January 18, 2013. The Arizona Cardinals hire a brand new head coach in Bruce Arians, giving the 60 year old 2012 NFL Coach of the Year his first crack at being a full-time head coach.
April 2nd. The Cardinals made their biggest splash of the offseason, acquiring a new quarterback with a familiar name in Carson Palmer.
April 25. The Cardinals began the most important three days of the offseason by selecting North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper with the seventh pick of the draft.
But it was on July 25, 2013, that new GM Steve Keim may have made his shrewdest moves of the offseason. Not the best. Not the most important. Not the most glamorous. But on that day Keim announced the sagacious signings of veterans Eric Winston and John Abraham.
This week we put Abraham on the scales, as part five of my Cardinals: New Faces series…
|LEADERSHIP – “What he’s doing for us is just awesome, it’s amazing,” Cardinal defensive end Calais Campbell told USA Today of the sage advice Abraham has imparted to his new teammates throughout training camp. And the 14-year NFL veteran hasn’t gone all “Gandalf” on just his fellow pass rushers. He’s reportedly been there for Levi Brown, as the offensive tackle is dealing with having to compete for a starting job, and for rookie Tyrann Mathieu during his adjustment to the big leagues.||AGE – John Abraham is no longer the 16.5 sack guy of 2008. He’s 35 and will likely have to take plays off to keep him fresh. The Falcons reduced his number of snaps considerably in 2012 and chose to cut him rather than play the preservation game again in 2013. The Cardinals signed Abraham to be a starter, but one can’t help but wonder how much gas does the old man have left in the tank?|
|A KNACK FOR SACKS – John Abraham joins the Cardinals as the all-time active sack leader in the NFL. He’s brought quarterbacks to the ground 122 times in his career and he’s still going strong. Abraham led the Falcons with 10 sacks just last season, and he’s recorded at least nine sacks for five of the last six seasons. It doesn’t seem to matter how much younger the offensive linemen get that stand across from him, Abraham simply has a knack for sacks.||STANDING UP – The Falcons play a 4-3 defense. The Cardinals play a 3-4. John Abraham is accustomed to being a hand-on-the-ground defensive end. Now, he’ll be a stand up outside linebacker. Pass rushing is pass rushing, but I can’t help but believe the old dog will have to learn some new tricks this year.|
|CLASS – On March 1, John Abraham was informed he’d been released by the Atlanta Falcons. A few hours later, he was being interviewed on NFL Network. Abraham wore a Falcons hat and jacket for the interview, as a way to say thank you to the organization and the city of Atlanta for seven great years. How often have you seen a player do that? Abraham had some off-the-field trouble early in his career. In 2003, he received a DUI, and it seemed to shake him up. Four Pro Bowls and 122 sacks later, I’d say Abraham found his way.||D-WASHED UP – A great pass rusher loves having another great pass rusher on the defense. Daryl Washington was Arizona’s best pass rusher last season, but he’ll miss at least four games of the season. At 35, playing in a new system, learning new tricks, and possibly taking more plays off, Abraham will need someone else on this defense to step up and get after the quarterback. Other than Calais Campbell, I’m really not seeing anyone on the roster that could be that guy.|
|ON THE CHEAP – John Abraham isn’t the player he used to be, but for the Cardinals to land a guy for $3 million, on the first day of training camp, who recorded ten sacks in 2012 may turn out to be a very shrewd investment. After all, Jared Allen’s 12 sacks in 2012 cost the Vikings $14 million.||#53? – John Abraham doesn’t wear #53. Not my John Abraham. Where’s the Double-Nickel? Karlos Dansby isn’t giving up jersey #55 to a potential Hall-of-Famer. It just don’t seem right.|
I don’t anticipate John Abraham recording double-digit sacks for the Cardinals this season. I don’t anticipate his signing being one of the more impactful in the NFL this offseason. I certainly don’t expect the Cardinals to finish above the 49ers and Seahawks in the standings, and that we’ll credit Abraham with such a surprise finish.
But I do believe the Cardinals took some available cap space and found a guy to fit comfortably within it that can help this defense in 2013, both on and off the field.
I’ll say it again. Shrewd.