NFL insider: Cardinals receive a ‘C’ grade for free agency

Apr 2, 2013, 1:44 AM | Updated: 1:59 am

It’s safe to say in his first off-season as general manager, Steve Keim has been a very busy man. Coming off a disappointing 5-11 campaign, the Arizona Cardinals needed to address several pressing needs in free agency, and on the surface it seems they’ve done just that.

To date, the Cardinals have signed 10 free agents (Antoine Cason, Rashard Mendenhall, Drew Stanton, Jerraud Powers, Jonathon Amaya, Matt Shaughnessy, Frostee Rucker, Jasper Brinkley, Yeremiah Bell and Lorenzo Alexander) and re-signed two of their own (Brian Hoyer and Rashad Johnson).

Although Arizona has made a concerted effort to make smart, short-term deals — no player signed a contract longer than three years — not everyone is all that impressed with the work Keim has done thus far.

In an column Monday, NFL insider Matt Williamson graded every NFC team’s free-agency pick-ups, and the Cardinals didn’t exactly pass with flying colors.

Williamson slapped a ‘C’ grade on Keim and Co., and only five teams in the conference finished lower in the rankings.

Through free agency, the Cardinals are better at cornerback and running back and maybe even quarterback (could they be worse?) than a year ago. But their offensive line needs serious work and now they are deficient at safety. Arizona, with a new staff in place, is looking at the big picture, got out of some tough contracts and will build through the draft to get its type of players in place.

While Williamson didn’t take a huge liking to Arizona’s low-risk, high-reward moves, he does admit that the team could potentially get decent value out of Cason, Powers, Mendenhall and Stanton.

Cason could flourish opposite Patrick Peterson and is sure to see a lot of passes thrown his way, and Powers should be a high-end nickel corner. Bruce Arians is very familiar with Mendenhall and should maximize his impressive abilities, and Stanton has never had a legitimate opportunity to show what he can do as a starting NFL QB. His skill set matches what Arians looks for at the position.

The Cardinals might not have hit a home run yet this off-season, but in order to compete in a division like the NFC West, it appears that Keim realizes that he must first hit singles and doubles.

Apparently that approach isn’t for everyone.

Frostee Rucker, DE
The 29-year-old defensive lineman spent a majority of his career with the Cincinnati Bengals, seeing limited playing time. Rucker was placed on injured reserve his rookie season in 2006 and only played a total of 37 games over his next four seasons. Rucker played in all 16 games in 2011, tallying 44 tackles and four sacks. The 6-foot-3, 280-pound lineman signed with the Cleveland Browns in 2012 and started all 16 games for the first time, recording 48 tackles, four sacks and a forced fumble. Rucker finished 3rd on the Browns in sacks and 10th in tackles last season. Matt Shaughnessy, DEThe 26-year-old defensive end comes to Arizona off a season in which he tallied 31 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 16 games for the Raiders. His best season came in 2010 where he had 43 total tackles with seven sacks and two forced fumbles. Yeremiah Bell, S
The Cardinals added the 35-year-old on a one-year deal. Bell comes to Arizona after recording 103 combined tackles in 2012 with the Jets. For his career, Bell has totaled 651 tackles, 12 sacks and six interceptions. He was an AFC Pro Bowl selection in 2009. Jerraud Powers, CB
Powers, 25, recorded 33 tackles and one interception last year with the Colts. He's played well when he's actually played, as he's yet to appear in more than 12 games in a season. Powers is another player that was a member of the Colts with Arians last season. Lorenzo Alexander, LB
The linebacker from Washington adds veteran leadership into the mix with the Cardinals young talent. The 2012 Pro-Bowler is a special teams monster, racking up 87 career tackles. Alexander saw some playing time as a backup inside linebacker for London Fletcher and Perry Riley in 2012, but expects to battle for a starting position with the Cardinals. The 29-year-old has played in all 16 games for the past four seasons. Jasper Brinkley, LBThe linebacker position received an upgrade with the addition of Brinkley from Minnesota. The 27-year-old recorded 117 combined tackles with three forced fumbles in 16 games in 2012. Rashard Mendenhall, RB
The Cardinals added the services of the 225-pound back after the release of Beanie Wells. Mendenhall experienced his greatest success when Arians was in Pittsburgh as the offensive coordinator, averaging over 1,000 yards per season with 29 total touchdowns from 2009 to 2011. In 2012, Mendenhall returned from a torn ACL injury that dropped him on the Steelers depth chart, resulting in only 51 carries in six games for 182 yards and no touchdowns. Antoine Cason, CB
The ex-San Diego Charger has played in every game since his rookie season in 2008, racking up a career-best 62 tackles, with two interceptions and two forced fumbles in 2012. Cason is a former first round pick by the Chargers and a University of Arizona graduate. Cason's 6-foot-1, 195 pound frame adds size to the Cardinals secondary. Drew Stanton, QB
The rumors of Stanton following new Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians to Arizona became a reality just two days prior to the release of quarterback Kevin Kolb. The 28-year-old quarterback signed a three-year contract with the Cardinals and is coming in with the mindset that he will be the Week 1 starter. Stanton received 12 starts from 2008-2010 with the Detroit Lions, completing 55.6% of his passes for 1,158 yards, five touchdowns and nine interceptions.

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