The Arizona Cardinals now are officially in the offseason now that the Seattle Seahawks are the world champions. While general manager Steve Keim has been busy putting together an offseason plan, it will not be long until we get to see it in action. Free agency starts in a month and the draft follows soon thereafter.
So what are the team's biggest needs heading into next season? Rotoworld's Evan Silva put together what he thought the four biggest were. He says that offensive tackle, outside linebacker, cornerback and quarterback are the biggest needs.
OT: Multiple rumors have already linked the Cardinals to free agent LT Branden Albert, who will be looking to break the bank. Arizona has suffered through Levi Brown, D'Anthony Batiste, and Bradley Sowell long enough. Immobile 34-year-old quarterback Carson Palmer functions at a far more efficient clip when well protected. Palmer was not well protected for most of last season.
LB: John Abraham's tank is nearing E going on age 36, while a pedestrian foursome of Lorenzo Alexander, Sam Acho, Alex Okafor, and Dontay Moch round out Arizona's outside linebackers. This club needs fresh legs at edge rusher. Inside 'backer is another concern with Karlos Dansby entering free agency. The Cardinals did use a 2013 second-round pick on Kevin Minter and may stay in-house with Dansby's replacement, though Minter earned zero playing time as a rookie.
CB: Cardinals GM Steve Keim will soon commit a mammoth contract to No. 1 corner Patrick Peterson, but Arizona's depth chart is thin thereafter as sub-package contributor Antoine Cason enters free agency. Arizona's 2013 slot corner was FS Tyrann Mathieu, who suffered left ACL and LCL tears in early December. No. 2 cornerbackJerraud Powers is a below-average NFL starter.
QB: Coach Bruce Arians likes Drew Stanton as a backup, but he isn't seen as Palmer's heir apparent. Arians did keep Ken Whisenhunt holdover Ryan Lindley on the 2013 roster and may have seen some potential. The structure of Palmer's contract indicates he's entering his final year in Arizona. The Cardinals are a sleeper team to draft a quarterback in May's first round.
I disagree on two parts. Tackle should probably be one or two, and OLB is up there as well. However, heading into 2014, it is not at cornerback or quarterback I worry most about. At cornerback, the team already has Jerraud Powers. They would like to see an expanded role by Justin Bethel. They have a question mark at the third CB spot, whether it be a guy who plays outside and bumps Powers in or a guy that plays in the slot. Arians stands by Powers and he has two more years left on his contract.
At quarterback, it is clear that Carson Palmer is the guy they will roll with. If they know who their starter will be, does it matter who the backup is? If you are rolling with your backup, you know that the season is in bad shape anyway. It is 2015 or perhaps beyond where that position comes into play.
What needs should be in place of CB/QB?
The first would be safety. Yeremiah Bell is a free agent. Tyrann Mathieu is injured. Those are your starters. They need to find a guy to replace Bell. Rashad Johnson is a valuable guy and is a capable starter, but the guy playing opposite him needs to be a focus. Is that Tony Jefferson? It could be, but you don't want to have to count on a second year undrafted player to be a difference maker.
After safety, you have to say that tight end is the spot. There is Rob Housler and a few guys on future contracts right now. Housler disappointed. Jake Ballard could return, as could Jim Dray, but the team didn't get much production from a position that Bruce Arians loves to use offensively.
My four would be then -- OT, OLB, CB, TE. What would your big four positions be for the Cardinals?
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