Today, Revenge of the Birds get a treat as Michael Lombardi, of the NFL Network and National Football Post, talks with us about the Arizona Cardinals off season moves, their draft and the upcoming season. Lombardi has over two decades of experience in the front offices of the NFL with the Niners, Browns, Raiders, Eagles and Broncos.
ROTB - The Cardinals have had more drama in the past three months than a day time soap opera so I guess we might as well start with the two biggest headlines in Arizona right now: Anquan Boldin and Darnell Dockett. We've covered Boldin's situation from about million different angles and I think we've come to the conclusion that there won't be any kind of resolution (where it be trade or extension) this off season and I think Dockett's situation goes without saying. So to take it in a different direction, I wonder how the rest of the league views Boldin and Dockett. Boldin's about to be a 29 year old receiver with an extensive history of injuries and a lack of 'game breaking' speed yet he wants to be paid like an elite receiver. Dockett seems to be a guy with tremendous ability who at times is practically unblockable and yet at other times seemingly disappears for games at a time. Are both of these guys over estimating their value and do you think these guys are 'elite' players at their respective positions?
Lombardi - I have covered the Boldin trade situation and his contract at length and the fact is clear, the market will not satisfy him or the Cards. As for Dockett he is very well thought of in the NFL, but he is not going anywhere. They cannot afford to trade him for several reasons.
ROTB - Now that all we got all the negative questions covered, how would you grade the Cardinals off season moves to date? They appear to have bolstered their secondary (Bryant McFadden) and brought back all of their own free agents that they wanted to keep. Would you agree that they look like a better team, on paper, right now than they did this time last year?
Lombardi - Yes for sure, and with the addition of Beenie Wells, they might be able to run the ball. Being sound on defense will be the best thing that has happen to the Cards.
ROTB - The Cardinals entered draft weekend with two big needs, running back and pass rush, and they appear to filled those in the first two rounds of the draft. The rest of their draft weekend seemed to center around taking the best player available. How do you think they did on draft weekend and how many of their picks have starting potential at some point in the next three seasons?
ML - I really liked their draft, they added depth and quality with players that will needed to be developed, but if they hit, they have starters. Herman Johnson is interesting in the sense of where they will play him and if he can adapt to the quickness of the NFL. Trevor Canfield played best for Bobby Petrino and he has a very good arm who might work well into the system.
ROTB - Tim Hightower had quite a roller coaster rookie season in which he ascended to the starting role only to crash back down the earth as the Cardinals sputtered towards the finish line. As a result the Cardinals of course drafted Beanie Wells with their first round pick and future 'workhorse' back. I think the opinion on Hightower among us fans ranges from 'future front line back' to nothing more than a short yardage specialist. What do you see in Hightower and what is his ceiling? Also do you think the duo of Wells and Hightower has the potential to be something special?
ML - I think you need two backs to make it work in the NFL now. Hightower showed flashes and as he gets more comfortable, I think he can be more than just a SY back. I love Wells and feel he will make a huge impact on the Cards and help their passing game become even better.
ROTB - The quarterback situation of the Cardinals has gotten quite a bit of air time over past year and even though Warner is securely planted as the starter, I still can't help but wonder about Matt Leinart. Do you think he's got the ability to be a quality starting QB in this league in the very near future and will his starting chance come in Arizona?
ML - Leinart has to prove he can overcome the adversity that has been a part of his NFL career. Hard work and dedication are his only options now. He has to prove to his teammates first and foremost, he can help them win. That is the first obstacle to over come.
ROTB - Ok last question, we all know about the "loser of the Super Bowl" struggles to make the playoffs in the following season. Can you give us one reason why you think the Cardinals will break the curse and return to the playoffs and one reason why you think the Cardinals will fall short of the post season this year?
ML - I was involved in the curse and believe it will bite the Cards as well. It is hard to avoid, as I wrote about it the other day, the disease of me comes into play.
As always, we can't thank Michael Lombardi enough for taking to time to answer some of our questions. His insights are pretty interesting, although I wish now I would have added "who will win the West" to the final question. I assume his answer would have been the Seahawks I do think his view of the Cardinals is shared by a great deal of the national media and hopefully that lack of faith in the Cardinals will fuel them in 2009. Thoughts?