Darren Urban's article on azcardinals.com about the Arizona Cardinals offensive line was mostly information that we are aware of, as we have gone over how too many changes on the offensive line are not terribly likely in the way of personnel. However, there was one piece of information he shared that was something I didn't know and that, combined with how the Cardinals current staff prefers to approach free agency, has caused me to predict something different about how the 2011 offensive line will look. There will be some familiar faces across the line.
We know that of the regular starters in 2010, only Levi Brown is under contract. Alan Faneca retired, Lyle Sendlein and Deuce Lutui are set to become unrestricted free agents after a new CBA is in place and Brandon Keith will likely be a restricted free agent. Under contract still are backups Rex Hadnot and Jeremy Bridges (who started the last part of the season after Keith got hurt).
We also know that Ken Whisenhunt's free agent philosophy is not to grab big names, but rather fill holes and try to sign impact veteran players.
One thing I did not know previously was that in 2009 Brandon Keith was a backup guard. This changes things a little bit for me.
Of their free agent linemen, I believe Sendlein will be back. The coaching staff really likes him. Lutui will likely not be back, as Urban notes that his return is a bit in the air, "given his disappointment in the past to not have his contract extended and his desire for a large payday." Knowing this, I think he will follow the money elsewhere.
Keith will be re-signed. Then, the Cardinals will sign two or three linemen meant to battle for a starting job or simply guys meant to be on the team for depth -- guys that will not break the bank.
All of this, combined with one factor that seems to be crucial to offensive line success -- continuity -- lead me to think that the new lineup will look like this:
LT -- Levi Brown: Brown, regardless of how much we dislike it, is not moving. He won't be playing RT and definitely will not be moved to guard. We just have to live with it.
LG -- Rex Hadnot: He's a guy who has started before and has been effective. He has a year under his belt in the offensive system. He will step right in and take over for Faneca.
C -- Lyle Sendlein: He will be re-signed.
RG -- Brandon Keith: This is where the fact he practiced at guard before 2010 factors in. He was not a good pass protector, but the team believes in him and they will need a player to replace Deuce. He would be at RT were it not for the fact that the player who will be there has shown to be reasonably OK at RT in pass protection.
RT -- Jeremy Bridges: Having had two seasons with the Cardinals, he will hold the fort for a season before Keith takes the position again in 2012. He is a decent player.
This lineup is what I think will end up happening. No one will be new to the system.
Arizona is not usually the team to make a splash in free agency, at least not since the beginning of Whisenhunt's days. There is no reason to think that this will continue, especially after the lockout has taken so much of the offseason away.
I really don't have a problem with that starting lineup. It is not great, but it should be effective enough. Nothing spectacular, but enough to get the job done.
What do you all think? How disappointed would you be in this starting lineup? Do you have any other projections?