It’s only been three weeks and the Arizona Cardinals’ needs have…well, they haven’t changed too much. Possibly the order of importance of those needs has, however.
The Cardinals came into the offseason with specific needs as outlined by their general manager Steve Keim.
Based on their roster the needs were:
• Offensive Line
• Edge rusher
• Defensive Line
• Speed Wide Receiver
Then free agency started, and the Cardinals showed their hand right away and addressed those needs.
Offensive line – Jared Veldheer (Oakland) and Ted Larsen (Tampa Bay) were added.
Speed wide receiver – Ted Ginn, Jr. (Carolina) signed a three-year deal.
All of a sudden the team “needs” may have shifted just a bit.
There is still plenty of time left before the draft — we’re basically seven weeks away — but as the roster stands right now, the Cardinals have put themselves in a great position come draft day.
How would you rank their needs now?
• Edge rusher – While the Cardinals will be getting guys like Sam Acho, Alex Okafor and Lorenzo Alexander back from the injured reserve, none are pure rushers off the edge.
John Abraham had an excellent 2013 season, but Father Time is undefeated, and as he’ll be 36 when the season starts, the Cardinals need to find youth at a premium position.
Early round names to keep an eye on: Dee Ford (Auburn), Jeremiah Attaochu (Georgia Tech), Kony Ealy (Missouri), Kyle Van Noy (BYU), and Trent Murphy (Stanford).
• Safety – The Cardinals still have a little free agent money left, but the safety market has been set pretty high in terms of per year salary, and that may not be the way to go.
Enter the draft, and the Cardinals may find themselves in a perfect position to select a play-making safety on day one or two.
There are safeties of all flavors in this draft: big physical in-the-box types, rangy ball hawks, guys who can play slot coverage and safeties that can man up on tight ends.
While the Cardinals may want to find an answer to their tight end coverage problem, that may not be the biggest requirement the team is looking for. Arizona’s coverage schemes may need tweaking instead of just finding a new player.
Early round names to know: Calvin Pryor (Louisville), Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Alabama), Jimmie Ward (Northern Illinois), Deone Bucannon (Washington State), Ed Reynolds (Stanford), Dion Bailey (USC), Ahmad Dixon (Baylor), and Terrence Brooks (Florida State).
• Offensive line- THE CARDINALS’ BIGGEST NEED MAY NOT BE OFFENSIVE LINE.
That may be the most shocking offseason outcome in years, but there are still some questions.
The left side is HOPEFULLY locked down for the foreseeable future, but they have a center who’s average at best, a fourth-round rookie guard competing with one of the worst-graded guards in the NFL, and Bradley Sowell or Bobby Massie at right tackle.
While many people are enamored with Massie, the Cardinals do not seem to be, and Sowell, well, he worked hard last year, but he’s at best a good swing back-up tackle.
Early round names to know at tackle: Taylor Lewan (Michigan), Zack Martin (Notre Dame), Morgan Moses (Virginia), Joel Bitonio (Nevada), Ja’Wuan James (Tennessee).
Early round names to know at guard: Xavier Su’a-Filo (UCLA), David Yankey (Stanford)
Early round names to know at center: Marcus Martin (USC), Weston Richburg (Colorado State), and Travis Swanson (Arkansas).
• Cornerback – While Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu are a formidable duo, and Jerraud Powers offers you an average CB2, the Cardinals are in a precarious position moving forward.
The cornerback market was set this offseason with lavish deals to guys like Aqib Talib, Darrelle Revis and Alterraun Verner, and unfortunately for the Cardinals, Revis and some guy named Richard Sherman will be free agents next year, much like Peterson.
The Cardinals hold an option for a fifth year on his contract, and will likely use that. They have the ability to franchise tag Peterson after 2015, but want to get something carved out sooner rather than later or have a replacement in place.
Early round names to know: Darqueze Dennard (Michigan State), Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma State), Bradley Roby (Ohio State), Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tech), and Bashaud Breeland (Clemson).
• Defensive line – Steve Keim has made it completely apparent he wants to find youth and depth along his defensive front three; Al Woods was scheduled for a visit before signing with the Titans.
The Cardinals have spent pre-draft time with Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald and Minnesota’s Ra’Shede Hageman, but those are not the only names that could be in play come draft day.
Early round names to know: Donald, Hageman, Stephon Tuitt (Notre Dame), Dominique Easley (Florida), Taylor Hart (Oregon), and Kelcy Quarles (South Carolina).
• Tight end – While the Cardinals have a roster full of tight ends, none of which have been able to stay healthy in their careers, they still need to find a young, healthy, option that can catch (that last part is for Mr. Housler).
Early round names to know: Eric Ebron (North Carolina), Jace Amaro (Texas Tech), Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Washington), Troy Niklas (Notre Dame), and C.J. Fiedorowicz (Iowa).
What does your needs list look like now?