After breaking down the centers and guards, we finally finish off the offensive line with a look at the Arizona Cardinals offensive tackles. These big uglies take the brunt of criticism from fans because they are the most visible on game days but it's also a very demanding position. The tackles are most often matched up against a team's best pass rushers and the Cardinals wide-open offense normally leaves these guys facing one on one battles. The Cardinals projected starters at offensive tackle have started 31 of the last 36 games, including the playoffs, but their flirtation with free agent Levi Jones has raised some eye brows. There is quite a bit of young talent in the mix here and we'll try to straighten all of the guard/tackle combos on this current squad.
Levi Brown, Elliot Vallejo, Herman Johnson
On the Bubble
Mike Gandy, Oliver Ross
For anyone that's wondering, Brandon Keith and Elton Brown were both included in our discussion at guard, so that's why they're not included in this breakdown even though they are both likely to figure into the mix. The biggest head scratcher here though is Mike Gandy's status, which we'll explain below. We also listed Johnson as a tackle because that's where he currently practicing although it's quite possible that he could end up at guard before the dust settles. Also Pearce is the only guy on this list who is eligible for the practice squad.
Mike Gandy: A week and a half ago Gandy would have been an unquestioned lock, but the teams recent interest in Levi Jones changes that considerably. When healthy Jones has more talent then Gandy and he's younger, not to mention that there's a good chance he'd be cheaper. If by some crazy turn of events, Jones were to come into camp and win the starting job, the Cardinals would not be able to keep Gandy as a backup at his price tag (roughly $5 million). All of this in contigent on Jones being signed though which is still a long shot. If he isn't signed, Gandy would jump back into the lock section and be the starter coming out of training camp.
Oliver Ross: My gut says that Ross has no chance of making the roster but the coaching staff had to have some reason for signing the soon to be 35 year old tackle. He hasn't played in the league since 2006, when started five games for the Cardinals, but an injury kept him on IR for the 2007 and he spent part of the 2008 season with the Patriots although he never appeared in a game. He has ties to Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm from his days as a Steeler (2000-2004) and he's versatile enough to play either guard or tackle so maybe that helps his chances.
Brandon Pearce: Most of what we've heard about Pearce so far has been promising, but there's just too much depth at the position for him to make a serious play at the roster. With a year or two of develop though he could be a name to remember. Pearce is an undersized tackle (6-6, 290) but he played in a pass happy system at Memphis and he rarely gave up sacks. There are reports that he's added as much as 20 pounds but a year on the practice squad to add some strength and improve as an in-line blocker should be beneficial.
Regardless of whether the Cardinals sign Levi Jones or just roll with the guys they've got right now, the team has depth and youth at offensive tackle. Guys like Vallejo, Keith and Johnson ensure that the Cardinals should have success keeping thier quarterbacks clean for years to come. What do you think about the talent at tackle? Should the Cardinals sign Jones, if the price is right, and does that make Gandy expendable?