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Anthony Collins could be a cheaper free-agent option for Arizona.
One upgrade will happen by default when left guard Jonathan Cooper is ready to go. The highly touted interior lineman, following a broken leg, has kicked his rehab into high gear since the season ended according to Kyle Odegard of AZCardinals.com, and he should be ready to go when pads are distributed during the summer.
But what about the tackle positions?
Winston is a free agent, and though he struggled early at right tackle in 2013, he shored up his game during the final two months of the year and could have earned another contract.
But if the Cardinals re-sign Winston, what will happen with the much younger Bobby Massie? After starting every game as a rookie and improving greatly as the 2012 season wore on, he did not start once this season and played only a handful of snaps.
Then, there’s the left tackle position. While some fans were content with Levi Brown returning from injury, it was quickly apparent that he would not work out in the long term. He was thoroughly destroyed by the Rams’ Robert Quinn to the tune of three sacks allowed during Week 1, and by the beginning of October, he was on a plane to Pittsburgh.
But Bradley Sowell proved not to be an upgrade over Brown. While his pass-blocking was highly suspect, one thing Brown had going for him was that he was an above-average mauler in the run game. Sowell is not that.
So what to do? Odegard reported the team could be in the mix for former Kansas City Chiefs Pro Bowler Branden Albert once he hits the market on March 11.
But what happens if Albert doesn’t sign in Arizona and the Cardinals are left with Sowell as the starter going into the draft? Do they take a tackle with the 20th-overall pick and name him the Week 1 starter?
If we know anything about Keim, it’s that he wants to build the team through the draft. But his draft philosophy is to take the best player available while keeping team need in mind. If a tackle is not the best player on the board at No. 20, there is a good-to-great chance the pick will not be a tackle.
But other free-agent left tackles could be in play as well. There’s Eugene Monroe, who was traded from the Jaguars to the Ravens this season and has been consistently among the best tackles in the game since Jacksonville made him the eighth-overall pick in 2009.
There’s also Anthony Collins, the former Cincinnati Bengals left tackle who spent his first six NFL seasons filling in for injured blindside blockers but who has allowed six sacks in 53 career games and none in his past 42.
He’s a full year younger than Albert, and he could save the team a boatload of cash on a short multi-year deal.