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Not every position needs a free-agent overhaul this offseason. In fact, most positions are looking good for next season; only a few positions need a boost in veteran leadership and on-field performance.
With that in mind, Keim will most likely skip these positions when pen hits paper this March.
Returning starter Carson Palmer struggled massively early in 2013. But he finished with a mostly strong second half and paved the way for the Arizona offense next season to be one of force.
This is the first offseason since 2009 (Kurt Warner’s final year) that the Cardinals know beyond a shadow of a doubt who their starting quarterback will be next season.
Behind Palmer is Drew Stanton, who is perhaps one of the best backup quarterbacks in the NFL these days. He hasn’t thrown a pass in a regular-season game since 2010 while with the Detroit Lions, but head coach Bruce Arians has full confidence in him should Palmer succumb to injury.
Ryan Lindley rounds out the QB depth chart, but it’s possible Keim and Co. “churn the bottom of the roster” by drafting a quarterback this May. Should that happen, Lindley could find himself out of work.
Even with Mendenhall hitting the free-agent market, the stable of running backs appears strong moving forward. Andre Ellington proved to be one of the steals of the 2013 draft, and Stepfan Taylor can serve as a Mendenhall-type back—the “three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust” type—while Ellington slashes defenses on the outside.
Then, there’s Ryan Williams. Some still believe Keim and Arians kept him around but inactive in 2013 to save him for 2014 when Mendenhall leaves. That’s one possibility, and if true, he could find himself in a substantial role with the Cardinals this coming fall.
When No. 7 overall pick Jonathan Cooper returns from the broken leg he suffered last preseason, the Cardinals essentially will have received two first-round picks in 2014. He’s the starting left guard when he’s a full go.
That means Daryn Colledge will be forced back to the right side, where he started last preseason before the Cooper injury. That is, unless Colledge becomes a cap casualty because of his nearly $7.3 million cap hit. With $4.55 million in dead money, that seems unlikely.
Backup guard Earl Watford could be the future at right guard, but he probably needs another season of fine-tuning before he’s ready for the limelight. Nate Potter is also working his way toward becoming a guard, so he could also be in the mix down the road for right guard.
Lyle Sendlein isn’t a force at center, but he makes all the calls for the offensive line and is a former team captain. He is under contract through 2015, but with no true center threatening his spot, the Cardinals could turn to the draft to pick up his eventual replacement.
One center to watch this offseason is former Stanford standout Khalil Wilkes. Also, don’t overlook Philip Blake. He is on a futures contract and could end up making the roster out of camp.