Last offseason, the Arizona Cardinals’ biggest free agent acquisition — in both financial commitment and size — was left tackle Jared Veldheer.
The 6-foot-8, 321-pound former Oakland Raider inked a five-year, $35 million contract (with a $6.25 million signing bonus and a total of $10.5 million guaranteed) with the Cardinals, and went on to solidify one of the most important positions on the field for his new team.
This offseason, the team made another big splash — financially and literally — by adding guard Mike Iupati, who is listed at 6-foot-5 and 331 pounds.
Formerly of the San Francisco 49ers, Iupati’s contract is a five-year deal worth a reported $40 million, with incentives that could boost it to $41 million and $22.5 million guaranteed.
The three-time Pro Bowl selection will likely line up to Veldheer’s right on the offensive line, giving the Cardinals a pretty good combination on that side of the field.
“I was shocked right away to see that we were able to get Mike Iupati,” Veldheer told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Friday. “A guy that’s been to that many Pro Bowls. He’s a good player; it’s kind of bizarre that a guy like that escapes the team that he’s on, especially going into a second deal, but I guess I can relate a little bit to that.
“But it’s awesome. Having a guy like that come in and play next to you, just from watching tape on him during the last few years I’ve seen the kind of mauler he is in the run game. One of the things he’s awesome at in the pass-protection game is snapping off those D-tackles on the twist, which tackles love when you’ve got a guard that can snap off a D-tackle.”
ProFootballFocus ranked Iupati as the NFL’s second-best run blocking guard in 2014, and 14th-best guard overall. The same site ranked Veldheer as the 14th-best run-blocking tackle, 11th-best pass-blocking tackle, placing him ninth overall.
Veldheer won’t be the first quality left tackle Iupati has lined up with, as he spent the last five years next to Joe Staley, who himself has been to four Pro Bowls.
“I’m really excited,” Iupati said of playing with Veldheer. “I’m going to miss Joe Staley. That’s honest, but I’m excited to play with Veldheer and just start a new era or a new journey with him. It will be fun.”