
With uncertainty at the quarterback position, the Cardinals will need to fortify their wide receivers. Manningham gives them a reliable target.
LaRon Landry, DB, Washington Redskins
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For much of the year, the Arizona Cardinals secondary was the team's Achilles heel. Opposing teams were often stopped in the trenches but were free to air it out.
The Cardinals' secondary is a young bunch that will eventually mature into solid players. Until that time, however, they need to reinforce the secondary.
Free agent LaRon Landry would be a solid addition to the group. And more importantly, he would be a low-risk pickup.
Landry suffered from an Achilles tendon injury and has been advised to get surgery for the ailment, according to the Washington Times. Landry has opted not to go under the knife and instead rely on rest and rehabilitation (via Twitter).
Landry's decision all but guarantees that the Washington Redskins will not use the franchise tag on him and in all likelihood will let him walk without re-signing him.
Landry's handling of his injury will force him to accept a one-year "prove it" deal with any team that signs him. With the young, emerging talent in the Cardinals secondary, they could afford to land Landry on the cheap side.