There is a considerable amount of excitement in Arizona over the Cardinals’ addition of guard Mike Iupati in free agency.
A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Iupati agreed to a five-year contract with the team that is worth a reported $40 million, with $22.5 million guaranteed.
It’s quite a paycheck for the 27-year-old left guard, but his addition should instantly improve Arizona’s league-worst rushing attack.
“You have a big, strong man that can move a pile,” NFL Network analyst Eric Davis told Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Tuesday. “If you put a body in front of him and say, ‘I want you to move that body five yards to the left and to the right,’ he can do it.”
ProFootballFocus.com graded Iupati out as the second-best run blocking guard in the NFL last season, and has had him ranked in the top 10 four of the last five years.
However, they also placed him as the 55th-best pass blocking guard. In other seasons he has been ranked 59th, 52nd, 41st and 43rd.
“Sudden movement, certain change, it can give him problems at times,” Davis said. “But this is a guy that has the athletic ability.
“Coming out of college, I thought he had the athletic ability to be a tackle. I thought he could be a right tackle for us. But you put him in the guard position, he’s so comfortable, and he’s just a massive human being.”
Listed at 6-foot-5 and 331 pounds, Iupati was a first round pick of the 49ers’ in 2010 out of Idaho. A left guard his entire career, he has started every game in which he has played.
He also helped pave the way for a very potent San Francisco rushing attack that improved from 25th in the league in 2009, before he was on the team, to 19th in 2010 and eighth in 2011 before finishing in the top four each of the last three seasons.
Obviously those totals were inflated by QB Colin Kaepernick’s ability to run with the football, but as Frank Gore can likely attest to, Iupati was integral in opening up running lanes for the team’s backs.
Davis said Iupati is one of the nicest guys that you will ever meet off of the field, but when he steps between the white lines, he becomes a different person.
“On the field, a switch flips and he likes to chew on body parts, he will gnaw through someone’s bones if they upset him,” Davis added. “He’s what an offensive lineman is supposed to be.”
Davis, who played 13 NFL seasons as a safety with the 49ers, Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos and Detroit Lions, said you want your offensive linemen to be “borderline felons.”
“Where you know what, it’s like, I like this guy but I don’t know if I really trust him with my back turned. That’s an offensive lineman,” he said. “That’s Mike Iupati.
“You’ve got a tough, hard-nosed (player), (who) will play with injuries, will play through pain, commitment and obligation that I talked about, he understands it and he wants to be the best. He’s the type of player that you add to your locker room to help make it better, to help guys understand what it is they need to do. Not a big talker; he’s a lead-by-example guy.”