The lockout is over and now it’s time for the Cardinals to get to work.
The roster is far from complete, with holes that need filling and players that need to be re-signed. Everyone knows that the quarterback position is the major concern, but what are the most pressing needs outside of that? ArizonaSports.com breaks it down for you.
Mercifully it’s over. And yet, now it’s just begun. What do the Cardinals do now?
My colleague and radio brother Ron Wolfley provided a very detailed, player-specific to-do list for the Cardinals once the green flag goes up on the abbreviated off season. I won’t try to mimic his approach or argue his conclusions.
Instead I’ll go macro, not micro. Big picture, what do the Cardinals need to do now that the lockout is over?
Be bold but not stupid
It feels like months ago….maybe it was months ago when I suggested that the bold move – the move that Jerry Colangelo would have made – was to trade for Kevin Kolb. I still believe that, but I also believe there are limits. If the Cardinals get into a bidding war for Kolb’s services, with Seattle for example, and the price quickly balloons to sticker shock type levels, Ken Whisenhunt and Rod Graves need to have the guts to hit the eject button and the wherewithal to have a Plan B. And C. And D.
Burn the midnight (eastern standard time) oil
On, let’s assume 12:00 EST, of the very first day you’re allowed, call Larry Fitzgerald. Make him feel the love. Share your vision of the 2011 season. Start negotiations with his agent right away. Be certain he knows his value to the organization and leave no room for interpretation.
Buy more than you need
You ever hosted a party but run out of beer? I never have either because I always buy more than I need just in case best friend Scott brings his wife who has family in from out of town and they’ve been out golfing all day in the hot sun. I’d rather have too much at the end of the day than run out. The Cardinals should take this same approach in particular at the linebacker and offensive line position. Whether it’s resigning your own or poaching from others, less is not more in this case. More is more. Get as many as you can so you have options.
Clear up the confusion
You got a lot of running backs on that roster. Can’t wait to find out why and what’s next.
Anyone who thinks the Cardinals’ problems start and end with the quarterback position is kidding themselves more than the 40-year-old guy who buys a Porsche in hopes it detracts from the fact that he’s balding. They have a lot of holes to fill and a very short time to do it in. That’s why I’ve put together this simple to shopping list for Ken Whisenhunt and Rod Graves.
1) Buy Some Beef
The first thing the Cardinals need to address when the meat market that will be NFL free agency begins is buy some beef. With guard Alan Faneca retiring and center Lyle Sendlein being a free agent, an already porous offensive line is now extremely thin.
If they don’t sign a few quality big bodies to play up front, it won’t matter who the quarterback is. He’ll spend most of his time flat on his back.
2) Restock From Within
Thanks to the lockout costing valuable time for players to work out with clubs, teams who have players familiar with their systems will have a leg up.
That’s why re-signing guys like the aforementioned Sendlein and wide receiver Steve Breaston is paramount for the Cardinals. Keeping as many guys not named Derek Anderson or Max Hall on the roster from last year will likely benefit them, especially early on.
3) Find A Pass Rush
It’s easier said than done, but the Cardinals need to find a pass rush via free agency. In 2010 they had 33 sacks which ranked in the middle of the pack in the NFL. That will have to improve if they want to return back to the playoffs.
4) Make A Splash
The biggest thing the Cardinals need to do is make a splash. Regardless of who they add at quarterback or various other positions with over $37 million to spend, they need to make some waves. After a 5-11 season the fans need to know they’re serious about being a contender again.
I was asked, “Now that the lock-out is over, what must the Cardinals do to compete for an NFC West Title?”
The first thing they have to do is wake-up. The NFC West is again the weakest division in the NFL. The team who trades for the most coffee has the best chance of winning. If the Cardinals can drink coffee and drive safe to work, they have a chance to win the division.
If the question was, “What must the Cardinals do to be a good team?” then that’s a tougher question.
1) Get a QB. That was highly paid analysis from a trained professional. Please don’t try to do this at home.
2) Make sure that QB doesn’t pull a Plummer and go to any mountain cabins after he’s traded.
3) Immediately sign any available free agent offensive lineman to challenge the current roster or pray the players on the O-Line get better.
So many people like to rip Russ Grimm thinking he must be a bad coach since the O-Line isn’t NFL caliber. I look at it the exact opposite. I think this O-Line proves Grimm is a great coach because it’s made up of one lazy player with 1st string talent, one hard-nosed gutsy player with only 2nd string talent, two old players hanging on for dear life and one player with no talent, no heart and no reason to be here. Any coach that can even gain a yard behind that line should be assistant coach of the year.
4) Challenge Darnell Dockett to do more than he’s ever done.
The lockout was a killer for the defensive coaching staff. You have a new system and no OTA’s or training camps to install it. There will be big things expected of three very young players–Patrick Peterson, Darryl Washington, and Dan Williams–without an off-season to be immersed in the scheme. Dockett will play a huge roll off the field in demanding classroom work while showing he can be a dominant force at all times on the field. This is a no excuse season for Dockett.
While all the talk has centered around who the Cardinals must add to the team, the focus could just as easily be on who they will be able to prevent from leaving.
Deuce Lutui, Lyle Sendlein and Steve Breaston are all starters who could go elsewhere, and Alan Branch, who came on strong last season, could also find a new home.
The team could maybe afford to part with Breaston, especially with the emergence of Andre Roberts, and would be losing a talented-yet-inconsistent player in Branch if he departs, but if one — or both — of the linemen leave it won’t matter who the Cardinals get to play QB because the guy will be spending most of the season on his back (or on the sideline in a sling).