Alan Faneca's retirement was not unexpected. The Arizona Cardinals were hoping he would come back one more season but were very aware that he was contemplating leaving the game after 13 years. Some would argue he needed to retire and it is better for the Cardinals, but I am not one of those people. What his retirement does do is leave a lot of unanswered questions about the offensive line.
Arizona currently has Levi Brown, Rex Hadnot and Jeremy Bridges under contract for 2011. Brown will certainly be back and will likely be the starting left tackle again, Hadnot is the default starting LG but was not a starter last year, as he was unable to beat out either Faneca or Deuce Lutui. Bridges started late in the season after Brandon Keith went down with a season-ending injury.
The entire starting interior line could leave. Faneca is gone to retirement. Under 2010 rules, center Lyle Sendlein and G Deuce Lutui would be restricted free agents, but could become unrestricted under a new set of rules for free agents. Brandon Keith will be a restricted free agent as well.
With that in mind, the Cardinals have some holes to fill.
You would have to imagine that Lutui will be a priority. After showing up after the offseason weighing nearly 400 pounds, there was a lot of disappoint to be felt. He had a solid year. Sendlein is a guy the coaching staff loves. Hadnot was a signing last offseason meant to address line depth and not a guy expected to start.
So what are the Cardinals to do?
The simplest thing to do is to start Hadnot and Brown, bring back Keith and have him and Bridges battle for RT and do what it takes to bring back Sendlein and Lutui. However, that essentially leaves you with the same OL as 2010 when OL play was an issue.
They could sign a LT in free agency and move Brown back to RT, where he fared much better and even was a Pro Bowler (an alternate). But this does not address the interior line.
There are some notable guards on the market. Logan Mankins will be the biggest name. I highly doubt that he leaves New England, but the Cards could make a run at him. Robert Gallery is also available.
But if I were a betting man, there is one guy on whom I would bet -- Reggie Wells. He is no longer under contract. He played in Arizona and played decently. He is familiar with the offensive schemes and he was treated well by the organization here. He was given the option of staying and being a backup or be traded where he might start. He chose the latter, which is why he was in Philadelphia.
They say that continuity is perhaps the biggest factor in success of an offensive line. It is also worth a lot to have a level of familiarity considering the truncated offseason that is happening now. Bringing back Lutui and Sendlein and signing Wells back to the team would provide that stability, even when their play was subpar at times.
Whatever happens, since the team did not draft any offensive linemen, they will have to be active in free agency, whenever that happens to be. They will need to seek for starters or depth guys or perhaps both. It will be intriguing to see what they go and do.