DC Ray Horton, QB Kevin Kolb, TE Todd Heap, TE Jeff King, G Pork Chop Womack, G Daryn Colledge, DE/DT Vonnie Holliday, DE/DT Nick Eason, ILB Stewart Bradley, CB Richard Marshall.
Early Draft Picks:
CB Patrick Peterson, RB Ryan Williams, TE Rob Housler, DE/OLB Sam Acho, FB Anthony Sherman, ILB Quan Sturdivant.
DC Bill Davis, QB Derek Anderson, RB Tim Hightower, WR Steve Breaston, TE Ben Patrick, DT Alan Branch, NT Gabe Watson, ILB Gerald Hayes, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
2011 Arizona Cardinals Offense:
Last year was a disaster for this offense. Whether it was Derek Anderson's intoxication, Max Hall's physical limitations or John Skelton's inexperience, the Cardinals struggled to find the end zone the entire season, scoring 18 points or fewer on 10 occasions. It's safe to say that Kurt Warner was missed.
Understandably frustrated about the direction of the franchise, Larry Fitzgerald threatened to leave the Cardinals if they didn't upgrade the team, mainly at the quarterback position. Fitzgerald's signal-caller of choice was Kevin Kolb, whom he worked out with on several occasions during the summer. Though the Eagles had Arizona by the balls considering Fitzgerald's demands, the Cardinals came away with a steal, landing Kolb for merely a second-round pick and a cornerback who struggled last year in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
Kolb doesn't have much experience, but he has the talent to be a franchise quarterback. Most want to look at his first-ever appearance against the Ravens in 2008 (an unfair position for Kolb, who didn't get any reps during the week and had to battle one of the NFL's top defenses) or his first-half struggles versus Green Bay in the opener, but he was 23-of-29 for 326 yards, three touchdowns and an interception against eventual NFC No. 1 seed Atlanta in Week 6 last year.
Kolb has been lighting it up in training camp, as he and Fitzgerald have predictably gelled quickly. Whether that will continue during actual games remains to be seen, but nevertheless, Kolb is a huge upgrade over what Arizona had at the position last season, even if he struggles a bit.
The Cardinals signed Todd Heap this offseason, giving Kolb a solid intermediate target to work with - as long as Heap stays healthy of course. Steve Breaston is gone, but that's fine because his knees are shot anyway. Andre Roberts is the new No. 2 wideout. Most don't know his name, but Roberts caught five passes for 110 yards and a touchdown in the penultimate game of his rookie campaign. Roberts was a talented receiving prospect coming out of the Citadel, and he could be a fantasy surprise this season.
One player who will have to step up is Chris Wells. A first-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, Wells disappointed by averaging 3.4 yards per carry last year after maintaining a 4.5 YPC in 2009. Wells struggled through injuries and was hampered by poor quarterbacking, so there's a good chance that he'll have a bounce-back 2011 campaign. Second-round rookie Ryan Williams will handle the third-down work.
With the quarterback position shored up, Arizona's greatest offensive weakness is the blocking up front. The unit was terrible last year, allowing 50 sacks, which was the fourth-highest in the NFL (Bears, 60; Eagles, 52; Steelers, 52). The Cardinals brought in free-agent guards Daryn Colledge and Pork Chop Womack, both of whom aren't very good. They both figure to start unless "Double" Deuce Lutui loses all the weight he gained this offseason (he reported to camp at 400 pounds).
The tackle positions are even worse. Manning the blind side, Levi Brown surrendered 10 sacks in 2010 after giving up nine the year before. Right tackle Brandon Keith permitted six sacks in nine starts. Luckily, Arizona has some stability at one position; center Lyle Sendlein was pretty good last season, and earned a well-deserved 5-year contract after the lockout was lifted.
2011 Arizona Cardinals Defense:
It's rare that a team can lose its No. 1 cornerback and still improve its secondary. The Cardinals managed to do that, as they could afford to ship out Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie after spending the No. 5 overall selection on Patrick Peterson. Peterson projects as the next shutdown corner, and will instantly present an upgrade over Rodgers-Cromartie, who didn't show any interest in tackling last season.
Peterson will play across from Greg Toler, a pretty marginal starting corner, and safeties Kerry Rhodes and Adrian Wilson. Rhodes has really regressed over the years once he stopped taking football seriously, which is a shame. Wilson, meanwhile, is a Pro Bowl-caliber strong safety, but is coming off a down year because he was playing with a torn abductor muscle. Wilson figured to rebound in 2011, but tore his biceps in training camp. He may play through the injury, but he'll be a far cry from 100 percent.
The Cardinals also brought in Richard Marshall to compete for a starting cornerback job, but Marshall struggled with the Panthers last year. Perhaps he'd do better with an improved pass rush supporting him, but Arizona won't be able to provide that. The Cardinals mustered 33 sacks in 2010, good for 20th in the NFL. No player had more than five sacks excluding Calais Campbell, who finished with six.
Looking at the depth chart, it's easy to see why Arizona can't get to the quarterback. Its starting rush linebackers, Joey Porter and Clark Haggans, are both 34. The only hope is second-year O'Brien Schofield, a talented prospect out of Wisconsin who tore his ACL prior to the 2010 NFL Draft. Rookie Sam Acho figures to be too raw to be in the mix.
The Cardinals are pretty strong in the interior of their defense. Campbell, Darnell Dockett and Dan Williams combine for a pretty formidable defensive front, though the latter reported to training camp overweight and out of shape. Campbell and Dockett do a good job of generating some pass rush, while Williams stuffed the run very effectively as a rookie last year.
Outside of Peterson, the star of Arizona's defense figures to be inside linebacker Daryl Washington, who is coming off a very promising rookie campaign. He'll play next to newly signed Stewart Bradley, who hasn't been the same player since tearing his ACL a couple of years ago. However, Bradley won't be asked to do as much in Arizona's defense as he did with the Eagles; he'll be a two-down run-defender next to Washington.
2011 Arizona Cardinals Schedule and Intangibles:
Something that was apparent during Arizona's postseason run in 2008 was the homefield advantage the team unceremoniously established. Including the playoffs, the Cardinals are 23-12 as hosts the past four years. They were even a relatively decent 4-4 last season.
LaRod Stephens-Howling is a really good kick-returner; he's scored three times in the past two years, including twice in 2010. He averaged 27.2 yards per attempt, which is an impressive figure.
Jay Feely replaced Neil Rackers last year, and performed better than expected. He drilled 24-of-27 attempts, including 2-of-3 from 50-plus.
Punter Ben Graham didn't do too well in 2010, maintaining a mediocre 43.4 average with 29-of-94 attempts inside the 20.
Playing in the NFC West with a last-place schedule, the Cardinals have their share of easy opponents. In addition to the 49ers and Seahawks twice, they also get the Panthers, Redskins, Vikings, Browns and Bengals.
2011 Arizona Cardinals Analysis: The Cardinals still have major holes on their roster, particularly on the offensive line and at rush linebacker, but they're going to be much better than they were in 2010. Kevin Kolb gives them much-needed stability and leadership at the quarterback position. He obviously won't be as good as Kurt Warner, but thanks to an easy schedule and a terrible NFC West, the Cardinals have a legitimate chance to quality for the playoffs.
Once again, I'm not going to penalize the Cardinals for passing on a quarterback at No. 5. Taking Blaine Gabbert probably would have led to Larry Fitzgerald's exodus, which would have been a nightmare for all the fans, the front office and the owner. Fitzgerald wants a veteran quarterback, so he's getting a veteran quarterback.
Even with that in mind, I'm not a fan of Arizona's 2011 NFL Draft. I really thought the Cardinals had to address the offensive front, and yet they didn't spend a single selection to improve it. Instead of grabbing a luxury running back or an early tight end, why not select a Ben Ijalana or John Moffitt? Whether the next quarterback is Kevin Kolb or Marc Bulger, he's going to have a very difficult time behind a pedestrian offensive line.
Arizona made some nice Day 3 selections, but the team still figures to struggle mightily in 2011.
Overall 2011 NFL Draft Grade given on 5/1/11: C
2011 NFL Draft Individual Grades:
5. Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
This grade is pretty simple. The Cardinals need corner help, and Patrick Peterson is arguably the top prospect in this draft. He has Charles Woodson-type upside.
I'm not penalizing the Cardinals for not taking the quarterback because they have a veteran regime that has to win now. (Pick Grade: A)
38. Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech
This is a pretty weird pick. Ryan Williams is a talented prospect, but why are the Cardinals selecting a running back this early? Have they given up on Chris Wells? Wells has had his fair share of issues, but maybe the offensive line and poor quarterback play is to blame. (Pick Grade: C)
69. Rob Housler, TE, Florida Atlantic
I'm not crazy about this selection either. Rob Housler fills a need for the Cardinals, but this is pretty early for him, as none of the major scouting services had him in the top 100. (Pick Grade: C)
103. Sam Acho, DE/OLB, Texas
I love this pick. The Cardinals really needed to address their pass rush, and Sam Acho could have easily gone in Round 2. (Pick Grade: A)
136. Anthony Sherman, FB, Connecticut
I didn't think the Cardinals had to take a new running back to improve their ground attack. I felt like they needed a fullback and upgrades on the offensive line. Anthony Sherman satisfies the former, but I think this is a bit too early for him. (Pick Grade: C)
171. Quan Sturdivant, ILB, North Carolina
Major value. Quan Sturdivant could have easily gone in the third round. He also fills a need next to Daryl Washington; Paris Lenon can be upgraded. (Pick Grade: A)
184. David Carter, DE/DT, UCLA
David Carter will provide some defensive line depth. This is the right range for Carter, so this is a decent pick. (Pick Grade: B)
249. DeMarco Sampson, WR, San Diego State
DeMarco Sampson is a receiver with upside who could eventually develop into a starter. This is a solid final selection for Arizona. (Pick Grade: B)
The difference between a Hall of Famer, and a drunken quarterback and two raw signal-callers? The Cardinals went from a Super Bowl contender to a five-win team in the wake of Kurt Warner's retirement. Now, they have to start all over.
Cardinals re-sign S Matt Ware
Giants sign NT Gabe Watson
Panthers sign QB Derek Anderson
Giants sign TE Ben Patrick
Redskins acquire RB Tim Hightower from Cardinals for DE/DT Vonnie Holliday and conditional late-round pick
Cardinals sign TE Todd Heap
Cardinals re-sign G Deuce Lutui
Cardinals sign G Pork Chop Womack
Cardinals sign CB Richard Marshall
Cardinals re-sign CB Michael Adams
Cardinals sign ILB Stewart Bradley
Cardinals re-sign TE Stephen Spach
Cardinals sign WR Chansi Stuckey
Cardinals re-sign S Hamza Abdullah
Seahawks sign DT Alan Branch
Cardinals re-sign C Lyle Sendlein
Cardinals sign DE/DT Nick Eason
Cardinals acquire QB Kevin Kolb from Eagles for CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and 2nd-round pick
Cardinals sign G Daryn Colledge
Chiefs sign WR Steve Breaston
Cardinals sign TE Jeff King
Cardinals re-sign P Ben Graham
Cardinals cut QB Derek Anderson
Cardinals cut ILB Gerald Hayes
Cardinals announce retirement of G Alan Faneca
Cardinals sign C Kris O'Dowd
Cardinals hire DC Ray Horton
Quarterback: Is John Skelton the guy? If not, the Cardinals may draft a quarterback (Blaine Gabbert) at No. 5. If Ken Whisenhunt believes Skelton can eventually be Arizona's franchise quarterback, he'll sign a veteran (Marc Bulger, Donovan McNabb) to play until Skelton is ready. Traded for Kevin Kolb
Left Tackle: Levi Brown was probably the worst offensive lineman in the NFL this season. As a Penn State grad, I hang my head in shame. Nate Solder and Demarcus Love will be options in Round 2.
Two Rush Linebackers: Joey Porter and Clark Haggans really embarrassed themselves this year, combining for just 10 sacks and struggling in run support. O'Brien Schofield is a promising prospect, but the Cardinals need two new pass-rushers. They can begin by taking Robert Quinn at No. 5 overall in the 2011 NFL Draft. Drafted Sam Acho
Left Guard: Alan Faneca was awful in 2010 and will be heading for retirement. There will be numerous guard options available in the middle rounds. Signed Daryn Colledge and Pork Chop Womack
Right Tackle: The platoon of Brandon Keith and Jeremy Bridges was very ineffective. Though they looked great compared to Levi Brown, an upgrade is still desperately needed.
Inside Linebacker: Paris Lenon should not be starting in the NFL. Help is needed next to Daryl Washington. Signed Stewart Bradley; drafted Quan Sturdivant
Cornerback: Some cornerback depth wouldn't hurt just in case Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie sucks again next year. Drafted Patrick Peterson; signed Richard Marshall
Free Safety: Kerry Rhodes is physically talented, but shows no interest in run support. Arizona can get by with Rhodes as a starter next year, but an upgrade wouldn't hurt.
Fullback: The Cardinals need some help at fullback to open up their running game. Drafted Anthony Sherman
2011 NFL Free Agent Signings:
Stewart Bradley, ILB, Eagles. Age: 27. Signed with Cardinals
Stewart Bradley really struggled in coverage this past season, but that's understandable because he was only a year removed from ACL surgery. He'll move to strongside linebacker in 2011, assuming he re-signs with the team.
Richard Marshall, CB, Panthers. Age: 26. Signed with Cardinals
Richard Marshall whined about not receiving a long-term extension this past offseason. He subsequently struggled throughout the 2010 season, though some of that blame falls on Carolina's lacking pass rush.
Todd Heap, TE, Ravens. Age: 31. Signed with Cardinals (2 years)
Todd Heap could be brought back to Baltimore at a cheaper price, but he's obviously a declining player who will only lose time to Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta despite the fact that he hauled in 10 receptions in a victory over Kansas City in the playoffs.
Daryn Colledge, G, Packers. Age: 29. Signed with Cardinals
Daryn Colledge can be upgraded, but the Packers could do worse at left guard.
Pork Chop Womack, G, Browns. Age: 32. Signed with Cardinals
Pork Chop Womack has done an OK job at right guard for the Browns the past couple of years, but he can be upgraded.
Nick Eason, DE/DT, Steelers. Age: 31. -- Signed with Cardinals (2 years)
Kris O'Dowd, C, USC. Age: 23. -- Signed with Cardinals
Chansi Stuckey, WR, Browns. Age: 27. -- Signed with Cardinals (2 years, $3.5 million)
Jeff King, TE, Panthers. Age: 28. -- Signed with Cardinals
Arizona Cardinals Free Agents:
Salary Cap: No cap.
Lyle Sendlein, C, Cardinals. Age: 27. Re-signed with Cardinals
Arizona's best offensive lineman, Lyle Sendlein hasn't missed a start in three years. He needs to be re-signed.
Ben Graham, P, Cardinals. Age: 37. Re-signed with Cardinals
A decent punter, Ben Graham hit for a 43.4 average with nearly a third of his many attempts inside the 20.
Tim Hightower, RB, Cardinals. Age: 25. Traded to Redskins
Tim Hightower averaged 4.8 yards per carry in 2010 and caught 63 balls the year before. He's a solid third-down back.
Alan Branch, DT, Cardinals. Age: 26. Signed with Seahawks
Alan Branch offers nothing in terms of a pass rush, but can stuff the run effectively when he's motivated.
Steve Breaston, WR, Cardinals. Age: 28. Signed with Chiefs (5 years)
Steve Breaston's yardage totals the past three years: 1,006, 712 and 718. Unfortunately, he just can't stay healthy.
Deuce Lutui, G, Cardinals. Age: 28. Re-signed with Cardinals
Derek Anderson's laughing partner, Deuce Lutui and his drunken quarterback were probably making fun of their own ineptness this year. Lutui was much better in 2009, but it looks like he's going to suck again. He signed with the Bengals, but failed his physical.
Gerald Hayes, ILB, Cardinals. Age: 30.
Stephen Spach, TE, Cardinals. Age: 29. -- Re-signed with Cardinals
Early Doucet (RFA), WR, Cardinals. Age: 25.
Michael Adams, CB, Cardinals. Age: 26. -- Re-signed with Cardinals (2 years)
Brandon Keith (RFA), OT, Cardinals. Age: 26.
Derek Anderson, QB, Cardinals. Age: 28. -- Signed with Panthers
Alan Faneca, G, Cardinals. Age: 34. -- Announced retirement
Kenny Iwebema (RFA), DE, Cardinals. Age: 26.
Reggie Walker, ILB, Cardinals. Age: 24.
Bryan Robinson, DT, Cardinals. Age: 37.
Ben Patrick, TE, Cardinals. Age: 27. -- Signed with Giants
Gabe Watson, DT, Cardinals. Age: 27. -- Signed with Giants
Matt Ware, S, Cardinals. Age: 28. -- Re-signed with Cardinals
Nehemiah Broughton (RFA), FB, Cardinals. Age: 28.
Hamza Abdullah, S, Cardinals. Age: 28. -- Re-signed with Cardinals
Divisional Rival History: San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers get up for these games; they've taken six of the past eight in this rivalry. Seattle Seahawks: Arizona won six of seven prior to the 2010 season. Kurt Warner's absence hurt, as the Seahawks swpet this series. St. Louis Rams: Arizona has won eight of the past nine matchups in this series. That figures to change because of the quarterback situation of both teams.
Features to be Posted This Offseason:
2011 NFL Draft Grades (Pick-by-Pick NFL Draft Grades as well - Live on Draft Day!)
Honestly Walt, with the exception of the Malcolm Smith deal, the 49ers have done a really good job in free agency, there is nothing wrong either the Kerley or Mitchell deals. I think they were right in line for who the players are. Denver offered Mitchell a deal worth slightly less. As a diehard 49er fan, a B is more in line with the correct grade.