Ranking the 5 Biggest Free-Agency Priorities for the Arizona Cardinals
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
The Arizona Cardinals have holes to fill at several key positions on the team following a disappointing 5-11 season. With a new head coach in Bruce Arians and a new general manager in Steve Keim, there could be new ways of looking at players.
Added to that, 13 of the 17 coaches Arizona has are new to the team this year and we might see some personnel moves of a different nature.
The free-agency period starts March 12 and Arizona must be a key player in order to fill those holes. With the team having salary cap issues and some big personnel decisions of its own to make, the Cardinals might be limited in what they can do.
But what should the Cardinals make a priority? Start the slideshow below and find out the five biggest priorities for Arizona in this offseason.
5. Wide Receiver
Fitzgerald attempts to catch a pass against the Lions.
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The Arizona Cardinals have Larry Fitzgerald at wide receiver. The six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver is one of the best talents in the league at his position.
But he can't do it alone and that's why this comes in at the fifth spot for most-important priority for the Cardinals to address in free agency.
There's certainly a long list of big-name potential free agents in Wes Welker, Greg Jennings and Mike Wallace to name a few but the Cardinals' cap situation makes it unlikely that they will be able to target one of the top-flight wide receivers.
The other downside is that the bigger names seem more likely to be a number-one receiver on the roster and may not take kindly to the idea of playing second fiddle.
What Arizona needs to find is that second wide receiver to take the double-coverage off Larry Fitzgerald. It worked well when the Cardinals had Anquan Boldin a few years ago but the team needs to find the 2013 version of Boldin in that regard.
Perhaps a wide receiver like Brian Hartline of Miami could be what the Cardinals need. Hartline caught 74 passes for 1,083 yards but just one touchdown. Hartline worked with a rookie quarterback in Miami and could be working with another young quarterback if he were to come to Arizona.
4. Tight End
Tight End Jeff King eludes the Eagles.
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Arizona should be looking for help at the tight end position in the free-agent market. The Cardinals have been one of the worst teams year after year in getting the tight end worked into the passing game. Instead, Arizona's tight ends are blockers first because of the offensive line and its weakness.
Arizona has picked up 11 touchdowns from the tight end spot in the last five seasons. That flies in the face of the trend in the NFL of getting the tight end involved in the passing game and looking to him just like another wide receiver.
Players like Tony Gonzalez of the Falcons and Fred Davis of the Redskins have the potential to be free agents and could make an impact if they were to come to Arizona. Gonzalez is no sure thing since he was reportedly "95 percent set to retire after 2012" according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Davis is coming off a torn Achilles' tendon in October but is reportedly trying to get a multi-year deal with the Redskins, according to Pro Football Talk.
Dennis Pitta of the Ravens is a restricted free agent and could potentially draw interest on the open market with his 61 catches and seven regular-season touchdowns. It seems doubtful that the Ravens would let a key piece to their puzzle go.
Tight end is a position with some depth on the free-agent market and the Cardinals should look to try and secure one to get a more complete passing game going in 2013.
Kolb spent a lot of time on the bench with injuries.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
When your quarterback is sitting on the bench like he is in this picture, it's not a good sign. It's even worse when he has a $9 million base salary and a salary cap number of $13.5 million in 2013.
Given that Kolb has made just 15 starts in two seasons, the Cardinals need to look at quarterbacks in free agency.
Alex Smith is reportedly on the Cardinals' radar according to NFL.com's Chris Wesseling. Smith is a possible option if he were to get released but the rest of the free-agent pool is rather thin at the quarterback position.
Super Bowl hero Joe Flacco was supposed to be a free agent after this season but it's not likely to happen. The Washington Times reported that Flacco and Ravens will reportedly start working on a contract this weekend at the NFL Scouting Combine.
The Cardinals will have to be very attentive in the first days of free agency to see who gets released and try to scoop someone up on the fly.
It's setting up to be a thin year in free agency at the quarterback position which has an impact on the level of the priority. Had there been a free agent quarterback this season like Peyton Manning was last season, this would get a higher priority.
2. Running Back
Wells (left) takes a hand-off from Kolb.
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The Arizona running backs have been towards the bottom of the league for the last decade in terms of yardage. They were dead last in the league with 1,204 yards of rushing offense in 2012. It was the second time in three seasons they were last. The other was 2010 when they put up 1,388 rushing yards for that entire season.
Certainly the offensive line's performance doesn't help when it comes to opening up lanes. However, the running backs have been continually poor performers. Even in the Super Bowl year of 2008, the Cardinals were last in rushing.
A potent ground game is to loosen the coverage in the secondary and potentially force teams to put another defender in the box to try and stop the run.
This way of thinking could very well impact who the Cardinals go for. Remember that the Colts' running backs combined for 34 catches last season.
Greene will be a free agent and rushed for 1,063 yards and eight touchdowns while catching just 19 passes out of the backfield.
1. Offensive Line
John Skelton suffers another sack.
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
It's no secret that the Arizona Cardinals need help on their offensive line. The unit has failed to create lanes for running backs to go through. They haven't been much better in the passing game either, allowing at least 50 sacks in each of the last three seasons. The line needs help to get the offense from neutral into drive.
Jake Long of Miami has the talent but could be too rich for the Cardinals' blood. Ryan Clady would have been an intriguing option until the Broncos put the franchise tag on him. Bryant McKinnie and Andre Smith are likely to also get franchise tags as well. The same could be said about Phil Loadholt of the Vikings.
The point is that the talent is out there but will Arizona be able to snag some of what's left after the franchise tag is applied?