The Arizona Cardinals have taken a big step to improve their offensive line thanks to the free-agent signing of offensive tackle Jared Veldheer.
ESPN first reported the news of the free-agent signing:
Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun provided a few more details of the contract:
Jared Veldheer Cardinals deal $35 million, $17 million guaranteed, $6.25 million bonus,— Aaron Wilson (@RavensInsider) March 11, 2014
Veldheer played the past four seasons with the Oakland Raiders after being selected in the third round of the 2010 NFL draft. He immediately found a home at left tackle and appeared in all 48 games over the next three years, starting 43 of them.
A torn triceps injury limited him to only play five games this past season, but he was still regarded as one of the top young players at his position. Chris Harris of ESPN thought Veldheer and Eugene Monroe were the two best options on the market:
In LT roulette, gimme Veldheer and Monroe. Saffold has tons to prove, Albert is strong in pass pro but not a mauler in the run game.— Christopher Harris (@CHarrisESPN) March 11, 2014
Damien Woody agreed and noted that this was a smart signing for the Cardinals:
I like the Veldheer signing for the Cardinals....only 26 yrs old. Pair him w/ J. Cooper on the left side of OL— Damien Woody (@damienwoody) March 11, 2014
Meanwhile, the offensive tackle remained just out of the Raiders' price range. Scott Bair of CSN California noted that a lack of guaranteed money was the big difference between the two offers:
Per source: The #Raiders best offer to Veldheer was 5 years, #30 million with (brace yourself) just $10 million guaranteed. Didn't take less— Scott Bair (@BairCSN) March 11, 2014
Oakland instead decided to use that money on former St. Louis Rams lineman Rodger Saffold, who signed a five-year deal with the team, according to Chris Wesseling of NFL.com.
Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle provides more information as to why the team did not want to keep Veldheer:
Mary Veldheer went on to say that Reggie McKenzie is “cleaning house” … also heard from that camp that McKenzie doesn’t want “Al Davis guys”— Vic Tafur (@VicTafur) March 11, 2014
Still, the 26-year-old player had nothing but good things to say after signing his new deal:
Thank you #raidernation for 4 great years. You guys are awesome. I was blessed that Mr. Davis brought me into your community.— Jared Veldheer (@Veldheer68) March 11, 2014
Of course, the Raiders' loss is just the Cardinals' gain as they are able to bring in one of the top players on the market at a big position of need. While the offensive line play was an improvement from two years ago in terms of sacks allowed, Khaled Elsayed of Pro Football Focus notes that Arizona had the worst offensive line in the NFL in 2013.
Veldheer will help solidify the offensive line as he pairs with last year's first-round pick Jonathan Cooper, who missed the entire season with a broken leg. After narrowly missing the playoffs with a 10-6 record this past year, these additions could help get the Cardinals over the top in a tough NFC West.
Additionally, Arizona can now use its No. 20 pick in the 2014 NFL draft to upgrade in another position of need.
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