Last year Steve Keim was given full control of the Arizona Cardinals roster for the first time. He made some tough decisions (and some not so tough decisions) by letting some players walk and cutting others for reasons ranging from performance to salary cap management. The work on his "3-year plan" had begun.
But what became of those Cardinals of yesteryear? Some were fan favorites, while others fans loved to hate. Did they find greener pastures or find life worse off after the Cardinals? Lets find out...
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- Michael Adams - Signed by Tampa Bay on a 1-year deal. It didn't go well for the "little CB who could". Currently a UFA, this article over at Bucs Nation sums up Adams' time thusly,
In his one year with the Bucs, veteran Michael Adams spent most of his time with the team injured, appearing in just six games before being put on injured reserve in mid-November. Primarily playing in the slot, Adams was often burnt by the faster and shiftier receivers he covered, though he did manage to get a sack. Unlikely to return.
- D'Anthony Batiste - I had no idea that the Steelers considered our other worst LT ever worthy of being picked up as well. Batiste was signed in August last year for a PIT offensive line that was in shambles due to injuries, but ultimately he never made it out of camp. He was left without a team for the 2013 season and is probably finished in the NFL.
- Stewart Bradley - The ILB who couldn't seem to break into a starting role was picked up by the Broncos on a 1-year deal. His season was derailed by injuries before it could begin. He could find it difficult to get picked up again.
Broncos placed MLB Stewart Bradley (wrist) and LB Lerentee McCray (undisclosed) on injured reserve, ending their seasons. Bradley was in line to surpass Nate Irving for starting duties before going under the knife two weeks ago. Now he'll enter 2014 having made just one start since 2010. He'll have to troll for back-up jobs in free agency.
- David Carter - The once surprisingly promising 6th-round DT was cut by the new coaching staff, then landed with the Cowboys. It wouldn't last though, as he was cut after the 3rd game of the season. He was recently picked up by the Raiders this off-season and looks like he'll compete for a back-up spot on the DLine.
- Early Doucet - The Cardinals' former 3rd-round WR pick wasn't brought back due to multiple injury issues, including ribs and concussions. The Seahawks picked him up, but released him after just one practice with a "failure to disclose physical condition" tag. No other team took a risk on him for the rest of the year. He may be out of a job permanently.
- Jamell Fleming - The 2012 3rd-round CB was cut due to a crowded defensive backfield and picked up on waivers by the Jaguars. Fleming's time this past year seems to have been unspectacular as he played as a backup in only 8 games and had no recorded stats. I couldn't find any articles commenting on his play this year, further suggesting there probably wasn't much to write home about. At the moment he remains under contract.
- William Gay - The Steeler CB was signed to a 2-year deal, but was constantly torched as the Cards' CB2 so they cut him after one year. The Steelers picked him back up and (after browsing Behind the Steel Curtain's page) he returned to play as the nickel corner, which he was more suited towards. Not great, not bad, part of a pedestrian secondary. He is one of only two CBs currently under contract in PIT.
- Quentin Groves - A nice rotational OLB picked up from the Raiders who made a bit of noise despite limited snaps, Groves ultimately left to stick with Ray Horton up in Cleveland, signing a two-year contract. Normally robust, injuries kept Groves off the field for most of the 2013 season before finally landing on the IR. He seemed to be doing well otherwise, "having a high level of success as a pass rusher in limited attempts".
- Brian Hoyer - I won't say much here, since most people already know. A former Cardinals backup, Hoyer was the one QB finding success in Cleveland this year and gave the fanbase hope for the season after some surprising wins. However, a nasty knee injury ended his season and ultimately the Browns' hope for making any noise in 2013. He will likely compete with a 1st-round QB for the starting job in 2014.
- Senio Kelemete - The 2012 5th-round pick OG known most for his 10-yard reception from a tipped Brian Hoyer pass was also a casualty of the new coaching staff. He was picked up by the Saints and placed on the practice squad for the entire season. He also received a futures contract from them at the beginning of the 2014 offseason.
- Kevin Kolb - The oft injured QB was finally released when Keim burned down the 2-year QB carousel, to which grateful fans sighed in relief. Kolb was picked up by Buffalo to compete with rookie EJ Manuel for the starting spot, but as in the past, concussion issues ended his season, this time before it could begin. Kolb was recently released by the team and it's legitimate to question whether he'll ever play in the NFL again due to teams not wanting to deal with him being so prone to concussions. If this is the case, it's a sad end for a man whose career (like many others) was never able to take off due to forces beyond his control.
- Paris Lenon - The Brocos pulled a Steelers move by double-dipping on castaway Cardinals at one position, this time ILB. Lenon played in 14 games for the Broncos, starting in 6. The consensus over at Mile High Report seems to be that he was unimpressive and their weakest ILB on their already weak defense, though apparently he did improve a bit towards the end of the season. He is now a UFA.
- Kerry Rhodes - After being cut for cap reasons, despite being one of the best free-safeties in the league in 2012, and rejecting offers from other teams, Rhodes did not play in the 2013 season. A lot of questions surrounded and still surround Rhodes' absence from the NFL, but a recent interview (which, for all those curious about an update on Rhodes, is worth the read) has him saying it was more about "wanting to do other things and not finding the right opportunity." He spent his first year away from football running a production company, acting, and doing work with his charitable foundation. Rhodes doesn't appear to find any need to rush back to the NFL yet.
- James Sanders - The quality rotational safety/special teams player, who is best remembered for his participation in this beautiful play against the Eagles returning a fumble 93 yards for a TD after Michael Vick "got the Full Monty." As a free agent the following year, he was slapped with a 4-game suspension for PED violations and was never picked up. He remains without a team in the 2014 offseason.
- O'Brien Schofield - After being released by the Cards due to concerns about his durability, he was claimed off waivers by Seattle. Which turned out to be the best thing that could have happened for him, as he got to ride along with the best D in the league to a SuperBowl championship. The thing is though...Schofield didn't seem to contribute that much on such a deeply talented defense, positing only 8 total tackles and 1 sack in 15 games, starting 7 (I'm not sure how many pressures, hurries, or other such stats he had). From scanning some articles and comments over at Field Gulls, they generally seemed to like him as a depth player, thought he had potential that could be brought out, and could be signed at a low price. However, he wasn't resigned and went to sign a FA deal with the Giants...until it was voided due to concerns found during his physical. If I were a betting man, I'd say Schofield will get another shot somewhere, but for far less than the $8 million contract the Giants initially gave him.
- Anthony Sherman - The 2011 5th-round FB was shipped off to Kansas City in a trade for Javier Arenas due to Arians not using FBs in his offensive system. We originally thought it was nice to get anything for him since he would've probably been cut anyways and even thought Arenas might prove to be useful. Well, he returned kicks, but not too well and never really did much on D either and is now a FA. It would seem KC got the best of this trade. Sherman helped Jamaal Charles gain the third-most rushing yards in the 2013 season, provided some usefulness as a receiving outlet, was a special teams beast, still has another year on his contract, and is overall very liked by the Chiefs' fanbase (as well the Sherminator should be!). Skimming through articles on Arrowhead Pride I came across comments like, "we really should send a 'thank you' card or a gift basket for Sherman, by the way", "Dorsey's miss on Branden Wilson was compensated by the trade of CB Javier Arenas for FB Anthony Sherman and his waiver wire prowess", and "the trades for both Alex Smith and Anthony Sherman were all fantastic moves and improved the talent on the roster." ... Soooo can we expect those gift baskets before Draft Weekend?
- John Skelton - After Keim burned down the QB carousel, Skelton bounced around the league looking for a backup role. The Bengels picked him up, but cut him during final roster cuts. The 49ers tried him for a week and then let him go as well. Finally, he stuck around with the Titans for a month before being released again. He currently remains a free agent and it's cloudy whether he'll be able to find a team to pick him up for 2014.
- Adam Snyder - After being absurdly overpaid with a ridiculous contract, the guard greatly disappointed fans and contributed to the exasperation that was the 2012 offensive line. Cutting him was a no-brainer and he found his way back to the 49ers where he had been before coming to the Cards and signed a 2-year deal to play his true role the backup swingman on the line. To the fanbase, it felt like subterfuge and being infiltrated by a double agent (I mean, we know it wasn't, but boy did it feel like it...). Niners Nation gives the impression that they are okay with Snyder if he stays another year in his current role, but believe that he can be upgraded and released as well. All-in-all, no lock on their roster.
- LaRod Stephens-Howling - A fan favorite affectionally dubbed "Hyphen", the 2009 7th-round draft pick was the only RB fans could rely on in 2012 (even if we couldn't on the play-calling). For whatever reason, the new regime decided to let LSH go, but he was quickly picked on a 1-year contract up for his scat-back skills and dynamic kick-return ability by the Steelers, who appeared to have big hopes for him. Sadly, he tore his ACL in the first game and was lost for the 2013 season. He is reportedly being brought back, the team still believing he can provide an offensive spark in 2014.
- Greg Toler - The man people hoped could be our answer at CB2, Toler struggled to stay healthy and was allowed to walk once his contract was up to test free agency. Some thought he might still be resigned, but ultimately he was offered a bigger contract from Indianapolis than Arizona would even consider and took his talents there. From what I garnered reading Stampede Blue, it's the same story, different city with Toler. They like his talent, but are driven batty by his inability to stay on the field, only playing in 9 games total. Some want to cut him others would rather make him into a CB3. Regardless, barring complications with his groin surgery, he'll probably remain under contract.
- Reggie Walker - He was with the team all preseason before a surprise logjam at ILB and final cuts sent him on his way. A special teams stud and backup ILB, he was quickly picked up by San Diego where Whiz put in a good word for him. Walker carved out a spot for himself again on special teams and high-quality depth and, though maybe under-appreciated, Walker jumped into a starting role towards the end of the season due to teammates' injuries and performed well with fire and passion, earning himself some respect and recognition from fans. He recently resigned with the team and Chargers fans are glad to have him back.
- Beanie Wells - The former 1st-round pick was cut after nagging injuries kept him off the field too often. He tried out for several teams, but injured himself again while trying out mid-season for the Ravens. Given the unfortunate nature of the position and its current devalued state in the NFL, Wells' brief time in the NFL may already be completely over.
- Adrian Wilson - A player loved by all Cardinals fans for his no-nonsense, strong and silent style, and ridiculously jacked arms, the future Ring-of-Honor strong safety was one of the "difficult decisions" made by Steve Keim in his complete retooling of the roster. Rather than risk hanging onto an aging player too long, he was released. His absence at safety was immediately felt by TEs boldly attacking, no longer having to fear the hammer drop awaiting them from A-Dub. Wilson made his way to the Patriots, ultimately signing a 3-year deal. Unfortunately, the usually durable safety had a season-ending Achilles injury during the preseason and was placed on IR. It's uncertain whether Wilson will be kept on the roster or not due to cap reasons, some thinking it's imminent while others thinking he'll definitely be around as long as he is healthy. If released, he would undoubtedly be picked up as a rotational safety. I know I'd certainly like to see the Cardinals take him back if that happens, especially given that at this stage he won't command an unfriendly contract.
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So let's crunch some numbers. Of the 23 players that were cut or left via free agency...
5 were completely teamless for the season (Batiste, Doucet, Rhodes, Sanders, Wells),
2 were released mid-season (Carter, Skelton),
3 were sent to IR in preseason (Bradley, Kolb, Wilson),
5 missed significant time due to in-season injuries/being sent to IR in-season (Adams, Groves, Hoyer, Stephens-Howling, Toler),
1 was placed on a practice squad (Kelemete),
5 played relatively unspectacular/mediocre backup roles (Fleming, Gay, Lenon, Schofield, Snyder),
2 managed to make significant contributions to their team in some way (Sherman, Walker)
And of those 23, only 12 are currently under contract with a team for 2014.
Seems like 2013 was a bad year to be an ex-Cardinal. The sheer number of injuries and teamless players is staggering and the number of players that actually made something of the 2013 season is really quite pathetic. While our feelings on this fact may vary from player to player, the reality is that--freak injuries aside--Keim and Arians overall did an excellent job at letting go of the correct players to make room for other players (talent and money-wise) that could take this team to the next level. It's certainly fascinating to see where some of the players we used to cheer for on Sundays are these days and how quickly things can change in just a year. Hopefully this type of roster quality control will continue as long as Team CueBall is in office.
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Thank you all for reading and I hope you enjoyed this FanPost! Sorry if formatting isn't perfect, I'm so tired at this point that I think I'm gonna let it slide. I did try to be thorough with player facts, but odds are I forgot about someone worth noting or missed some detail. So if I did, feel free to post something about that player in the comments and share what you know about where they are and what they're doing in the NFL, if anything. As always, I'm Azusa_PacifiCardinal. You stay classy, Birdgang!