Five positions the Cardinals need to address
The Cardinals went above and beyond their expectations in the 2013 season, finishing with a 10-6 record and just barely missing out on the playoffs. First-year general manager Steve Keim did a fantastic job of turning a team with not a lot of talent into a team that is ready to win now. Still, there are a few holes in the club. Here are five positions that the Cardinals need to address this offseason:
1. Left Tackle
The Cardinals need a left tackle in the worst way. Levi Brown opened the year as the starting left tackle, but he played so poorly that Keim and company shipped him off to Pittsburgh for essentially nothing. Bradley Sowell started at left tackle following Brown’s departure, however, he was not an upgrade in any way. According to Pro Football Focus, Sowell rated dead last out of 75 tackles. Carson Palmer was running for his life due to poor pass protection, and threw way too many interceptions because of it. This needs to change, and fast.
2. Strong Safety
Last offseason, the Cardinals released long-time strong safety Adrian Wilson. While Wilson was a fan favorite and one of the greatest players the organization had ever seen, it was the right move, due to Wilson’s declining play and upcoming paycheck. The team signed veteran Yeremiah Bell as his replacement, and he struggled mightily. The Cardinals defense gave up way too many touchdowns to tight ends, mostly due to Bell’s poor coverage skills. Luckily, Bell was only signed to a one-year deal, so Bell will most likely not be with the team next year and Arizona can look to the draft and free agency for other options.
3. Tight End
The Cardinals franchise has yet to see a great tight end in their history. The team drafted Rob Housler in the third round of the 2011 draft, and although he occasionally shows flashes of what the Cards thought they were drafting, Housler’s career has been plagued with dropped passes and wrong routes. The team signed Jake Ballard in the middle of this season, and he played very well. He blocked as well as a tight end can be asked to, and also caught two touchdown passes. However, Ballard is a restricted free agent this offseason. Look for the team to try to solve the tight end position early in the draft.
Patrick Peterson is a shutdown cornerback and one of the superstars of the NFL. There is no denying that. However, it is the second cornerback position that could use an upgrade. The team signed Jerraud Powers to a three-year deal last offseason, but he was a liability at times in coverage. In a perfect world, the Cardinals would sign Alterraun Verner and have a secondary that would rival Seattle’s for the best in the league. But in the likely case that his price tag is too high, Arizona could look early in the draft for a second cornerback.
If you would have told me that Carson Palmer would be the starter for the 2014 Arizona Cardinals after the first seven weeks of the season, I would have called you crazy. But, in the last nine games, Palmer really improved, and he played well enough to lead the Cards to 10-6 and sniff the playoffs. However, he is 34, and only has a couple of years left on his contract. Unless Bruce Arians sees backup quarterbacks Drew Stanton or Ryan Lindley as the future of the franchise, the Cardinals need to look to the draft to find Palmer’s successor.
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Sports-Kings Down and Distance contributor Dylan Veltkamp @DylanVeltkampSK