Grading the Strength of Each Position for Arizona Heading into Free Agency
Many Arizona Cardinals supporters have been looking forward to the offseason for several months.
With the season coming to an end this past Sunday, we can now turn our full attention to free agency and the draft.
We are just over a month away from the free-agent period. Several big names are set to hit the market and a lot of money will be thrown around.
Arizona has several positions to address. It is currently over the salary cap and it will be interesting to see how it goes about this period.
It is time to bring back the report card. This time we will grade the strength of each position on the Cardinals roster.
Here it is.
Note: For the purpose of the article, the grades do not put the draft in consideration. They are based solely on the free-agent period.
The article will be graded on the following scale...
A- No signing needed.
B- Minor signing/re-signing needed.
C- Depth signing needed.
D- Starting-Calibre signing needed.
F- Impact starter signing needed.
There is no denying that the Arizona Cardinals would benefit from better quarterback play. With that being said, there are not very many options to choose from this offseason.
The Cardinals do not have the money these three will demand even if they do hit the open market.
With no clear and reasonable upgrades available, Arizona will likely have a different strategy than what most fans want.
Rather than adding a quarterback, the smart move is to stick with Kevin Kolb. From there you add an experienced veteran backup.
Matt Moore would be the ideal choice.
This team can win with Moore and Kolb at the helm. It has too many other areas to address to spend its money an overrated signal-caller.
Running Back: C-
One of the bigger decisions the Cardinals face this offseason revolves around the running back position.
LaRod Stephens-Howling, William Powell and Alfonso Smith are all free agents. Beanie Wells’ time in the desert could be coming to a close and Ryan Williams has suffered two major injuries in two years.
The individual talent is there. Wells has had success in the past and the others have also had their moments.
Bruce Arians could be the one to put the pieces together. The man knows how to run a successful offense and could bring the best out of these players.
They have to stay healthy to do so, however. Williams and Wells have a hard time staying on the field.
Arizona needs to add another body to their backfield. Whether it is a depth pickup or a starting-caliber back, they need a new face.
Wide Receiver: A
There are a few intriguing names at the wide receiver position. Greg Jennings, Mike Wallace and Wes Welker just to name a few.
While it would be nice to pick one of them up, it is not a necessity. Not only do the Cardinals not having enough cap space, they also do not need a wideout.
Larry Fitzgerald is still one of the best in the game. In addition to him, Michael Floyd showed what he could do down the stretch. Andre Roberts was also a pleasant surprise.
With three solid receivers on the roster, there is no need for a free-agent signing.
Tight End: B
Although the Todd Heap experiment did not work out, there is little need for a tight end. Rob Housler has developed a ton since joining the team and I expect him to thrive in a new offense.
He has the potential to be among some of the better tight ends in the league. His size and athleticism is hard to match and he improves with every game.
What Arizona does need, however, is a bit of depth. Jeff King is a solid blocking tight end, but they could use a body to replace Heap.
There are a handful of players to choose from. The Cards do not need a big-time player, but someone like Leonard Pope, for example.
A backup or third-string player who will not demand much more than the minimum salary.
Offensive Tackle: A-
If Luke Joeckel is on the board at No. 7 then you take him. He is a can’t-miss prospect and would be a significant upgrade for the line.
With Levi Brown returning from injury, though, the Cardinals do not necessarily need an offensive tackle.
Nate Potter and Bobby Massie both played well in the second half of the year. The two rookies could battle with Brown for a starting job.
Although drafting Joeckel would be ideal, this team has bigger needs elsewhere. With three above-average tackles on the roster, the strength of this position is better than most think.
The best scenario for Arizona would be to move Levi Brown inside. He is a solid run blocker that is more suited for guard.
At this point, however, he is still a tackle. The Cardinals are going into the offseason with Daryn Colledge and Adam Snyder as their two guards.
While Colledge has done his job on the left side of the line, Snyder was a bit of a disappointment in 2012.
Furthermore, the right guard has a base salary of $2.9 million in 2013. Whether they move Brown in or sign someone, a starting-caliber right guard is needed.
If Snyder restructures then he will have a seat ready for him on the bench. If not, he should be looking for a new home.
Lyle Sendlein has been a workhorse for the Cards over the past six years. Since joining the team in 2007, the 28-year-old has started 77 games.
Heading into the 2011 season he was rewarded with a five-year deal worth $16.25 million. He is set to make $2.4 million this year.
With Snyder still on the roster, they currently have enough depth at the center position.
Sendlein is not a top-tier player, but he does get the job done. They do not need to sign someone to replace him. At least, not for now.
Defensive End: B
Two of the better defensive ends in the NFC reside in Arizona. Both Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell have made a name for themselves.
They have played a combined 14 seasons with the Cardinals, recording 684 tackles and 63.5 sacks in the process.
It gets a little bit thin behind them, though. Nick Eason is a free-agent-to-be and Vonnie Holliday is expected to retire.
Campbell and Dockett cannot play every snap of every game. At least one, potentially even two players need to be brought in this offseason.
They can re-sign Eason and Ronald Talley or look elsewhere, but there is no denying that depth is needed.
Defensive Tackle: A
Arizona is set at the nose tackle spot. After breaking his arm in 2011, Dan Williams came back strong and had a solid 2012 season.
He is now living up to what the Cardinals expected when they took him in the first round of the 2010 draft.
In addition to him, David Carter has also exceeded expectations. The former sixth-round pick played quite well in his rookie year and followed it up with a solid 2012 campaign.
He is not a great player per se, but has done more than expected. Arizona is set at this position for many years to come.
Outside Linebacker: C+
Sam Acho and O’Brien Schofield were the two starters to begin 2012 and both men will be back for 2013.
With this being the case, they do not necessarily have to target a big name. Adding depth is a necessity, though.
Arizona will have three options...spend a draft pick, sign someone or re-sign Quentin Groves.
The decision should really be based upon how much money Groves asks for. He made an impact last season and will likely be looking for a raise.
It will be up to management to decide whether he is worth the asking price. If not, then their best bet would be to target someone like Geno Hayes or Phillip Wheeler.
Inside Linebacker: D+
In just a couple of years Daryl Washington has gone from being a rookie to one of the better players on the Cards defense to one of the best defensive players in football.
He had a standout 2012 campaign, leading the team in both tackles and sacks. He was also a reserve for the Pro Bowl and was able to play when the 49ers duo went to the Super Bowl.
Beside him, Paris Lenon put up decent numbers. He is a solid linebacker who will give it his all, but he is also aging.
It gets more noticeable each year and it is time for the Cardinals to part ways with him. He is a free agent, so it will not be hard to do.
Another middle linebacker who should be let go is the $5 million man Stewart Bradley.
He has not done much since signing with the team back in 2011 and is just taking up cap space at this point.
Reggie Walker should not start 16 games in 2013. Arizona needs a starting-caliber inside linebacker. Larry Grant, anyone?
Re-signing Greg Toler should be one of the top priorities early this offseason. William Gay occupied the No. 2 corner spot in 2012, but it is Toler who should take over in 2013.
He did not play as much as some would have liked last year. The Cardinals had a lot of corners and were trying to ease him back into the lineup.
That may wind up being a good thing long term. Playing a lot coming off of a big injury is dangerous and keeping him out of a few games could help going forward.
Prior to the injury, Toler was developing into one of the better No. 2 cornerbacks in football. He notched 90 tackles in just 13 starts back in 2010.
He had a handful of solid reps in at the end of season and if he can return to form, Arizona is set at the position.
Between Adrian Wilson and Kerry Rhodes, the Cardinals have one of the best safety pairings in the NFL.
Neither player is getting younger, however. The team will need some depth behind both men.
Rashad Johnson and James Sanders are both at the end of their contracts. Arizona will either need to re-sign one of these two or add a body via free agency.
Bringing in a younger player would be great for the team. It would allow that player to develop under one of the best safeties to ever play the game.
Having depth at the position would also allow Wilson to spend more time in the box, covering tight ends and rushing the passer.
A starting-caliber player is not needed, but there are a lot of benefits to bringing in someone new.