Top Five Free Agent Targets For the Arizona Cardinals
It’s safe to say that the Arizona Cardinals were one of the biggest surprise teams of the 2014 season. After going 5-11 for the second time in three years, firing head coach Ken Whisenhunt and general manager Rod Graves and replacing them with Bruce Arians and Steve Keim, and cutting ties with respected veterans such as Cardinals legend Adrian Wilson and free safety Kerry Rhodes, expectations out of the gate were quite low for the Cards.
All Arizona did this season was double their win total with ten victories on the year, finish 7-2 down the stretch, and hand the Super Bowl Seattle Seahawks their first loss at home in two seasons. Arizona is now on the map, not only among teams but among players as well. With a strong nucleus of young talent, a likable head coach, and a genius at general manager, the Cardinals will be a prime destination for free agents who want to contribute to a potential championship squad.
Who will the Arizona Cardinals pursue though? Will they splurge for a big name, or continue to get their bang for their buck with discounted free agent deals? While it’s impossible to see what’s going on in Steve Keim’s head, here are five potential free agents the Cardinals could sign this offseason.
1. Branden Albert: Left Tackle, Kansas City Chiefs
Left tackle has long been a major need for an Arizona team that has failed to protect the quarterback. Last season was no different, as Levi Brown returned to his old ways before being traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers and second year left tackle Bradley Sowell proceeded to become one of the worst rated linemen in the league.
Branden Albert, who will likely be suiting up for a new team this season after the Kansas City Chiefs drafted tackle Eric Fisher with the first overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, is the perfect signing for Arizona.
He is the best pass blocking left tackle on the market, wants to contribute to a winning team, and is a proven veteran who has been a consistent force on Kansas City’s line since 2008. He would immediately upgrade the Cardinals offensive line in a major way, and would provide quarterback Carson Palmer more than enough time to make things happen with his great receiving corps.
Albert will be the biggest name they go after, and will be the biggest splash the team has made in free agency in recent memory if they do acquire his talents.
2. Alterraun Verner: Cornerback, Tennessee Titans
Another big name Arizona may end up pursuing is Tennessee Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner. Verner has been a good defensive back for four years in Tennessee, but broke out during 2013, earning second team All Pro honors in the process. He would be a major upgrade to Jerraud Power, who was a liability at times in coverage.
Some may wonder if Verner’s breakout performance has something to do with trying to get a new contract, but those who have watched him know he has been a very good cornerback for years, and his contract will be well deserved. If Arizona wants to shore up the cornerback position opposite Patrick Peterson, Verner is the way to go.
3. LeGarrette Blount: Running Back, New England Patriots
The reason Bruce Arians does not want break out running back Andre Ellington to suffer injury when taking on the punishment of a featured back. That means that Arians will have to find a back to compliment the young stud, an aggressive and powerful runner who can do all the dirty work that Arians is afraid will injure Ellington. That back is LeGarrette Blount.
Unless you’re a fan of the dynamic duo of Rashard Mendenhall/Stepfan Taylor, chances are you would appreciate this signing. Blount is as nasty as they come, absolutely demolishing defenses with his near 250 pound frame to the tune of a career 4.7 yards per carry. He would be the perfect compliment to the shifty speedster Ellington, and would eliminate the need to draft yet another running back in hopes that he can become the powerful runner Arizona has been missing since Beanie Wells went down with an injury in 2011.
4. Anthony Collins: Left Tackle, Cincinatti Bengals
If Arizona loses out on the Branden Albert sweepstakes, they still need to find a new left tackle this season. Bradley Sowell seems to have a very low ceiling and has not performed up to the level needed to be a starting left tackle, and the 2014 NFL Draft does not feature many available starting left tackles that are expected to be available at the 20th pick.
Insert Anthony Collins, who has been very good in limited time with the Cincinnatti Bengals. Collins is a starting caliber left tackle currently behind established veterans Andre Whitworth and Andre Smith, and would be the best left tackle the Cards have had in some time.
5. Ted Ginn Jr: Wide Receiver/Return Specialist, Carolina Panthers
If you know Bruce Arians, you know that his offense is centered around the deep ball. And while receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd are great deep threats, neither of them have the blazing speed Arians desires in his receivers. Free agent receiver Ted Ginn does though, and has a proven track record of being a reliable third receiver and providing big play ability on a regular basis.
Ginn also has additional value to Arizona due to his tremendous talents as a return man. Kick returner Javier Arenas as neutralized completely in 2013, and Patrick Peterson was so underwhelming at punt returner again this season that rookie sensation Tyrann Mathieu tore his ACL while trying to replace him. Ginn would not only fill the role of the speedy #3 receiver, but also add an additional weapon to the team with his play making abilities returning kicks and punts.