Re-Arming the Redbirds: Depth the Word in Free Agency, Draft
For the first time in recent history, the Arizona Cardinals went into the 2009 offseason without any dire needs. But that is what happens when you have your best season in 60 years and go to your first Super Bowl.
What also happens is players leave for bigger contracts and there are holes to fill.
The Cards started free agency with addressing their 22nd ranked pass defense, signing dependable cornerback Bryant McFadden from Pittsburgh to start opposite Dominique Rogers-Cromartie. McFadden, and his career 135 tackles and 7 interceptions, should bring some stability to a secondary that was very inconsistent at times in 2008.
They also looked to upgrade their backfield, inking 3rd down back Jason Wright from Cleveland to replace the departed JJ Arrington and fullback Dan Kreider. These additions can do nothing but help their last place running "attack."
To wrap up free agency, new pickup Anthony Becht is looking to be the tight end the team has sorely lacked.
Great teams have great drafts. And the Cards were looking for their second straight this past April.
"I think now the scouts know what we're looking for as a coaching staff, but I also think our coaches know how our scouts evaluate players now," Coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "Our guys have a lot of communication, not just before the draft, but even during the season and at training camp."
Running back Edgerrin James had grown inconsistent and disgruntled with his diminished role through the course of the season. Before releasing the five-million-dollar-man, Arizona plucked Ohio State's Chris "Beanie" Wells with the 31st pick. Wells has struggled with injuries, but has the power and breakaway speed to be a force in the desert.
The Redbirds addressed their aging pass rush, picking up ends Cody Brown of UConn and Will Davis from Illinois. Both have great motors and a knack for getting to the quarterback, with a combined 36 career sacks between them.
The Cardinals also looked to build up their secondary, drafting cornerback Greg Toler and safety Rashad Johnson.
Toler, a near unknown from tiny St. Paul's College, has drawn comparisons to another small-school corner, new teammate Dominique Rogers-Cromartie. Johnson, Alabama's defensive captain last season, is a playmaker with a nose for the ball. Both should also contribute right away on special teams.
Offensive linemen rounded out Arizona's draft in the form of mammoth Herman Johnson of LSU and Cinncinnati's Trevor Canfield.
Unlike years past, which often saw the Redbirds draft in the top-10, most of these young players are not expected to contribute right away. However, injuries often force "baptism by fire" for many rookies. But playing behind so many solid starters can do nothing but help these talented first-year players if their number is called in 2009.
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