The Arizona Cardinals picked a bad year to build up from the bottom.
Following a 5-11 campaign a season ago, it was clear the Cardinals would need to make some major changes this offseason. Unfortunately, dominance has shifted in the NFC West, and Arizona faces an uphill battle to regain its place atop the division.
The Cardinals got off to a good start this offseason, though, first with the dismissals of head coach Ken Whisenhunt and general manager Rod Graves.
The duo experienced plenty of success in their formative years with the organization, but a perfect storm of injuries and underperformance sent the Cardinals spinning out of control last season. The only option was a rebuild, starting with the men at the top of the pyramid.
To replace Whisenhunt, Arizona brought in another former Pittsburgh Steelers staple Bruce Arians, who spent last season as the interim head coach of the Indianapolis Colts in Chuck Pagano’s stead. Arians was tremendous in that role, leading the Colts to what would be a magnificent bounce-back season with Peyton Manning no longer at the helm.
With Graves’ exit, the Cardinals also needed to find a new personnel man who would work to infuse some talent into a roster already laden with skill, experience and potential. They found the right fit in Steve Keim, whom the team promoted after 14 seasons in various front office positions, the last of which as Vice President of Player Personnel.
Keim went to work this offseason to prove he was ready for the job, putting together a terrific NFL draft class and making a splash on the free-agent market with a number of key acquisitions.
The biggest of those moves was in trading for former Oakland Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer. After a season that saw Kevin Kolb miss 10 games as Ryan Lindley and John Skelton failed to pick up the slack, it was clear the Cardinals needed a stop-gap option under center.
Palmer had has a whirlwind career since his first few seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, but he’s a better option than any player Arizona put under center last season. With Palmer controlling the reins of the offense, the Cardinals should be a much more explosive team in 2013.
Keim also signed former Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall to go along with two rookie running backs selected in the 2013 draft. Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams struggled to stay healthy in the No. 1 running back role, and the Cardinals needed to find some talent to fill the void, especially with Wells now a free agent.
The first-year GM went to work on the defensive side of the ball as well, signing a bevy of veteran free agents in safety Yeremiah Bell, cornerback Antoine Cason, linebacker Karlos Dansby, cornerback Jerraud Powers and pass-rusher John Abraham.
Arizona lost a lot of talent on both sides of the ball this offseason, but it more than made up for those departures via free agency and the draft.
We’ll examine many of those offseason moves in the following slideshow, as well as some positions to keep an eye on and a look at the 2013 schedule. Read on.