Green: Welcome to the NFL, Arizona
Welcome to the NFL, Arizona.
The Cardinals have, finally, proven that they have turned the proverbial corner once and for all. The back-to-back NFC West titles and an appearance in Super Bowl XLIII showed that the Cardinals were competitive, but what has transpired over the last few days confirms that these are no longer your father's, my father's, or even my Arizona Cardinals.
Sure, it would have been easy to look at Friday's events as the beginning of the end of the "New Cardinals." After all, March 5th saw the Cardinals trade away Anquan Boldin and lose Karlos Dansby and Antrel Rolle as free agents. But, just when Cardinals nation was looking for the nearest cliff to jump off of or the closest bandwagon to board, March 6th brought a trade for Jets safety Kerry Rhodes and a newfound sense of optimism.
Don't get me wrong - the Cardinals are still a worse team as of this moment than they were when they were beaten by the Saints 45-14 in the playoffs.
Since then, though, the Cardinals have done business in the same way that legit, consistent NFL winners do: by not being afraid to make tough decisions with personnel and not overpaying to keep decent-good players.
The Cardinals have shown they are no longer a reactive
franchise, but instead proactive. Two years ago they
knew Antonio Smith was entering a contract year, so they
drafted Calais Campbell to be groomed as his replacement.
Then, when Smith took
too much more money
to sign with the Texans, Campbell slid right into his old
spot and was even better than the man he replaced.
Going into this past season the team knew there was a good chance they would be releasing Antrel Rolle because of the way his contract was structured. The team, as an "insurance policy," drafted Rashad Johnson. Sure, Johnson had a rough rookie campaign, but it was another sign that the Cardinals were done overpaying to keep decent players and instead were readying themselves for the natural turnover that occurs in the NFL.
And, over the last few seasons, Steve Breaston and Early Doucet have stepped up at the WR position and they, along with Larry Fitzgerald, have helped the team win games when Boldin has missed time.
Which brings us to Friday.
Nothing happened that was unexpected. The team was ready to trade Boldin due to the depth at the WR position, most thought Dansby would leave to the highest bidder, and Rolle's replacement was already on the roster. Or so we thought.
The trade for Rhodes showed that while the Cardinals may have been dealt a blow, they were ready to come back swinging. Because of the Boldin trade they were able to add a player who is arguably better than the one he replaced. Do that once, maybe it's luck. Keep on doing it, and it becomes how the team does business. Not forking out too much cash to keep Rolle and Dansby shows there is no panic in the organization.
That, of course, comes from the head coach Ken Whisenhunt, who recently became the first head coach since the team moved to Arizona to get a contract extension. While many were worried the team would not get a deal done, the Cardinals went out and locked up the man most responsible for the team's turnaround.
Not overpaying for talent, being prepared to replace departing players, trading guys - no matter how great they once were - at the right time and rewarding a head coach who has brought the franchise to new heights? That's how good teams do it, and that's how it is being done with the Cardinals.
Welcome to the NFL, Arizona.