What's our reward for suffering through a summer full of boring lockout updates? Possibly the most exciting free agent scramble we've ever seen. I can't wait for the flood gates to open and teams to start locking up UDFA's, free agents and hopefully some long awaited trades as well. While I certainly don't have the patience or more importantly the intelligence to sit down and try and guess who will be on the Cardinals radar once the shopping season actually begins, I do have some expectations once the dust settles.
While we still don't know all of the new rules regarding free agency, the salary cap and a possible salary floor, my biggest expectation for this team is for them to add at least a couple new starters once the league re-opens for business. In my mind there are three positions that are critical need of an upgrade and at least one other position that could certainly use some more warm bodies. First though my three "critical need" position groups:
QB: Ok, so "captain obvious" says we need an upgrade at QB. I've become all but convinced that either Kyle Orton or Kevin Kolb will be under center on September 11 when the Pantherscome to town. In my mind the only decision left to made is which QB the staff likes more, given the asking price for each of course. Either way though, I'll be happy with either and I think both QB's are capable of winning this division.
OL:We all know there's only one offensive lineman still under contract once the league re-opens so there has to be some kind of player movement with this group. I'd love to see two new starting faces out of these five but I'd imagine a more realistic outlook is one new starter. There are at least a handful of above average OT's on the market and adding one of those guys would greatly improve our front five. Take any guy out of the Clabo, Gaither, Yanda, Free, Bushrod, Colon or even Ryan Harrisand I'll be happy. There are alot of very good guards on the market as well but I'd rather build the OL from the outside in. I'd feel somewhat optimistic if our starting five was any one of the guys listed above plus Levi, Keith, Deuce and Sendlein.
OLB: This is by far the toughest of the three positions for me because we have some promising young kids already at the position (plus a number of warm body veterans) and there aren't many "interesting" free agents. I could certainly see the team staying put with what we have but there three names among the free agents that I'd at least kick the tires on. The first is Manny Lawson....wait, wait, wait.....keep reading. Check out this note from Pro Football Focus:
If you’re looking for a guy with upside, and who won’t break the bank, then why look further than Lawson? His rather pedestrian sack numbers don’t do him justice, considering he gets more pressure on a per-play basis than guys like Clay Matthews, James Harrisonand Cameron Wake. It’s just that the 49ers opted to have him in a rotation which meant he only rushed the passer 218 times. Perhaps the 49ers were disappointed in him following his 2008 and 2009 season where he struggled to consistently get pressure on the QB. But in Year 5 he finally seemed to get it, and with an overload of teams running the 3-4 a number of them would do well to find a solid starter like Lawson.
I'm not sure what to make of the "pressure per play" numbers but it's intriguing, especially considering Lawson is the perfect FA age (27) and you'd have to assume he won't break the bank. The two other guys who are somewhat intriguing are Matt Roth, who's more of a well rounded yet underwhelming pass rusher, and Antwan Barnes, who's more of a pass rusher but not well rounded. While none of these guys would get us running to the pro shop to get us to buy their jersey's, it would at least at some competition to the Porter, Haggans, Schofield, Davis mix.
I'm sure there are some guys I'm leaving out but I'm so anxiously awaiting the flood gates to open, I can hardly contain my thoughts. I'd love to see the team pull three new starters out of free agency/trades and I think that three solid upgraded starters, given one of them is a QB, would make this team the favorite to win the West. So I'll end with a poll and ask for your thoughts?