2013 NFL Offseason: Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals (Last Year: 5-11)

2013 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
QB Carson Palmer, QB Drew Stanton, RB Rashard Mendenhall, G Chilo Rachal, DE Frostee Rucker, DE Matt Shaughnessy, DE/OLB QUentin Groves, ILB Karlos Dansby, ILB Jasper Brinkley, CB Antoine Cason, CB Javier Arenas, CB Jerraud Powers, S Yeremiah Bell.
Early Draft Picks:
G Jonathan Cooper, ILB Kevin Minter, S Tyrann Mathieu, DE/OLB Alex Okafor, G Earl Watford, RB Stepfan Taylor, WR Ryan Swope, RB Andre Ellington. Cardinals Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
QB Kevin Kolb, QB John Skelton, QB Brian Hoyer, RB Chris Wells, RB LaRod Stephens-Howling, FB Anthony Sherman, WR Early Doucet, G Adam Snyder, DE/DT Nick Eason, ILB Paris Lenon, ILB Stewart Bradley, CB Greg Toler, CB William Gay, CB Michael Adams, S Adrian Wilson, S Kerry Rhodes, S James Sanders.

2013 Arizona Cardinals Offense:
Larry Fitzgerald has to be a happy man right now. The future Hall of Fame receiver is coming off the worst season of his career, catching 71 passes for 798 yards and four touchdowns. He was even better as a rookie when he posted a 58-780-8 line. The problem was the quarterback situation. Kevin Kolb went down early, as many expected, and neither John Skelton nor Ryan Lindley could get the ball to him.

The Cardinals had to find a competent quarterback this offseason, and they did just that, acquiring Carson Palmer from the Raiders for a mere conditional 2014 seventh-rounder. Palmer is not the quarterback he once was – he was never the same since that Kimo von Oelhoffen hit in the playoffs following the 2005 season – but he’s still way more competent than Skelton, Lindley, or even Kolb. His 4,000 yards last year were a farce – a huge chunk of that was compiled in garbage time – but new head coach Bruce Arians recently said that Palmer is “as pretty a deep-ball thrower as I’ve ever seen.” Regardless of how much he’s declined over the years, Palmer will be able to get the ball to Fitzgerald.

Palmer also has other solid weapons to throw to. Michael Floyd, taken in the first round last April, had some bright moments in his rookie campaign, including the 14-catch, 213-yard stretch in his final two games. Things seemed to click for him at the end. Solid slot receiver Andre Roberts logged 64 catches for 759 yards and five touchdowns in 2012. Meanwhile, tight end Rob Housler is a physically talented player who will be utilized more often in Arians’ offense.

The one thing Palmer enjoyed in Oakland that he won’t have in Arizona is a running game. Chris Wells was released this offseason because he was a sluggish Big Ten plodder. However, the Cardinals apparently did not learn their lesson because they acquired another one to take Wells’ place. Rashard Mendenhall was signed because of his familiarity with Arians’ scheme, but he stinks. It won’t be a surprise if he’s overtaken almost immediately by Ryan Williams or Stepfan Taylor. Williams, chosen in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft, averaged a laughable 2.8 yards per carry last season. There’s a chance he could improve though because he admitted that he was running scared, which is understandable, given that he was coming off a torn patella tendon. Taylor was picked in the fifth round out of Stanford this April.

Arizona’s offensive line is a greater concern because of Palmer’s non-existent mobility. He’ll need to be protected well for Arians’ offense to work, and last year’s group wouldn’t have gotten the job done; Kolb, Skelton, Lindley and Brian Hoyer took a combined 58 sacks.

There are three reasons to believe Arizona’s blocking will improve, however. The first is Arizona’s seventh-overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft. Jonathan Cooper is a freak athlete who can play both guard and center. He’ll stay at left guard, with Lyle Sendlein being a solid presence at center. The right guard position will be Earl Watford’s to lose. Watford was a fourth-round pick in April.

The second reason is the return of Levi Brown, who missed all of 2012 with torn triceps. Brown can be pretty inconsistent, but he’ll be an upgrade over what Arizona had on the blind side last year. The third is right tackle Bobbie Massie. As a rookie, Massie was a train wreck in the first half of the season, surrendering a ridiculous 13 sacks between Weeks 3 and 8. However, he didn’t allow a single sack after that span, so he could be a valuable asset up front if he continues his strong play.

2013 Arizona Cardinals Defense:
Arizona’s defense was the primary reason the team started out 4-0 in 2012. The unit surrendered 15.3 points per game in the first quarter of the season despite battling the likes of Tom Brady and Russell Wilson. The Cardinal stop unit’s valiant effort was all for naught though, as significant injuries ruined its chances.

The most prominent players to get hurt were defensive ends Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell. The latter was out for three contests in the middle of the season, while the former was hobbled with a hamstring in the final three months. His play dropped off significantly after that, and he barely got any pressure on the quarterback. Dockett and Campbell are now healthy again and seem to be looking forward to Todd Bowles’ attacking scheme. The two combined for 11.5 sacks in 2011, so look for them to match, or even exceed that figure if they can both stay on the field.

Something the Cardinals need to do is get more pressure from the exterior. Outside linebacker Sam Acho is just a mediocre pass-rusher; he accumulated four sacks this past season. The injury-prone O’Brien Schofield struggled across from him, prompting the front office to spend a fourth-round pick on Texas pass-rusher Alex Okafor. The former Longhorn will battle the newly signed Lorenzo Alexander for the job.

Getting as much pressure on the quarterback is extremely important because of the status of the secondary. Cornerback Patrick Peterson is a stud, but the rest of the defensive backfield is a huge question mark. It’s so bad that Antoine Cason is slated to start across from Peterson. Cason was torched mercilessly as a Charger last year, so either Jerraud Powers or Jamell Fleming could beat him out. Powers wasn’t any good with the Colts in 2012, so Fleming could be Arizona’s only hope. Meanwhile, Javier Arenas, acquired from the Chiefs for fullback Anthony Sherman, will be a solid nickel.

The safety situation is even more dubious. Kerry Rhodes and Adrian Wilson, the team’s starters in 2012, are both gone. Yeremiah Bell and Rashad Johnson are set to take their place. Johnson barely played last year, while Bell turned 35 in March. The Cardinals used a third-rounder on Tyrann Mathieu, who could quickly make his way into the lineup.

Something the Cardinals need to worry about is Daryl Washington. A stud inside linebacker who had nine sacks in 2012, Washington was suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. He could be out much longer because of a domestic assault case. If so, Arizona will need second-round rookie Kevin Minter to step in and play alongside Karlos Dansby, who returned to the Cardinals after a 3-year hiatus in Miami. All of these inside linebackers will play behind nose tackle Dan Williams, who did a decent job of clogging up running lanes last season.

2013 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 27-16 as hosts the past five years. They were 4-4 in 2012 despite finishing 5-11 overall.

Patrick Peterson is one of the most dangerous return men in the NFL. He scored four times as a rookie in 2011. He didn’t find the end zone last season, but that was partly because teams made sure to kick it away from him. Arizona didn’t allow a special-teams score in 2012.

Jay Feely was an impressive 25-of-28 last year, including a perfect 2-of-2 from 50-plus.

Dave Zastudil is one of the top punters in the league. He was fifth in net average and first in kicks placed inside the 20 this past season.

The Cardinals have a last-place schedule, but that doesn’t matter much because they have to take on the 49ers, Seahawks and improving Rams twice each. They also have to battle the Saints, Falcons, Panthers, Colts and Texans.

2013 Arizona Cardinals Rookies:
Go here for the Cardinals Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2013 Arizona Cardinals Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2013 Arizona Cardinals Analysis: The Cardinals will be much more competitive than they were in 2012 because they’ll actually have a competent quarterback at the helm. Unfortunately, they’re not quite good enough to pose a legitimate challenge to the 49ers and Seahawks just yet. Factoring in their brutal schedule, they’ll likely win anywhere between five and eight games.

Projection: 5-11 (4th in NFC West)

2013 Fantasy Football Rankings

More 2013 NFL Season Previews

2013 NFL Draft Grade: B

Please note that the overall grade is not an average of all the individual grades. Other things are taken into account like team needs and goals.

Goals Entering the 2013 NFL Draft: At least two early picks must be spent on the offensive line. There’s no doubt about that, especially given Carson Palmer’s lack of mobility. A long-term quarterback and some pass-rushing help have to be obtained as well.

2013 NFL Draft Accomplishments: It turns out that the Cardinals were comfortable about their tackle situation after all, as they didn’t draft a single player at the position. With Levi Brown coming back and Bobby Massie playing well at the end of the year, the interior was viewed as the more dire need. Arizona addressed that with Jonathan Cooper and Earl Watford.

I’m not a fan of selecting a guard early in the first round because it’s a position that can be addressed almost anywhere. However, there’s no doubt that Cooper improves the team. Elsewhere, Kevin Minter and Alex Okafor figure to bolster the defense almost immediately.

The selection that drew the most attention was Tyrann Mathieu in the third round. Mathieu is an unbelievable play-maker who would have been chosen a round earlier if it weren’t for his off-the-field issues. Those concerns are a bit quelled, however, because Mathieu did not test positive at the Combine. If he stays clean, he’ll help Arizona defend against the read-option.

I liked Arizona’s draft class overall. The team is still a long way from being in contention for the NFC West crown, but the Cardinals are at least moving in the right direction.

2013 NFL Draft Individual Grades:

7. Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina: D Grade
Everyone points to the Saints and their stud guards as a reason why Jonathan Cooper should have been chose No. 7 overall. Well, Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks were chosen in the fourth and fifth rounds. You can find guards anywhere, making this selection incredibly stupid. The only thing that saves this from being a Millen grade is that Cooper is one of the top players available. Still, there’s no reason a guard should ever go in the top 10.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

45. Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU: B+ Grade
The Cardinals were starting Paris Lenon last year, so they absolutely had to find a complement for Daryl Washington. Kevin Minter was considered a fringe first-round prospect at one point, so Arizona is getting solid value for him in the middle of Round 2. He was not making it past Pittsburgh, so it’s good of the Cardinals to snag him off the board.

69. Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU: B Grade
Cardinal fans love this pick. Awesome Kelly in Arizona just texted me: “Welcome to Phoenix, honey badger. Lots of WOAH WOAH WOOOOOOAAHH going on here.” So, the fans are excited, but is this a good pick? I think it’s pretty solid. Mathieu is a big risk considering his past, but he’s a play-maker who will help defend the Seattle and San Francisco read-option offenses.

103. Alex Okafor, DE/OLB, Texas: A+ Grade
I love this pick. First of all, Alex Okafor is one of the top players available. He should have gone at some point in the second round, as some even thought he’d be a late first-round choice. Second, he fills a big need as a pass-rusher across from Sam Acho. Okafor, like Acho, is from Texas, so the Cardinals apparently think that’s a good sign.

116. Earl Watford, G, James Madison: C+ Grade
This is a slight reach, but the Cardinals are once again targeting a big need area. Arizona had to find two new guards in the 2013 NFL Draft. Earl Watford may be able to start sooner rather than later, but only because of the lack of talent the Cardinals have at the position.

140. Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford: A- Grade
Rashard Mendenhall and Ryan Williams aren’t exactly the most talented duo at the running back position, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Stepfan Taylor emerges as the starter at some point. He could have easily gone a round earlier than this, so I really like this pick.

174. Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M: A+ Grade
Mike Jurecki said that the Cardinals were prepared to take Marquise Goodwin on Day 2, so Arizona deserves major credit for waiting until the sixth round for an equal prospect. Swope fell because of injury concerns, but he’s still a steal for the Cardinals.

187. Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson: B+ Grade
The Cardinals weren’t kidding when they said they were going to take the best player available. Andre Ellington will be the fourth running back on the roster, but he’s a talented chance-of-pace player.

219. D.C. Jefferson, TE, Rutgers: B Grade
The Colts took two tight ends in the draft last year with Bruce Arians as the offensive coordinator, so this is no surprise. Arizona doesn’t have much beyond Rob Housler at the position.

Season Summary:
It’s hard to believe that the Cardinals were once 4-0. They looked so impressive, winning at New England and then destroying the Eagles in consecutive September games. Unfortunately, things went downhill after that, as Arizona’s once-promising 2012 campaign was capsized by injuries, terrible quarterbacking and some of the worst offensive line play this league has ever seen. Perhaps it was unfair, but Ken Whisenhunt paid the price, getting fired on Black Monday.

Offseason Moves:
  • Browns sign QB Brian Hoyer
  • Cardinals waive QB Brian Hoyer
  • Cardinals sign ILB Karlos Dansby
  • 49ers sign G Adam Snyder
  • Cardinals acquire CB Javier Arenas from Chiefs for FB Anthony Sherman
  • Cardinals cut G Adam Snyder
  • Cardinals sign G Chilo Rachal
  • Bengals claim QB John Skelton
  • Cardinals acquire QB Carson Palmer for conditional 2014 7th-rounder
  • Cardinals cut QB John Skelton
  • Bills sign QB Kevin Kolb
  • Cardinals sign S Jonathan Amaya
  • Cardinals sign DE Frostee Rucker
  • Chargers sign G Rich Ohrnberger
  • Cardinals re-sign QB Brian Hoyer
  • Cardinals sign CB Antoine Cason
  • Cardinals sign DE/DT Matt Shaughnessy
  • Patriots sign S Adrian Wilson
  • Cardinals sign ILB Jasper Brinkley
  • Cardinals cut QB Kevin Kolb
  • Cardinals cut S Kerry Rhodes
  • Cardinals sign S Yeremiah Bell
  • Cardinals sign CB Jerraud Powers
  • Cardinals sign QB Drew Stanton
  • Cardinals sign DE/OLB Lorenzo Alexander
  • Cardinals sign RB Rashard Mendenhall
  • Broncos sign ILB Stewart Bradley
  • Browns sign DE/OLB Quentin Groves
  • Colts sign CB Greg Toler
  • Cardinals cut RB Chris Wells
  • Cardinals re-sign S Rashad Johnson
  • Cardinals cut WR Early Doucet
  • Cardinals cut S Adrian Wilson
  • Cardinals cut CB William Gay
  • Cardinals cut ILB Stewart Bradley

    Team Needs:
    1. Quarterback: This is obvious. The Cardinals have started Kevin Kolb, Derek Anderson, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley, Brian Hoyer and Max Hall since Kurt Warner retired. Arizona will probably select a signal-caller fairly early in the 2013 NFL Draft. Traded for Carson Palmer; signed Drew Stanton

    2. Offensive Tackle: Levi Brown will be coming back from a triceps tear, but needed to be upgraded anyway. Nate Potter’s not the answer at left tackle either.

    3. Guard: Adam Snyder proved to be a bust free-agent signing. The Cardinals will likely give him one more year to prove himself, but they may spend a mid-round pick on some competition. Senio Kelemete, a fifth-round rookie from last year is there, but he was part of the old regime. Besides, he barely played in 2012. Drafted Jonathan Cooper and Earl Watford

    4. Two Safeties: It was apparent to the coaching staff that Adrian Wilson regressed because they no longer used him on the field on every snap. Wilson was released. Kerry Rhodes was cut as well. Signed Yeremiah Bell; drafted Tyrann Mathieu; re-signed Rashad Johnson

    5. Rush Linebacker: Arizona lacks someone who can consistently get to the quarterback. Sam Acho is just OK, while O’Brien Schofield can’t seem to stay healthy. Signed Lorenzo Alexander; Drafted Alex Okafor

    6. Inside Linebacker: Paris Lenon can’t be allowed to start again. He was awful last year. Signed Karlos Dansby and Jasper Brinkley

    7. Cornerback: Greg Toler is a free agent, but Arizona already needed someone to challenge for the starting spot across from Patrick Peterson. William Gay was cut. Signed Jerraud Powers and Antoine Cason; traded Javier Arenas

    8. Running Back: Chris Wells was cut, while Ryan Williams simply cannot stay healthy. The Cardinals need a solution at this position, so they’ll probably take a runner with a mid-round selection. Signed Rashard Mendenhall; drafted Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington

    9. Defensive End: The new front office needs to find some depth behind Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell. The old regime was caught with its pants down when Dockett and Campbell missed time last year. Signed Matt Shaughnessy and Frostee Rucker

    2013 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Karlos Dansby, ILB, Dolphins. Age: 31.
      Signed with Cardinals (1 year)

      The Dolphins went younger when they made a very minor upgrade by replacing Karlos Dansby with Dannell Ellerbe. Dansby is a very strong run defender who can still play all three downs. Unfortunately, he’ll turn 32 in November.

    2. Yeremiah Bell, S, Jets. Age: 35.
      Signed with Cardinals

      Yeremiah Bell had a surprisingly decent year for the Jets, but he’ll be 35 in March.

    3. Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Steelers. Age: 26.
      Signed with Cardinals (1 year)

      An injury-prone Big Ten plodder with some talent, but not enough to make him very appealing.

    4. Jerraud Powers, CB, Colts. Age: 26.
      Signed with Cardinals

      Jerraud Powers is young and has potential, but he’s inconsistent and injury-prone. He hasn’t played more than 12 games in any season.

    5. Antoine Cason, CB, Chargers. Age: 27.
      Signed with Cardinals (1 year)

      Antoine Cason was torched on a weekly basis this past season. The former first-round pick is still young enough to turn his career around, but time is running out.

    6. Frostee Rucker, DE, Browns. Age: 29. — Signed with Cardinals
    7. Lorenzo Alexander, DE/OLB, Redskins. Age: 30. — Signed with Cardinals (3 years)
    8. Matt Shaughnessy, DE, Raiders. Age: 26. — Signed with Cardinals (1 year)
    9. Jasper Brinkley, ILB, Vikings. Age: 28. — Signed with Cardinals (2 years)
    10. Drew Stanton, QB, Colts. Age: 29. — Signed with Cardinals (3 years)
    11. Jonathon Amaya (RFA), S, Dolphins. Age: 24. — Signed with Cardinals
    12. Chilo Rachal, G, Bears. Age: 27. — Signed with Cardinals

    Arizona Cardinals Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Kerry Rhodes, S, Cardinals. Age: 31.
      Kerry Rhodes has had an up-and-down career, and it was definitely up last year. Rhodes was great in 2012 in all facets of the game. Unfortunately for him, he’ll be 31 in August, so his best days are behind him.

    2. Kevin Kolb, QB, Cardinals. Age: 29.
      Signed with Bills

      Kevin Kolb hasn’t been officially released, but the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports that it’ll happen in the next couple of days. Kolb is a borderline starter for a team. He can be effective when on the field, as we saw when he threw eight touchdowns to just three picks in 2012, leading Arizona to a surprising 4-1 record to kick off the year. However, Kolb is very brittle. He’s been injured every single season in which he was supposed to be the starter.

    3. Adrian Wilson, S, Cardinals. Age: 33.
      Signed with Patriots

      Adrian Wilson is a former Pro Bowler, but he didn’t play very well in 2012. In fact, he was demoted out of nickel packages. His starting days could be over.

    4. Greg Toler, CB, Cardinals. Age: 28.
      Signed with Colts

      Greg Toler is a solid reserve cornerback who can start occasionally without killing a team. He played well at the end of the 2012 season.

    5. La’Rod Stephens-Howling, RB/KR, Cardinals. Age: 26.
      La’Rod Stephens-Howling is far from a starting running back in the NFL, but he can serve as an OK third-down back while contributing as a return specialist.

    6. William Gay, CB, Cardinals. Age: 28.
      Signed with Steelers

      William Gay played well in 2011, but was torched consistently this past season. Gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that) is just 28, so he could turn his career around. The Cardinals had no choice but to cut him, however, given that he was due $3.2 million in 2013.

    7. Chris Wells, RB, Cardinals. Age: 25.
      One of many Big Ten plodders on the market, Chris Wells is injury-prone and unreliable. He also can’t contribute on third downs. He’d be good in a goal-line role only.

    8. Quentin Groves, DE/OLB, Cardinals. Age: 29. — Signed with Browns (2 years, $2.8 million)
    9. Paris Lenon, ILB, Cardinals. Age: 35.
    10. Rashad Johnson, S, Cardinals. Age: 27. — Re-signed with Cardinals (3 years)
    11. Brian Hoyer, QB, Cardinals. Age: 27. — Signed with Browns (2 years)
    12. Nick Eason, DE/DT, Cardinals. Age: 33.
    13. James Sanders, S, Cardinals. Age: 28.
    14. Rich Ohrnberger (RFA), G/C, Cardinals. Age: 27. — Signed with Chargers
    15. Michael Adams, CB, Cardinals. Age: 28.
    16. Stewart Bradley, ILB, Cardinals. Age: 29. — Signed with Broncos (1 year)
    17. Early Doucet, WR, Cardinals. Age: 27.
    18. Adam Snyder, G, Cardinals. Age: 31. — Signed with 49ers
    19. John Skelton, QB, Cardinals. Age: 25. — Claimed by Bengals
    20. D’Anthony Batiste, OT, Cardinals. Age: 31.
    21. Pat McQuistan, OT, Cardinals. Age: 30.
    22. Vonnie Holliday, DE/DT, Cardinals. Age: 37.

    2013 NFL Free Agent Positions:
    QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades

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