I think we can all agree the Arizona Cardinals have more needs than your average Super Bowl team, especially given all of their free agent uncertainties. What if Karlos Dansby signs elsewhere? What if Kurt Warner retires? What if Boldin refuses to play and forces the Cardinals to trade him for picks and worse yet, what if the trade is after this years draft and involves 2010 picks? Heck at this point we don't even know what kind of offense or defense the Cardinals will employ in 2009. Needless to say, we may not have the answers to all of the Cardinals off season questions by the end of April. But with all of that said, we've got to start somewhere right? Why not start by identifying the teams needs, at least as well as we can identify them at this point. Here's the important areas of need, at least in my opinion, and we'll vote on which is the most important need:
- Outside Linebacker: Assuming that the Cardinal defense will switch to a 3-4, Chike Okeafor is the closest thing to a true OLB on the current roster. He would presumably be one starter but the next closest option would be Travis LaBoy, who rarely took his hand off the ground this season. Whether or not he can handle that transition is a complete unknown. Even if LaBoy can handle the transition, he's shown very little ability to stay healthy this past season and there is zero depth behind these two.
- Cornerback: We've already broken down this position so we know that DRC and Rod Hood are the only two corners under contract for 2009. While they may be solid starters, that still leaves at least three spots to fill. Ralph Brown will likely return and Michael Adams will get a chance to compete but it's very likely that they'll add at least two corners to the roster between now and camp.
Safety Depth: After our break down of the safety position it was apparent that the secondary would be greatly improved if the depth at this position was improved. Adrian Wilson and Antrel Rolle seem to be solid starters but on passing downs, Wilson is often used like a linebacker. He's either blitzing or covering tights ends or underneath routes. That opens up the need for a third safety to help Rolle patrol down the field. Aaron Francisco is a decent player in some aspects but he can be exploited in coverage.
Offensive Line: I list the offensive line as a whole because I don't think there is a consensus on who the weak link is or even who is the best player. Some say Deuce Lutui is the worst, some point to Lyle Sendlein. Some want Levi Brown to move inside and a better tackle to take his place. Some say the same thing for Mike Gandy. In an effort to keep things simple, I offer up the idea of simply drafting or signing the best talent, regardless of position. They could accumulate talent, let them fight for starting spots in training camp and something tells me that the five best would prevail.
Running Back: Obviously when you've got the worst running game in the league, an upgrade at the position wouldn't be a terrible idea. The Cardinals currently have two running backs under contract, although Edgerrin James is expected to be cut, so they certainly have the opportunity to make some moves. It is possible that they could resign J.J. Arrington and bring back the exact same group of backs that they had in 2008, but it's apparent that an upgrade is needed.
- Defensive End: Assuming the defense switches to a 3-4, the defensive ends under contract for 2009 would be Darnell Dockett, Calais Campbell, Kenny Iwebema and Bryan Robinson. Antonio Smith is an unrestricted free agent but some think that he'll get much better offers on the free agent market than the Cardinals are willing to offer.
- Defensive Tackle: Again assuming the defense switches to a 3-4, the only nose tackle under contract right now is Alan Branch. Gabe Watson is a restricted free agent, so he'll be back for sure. With a full off season of training (please stay away from treadmills), Watson should return to full form. Bryan Robinson could also play in a pinch, but the depth is shallow unless Branch suddenly becomes an NFL player.
- Inside Linebacker: This only becomes a need if Karlos Dansby signs elsewhere. If the Cardinals can lock him up, then they're probably set at linebacker but if he leaves Hayes is the only true middle backer with any experience. If they chose not to address the position, either Victor Hobson or Ali Highsmith would be a starter.
That's a quick look at the needs, in no particular order, as I seen them heading into this offseason. Tell us which one is the biggest need in your mind. If we missed any, state your case in the comments and we'll add them to the list. We'll use this list to profile and gather scouting reports of free agents targets and possible draftees.