NFL Free Agency: Should The Cardinals Express Interest In Jared Gaither?

Yesterday we presented you with a post detailing why Tyson Clabo could be an excellent fit at the right tackle position in Arizona. Today, we will continue with our series based on the CBS top 50 free agents list by going with another offensive lineman. However, this time we will be focusing on a player that lines up at the other tackle position. 

Jared Gaither has been a guy that has had his ups and downs in the NFL. Not playing in the 2010 season due to injury, Gaither has yet to show that he can play a full season as a starter. With him, the Baltimore Ravens have become a great running threat behind their featured back Ray Rice and their dominant offensive line. The guy has Pro Bowl potential and could be an excellent addition to any team searching for a blindside blocker.

Hit the jump to read more about Jared Gaither and why the Cardinals could/should show interest in him.

Having played his college ball at Maryland, Jared Gaither was very fortunate when he was drafted in the 2007 NFL Supplemental Draft by the hometown Baltimore Ravens. He was a fifth-round pick, coming into the league at 6'9" and 324 pounds (he is now weighing in at about 340 according to NFL.com). The only reason Gaither was not drafted in the regular NFL Draft was due to academic ineligibility, thus forcing him to leave school earlier than anticipated. Before leaving Maryland, Gaither was seen as a tackle with huge upside and the potential to become one of the best blockers in college football.

Here is what Scouts, Inc. has to say about Jared:

Gaither was banged up during the 2009 season but continued to progress on the left side of the line. He is a young left tackle who has tremendous size, particularly with his extreme height and overall length, to man the blind side. However, there are times when his high center of gravity works against him. Gaither remains a work in progress as a pass-blocker but is a punishing finisher in Baltimore's power-running game. His hand placement and understanding of what it takes to be a successful left tackle has improved over the past two seasons. He is best when he engages defenders early in the play as quick counter moves still give him problems. His length and height makes it tough for him to maintain great pad level at times and more consistency in this area will improve his overall play. Gaither is a player who has a great upside and all the tools to continue to develop as a left tackle.

This guy is massive, so it is easy to see why he is an excellent run blocker. He can push opposing defenses around with his size, allowing gaping holes to open up for the running back. Given that he was injured all of last season and only played 11 games in 2009, this guy has a lot to work on and could easily become one of the best players at the left tackle position. 

In 2009, Gaither allowed four sacks, three quarterback hits and six other pressures on 432 pass block attempts. That is a total pressure rating of 3%. Defensive ends and linebackers just have a difficult time disengaging from his blocks and getting around him for sacks. 

As aforementioned, Jared Gaither has a ton of upside, but he also seems to have some injury problems. He sat out 2010 with a thoracic disk injury (back injury), which hopefully does not stunt his growth going forward. To top it all off, Baltimore may be hesitant to bring him back, especially considering Michael Oher seems to have found his niche at the left tackle position for the Ravens. If Gaither did return to Baltimore, he would likely come back as the starting right tackle. In terms of health, he is a polar opposite of Tyson Clabo, who hasn't missed a game in three seasons. 

If Arizona were to go after Gaither and sign him, they would be taking a ton of risk due to his injury history. However, adding him to the line at the left tackle spot could be just what the team needs. With his arrival, Levi Brown would be moved to the interior of the line, which many fans (including myself) believe would help him immensely. 

Our potential lineup could look something like this (from left to right):

Gaither, Brown, Sendlein, Hadnot, Keith

Again, I am speculating, but I believe that if the Cardinals go after a big name free agent offensive lineman, they will let Deuce Lutui find work elsewhere. That is my personal belief, it may go a different way entirely if the situation presented itself. Still, a line consisting of these players and a couple more low key free agents/UDFAs for depth could be a huge upgrade over last year. 

A signing like this depends on two things for me: potential risk for re-injury and contract desires. If Gaither has a high chance of hurting his back again or if he wants too much money for his services, then Arizona should just leave him alone. He will want a lot, but if he comes in at a reasonable price, this could be an investment the Cardinals might want to look at. 

So what do you say fans? Is it worth the risk to go out and sign Jared Gaither? We know he could be effective, but are you willing to pay a guy huge money in order for him to sit on a bench? 

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