It's not often that the Arizona Cardinals can say they had a winning season. In fact, this is only the fourth winning season in the teams history in the desert, and only their sixth non-losing season since moving to Arizona.
To say that makes this season a success for the Cardinals is an understatement, but the reality in the NFL is winning one season guarantees you nothing in terms of success in the next season and that is what the Cardinals need to figure out going forward.
From the top down using an 1-5 scale, five being the best, one being a must upgrade immediately, my thoughts on the Cardinals roster heading into 2014.
Front Office: 4
Only thing holding back from a five is that the Cardinals need to find a quarterback that can take over for Carson Palmer, but Keim and company seemed to pull all the right strings in 2013.
Can they keep that up in 2014 with the contract situations they'll be facing this off season?
Coaching staff: 4
Again, this isn't a slight on the coaches, this is just the reality that there were issues that were evident throughout the season.
Their inability to stop TE's and figure out how to garner balance in their offensive attack could be a nice starting point as to why the Cardinals are sitting at home and not in the playoffs.
This was a tough one, and honestly a two sounded too harsh, but the reality is Carson Palmer was average this season.
An average quarterback in the NFL can get you ten wins, we've seen it numerous times in the NFL. The Cardinals will need a little more from Palmer in 2014 if they are to get into the dance.
2014 Early Roster thoughts: Palmer, Drew Stanton, Mid round 2014 draft pick
Running back: 2
Rashard Mendenhall was everything he was in Pittsburgh... a sub 4 yards per carry back who isn't a back that can split carries but needs touches to have effectiveness.
Unfortunately, he was never going to get those touches in Arizona, and he had to keep Andre Ellington at bay most of the year.
In fact, many, myself included, would argue that Mendenhall getting 78 more touches on the season and gained 821 total yards to Ellington's 1,023 total yards.
The Cardinals need to either find a part time back that can help Ellington and utilize those 78 touches better, or they need to give Ellington those extra touches and find someone to take on Ellington's 100 or so carries.
2014 Early Roster thoughts: Ellington, Stepfan Taylor, Alfonso Smith, 2014 FA
Wide Receiver: 3
Though the talent is there, the question about Larry Fitzgerald's contract are pertinent, and if they can't get something done to restructure Fitz, then this group will have some questions.
Yes, Michael Floyd had a 1,000 yard season, but so did players like T.Y Hilton, Harry Douglas, Brian Hartline, Kendall Wright, Anquan Boldin and 20 others and that doesn't necessarily mean much anymore.
Floyd has the look of a legitimate number one type receiver, but being a 1B type to Fitz's 1A is much better situation than having to rebuild the receiving corps.
2014 Early Roster thoughts: Fitz, Floyd, Jaron Brown, Brittan Golden, 2014 draft pick
Tight End: 1
One of the biggest weaknesses on the 2013 roster was the inability to cover tight ends, but the Cardinals didn't get a ton of assistance from their own tight ends.
Jake Ballard was a nice pick up, but is a free agent, and Rob Housler, Mr. Drops himself, is the only tight end under contract for 2014.
2014 Early Roster thoughts: Housler, Ballard, RD 1-3 draft pick
Offensive line: 2.5
Call it a cop out, but the offensive line was the model of inconsistency all season.
They did an excellent job in pass protection against the 49ers, but outside of one run against the Niners for 28 yards they went for 55 yards on 21 carries.
Bradley Sowell improved, Paul Fanaika was a nice story and Eric Winston showed why he was one of the last free agents signed with a very average season, but Daryn Colledge and Lyle Sendlein are two of the highest paid players at their positions and decisions will have to be made on how to keep the best two players on the offensive line this season in two for 2014.
2014 Early Roster thoughts: Sowell, Jonathan Cooper, Sendlein, Colledge, Massie, Potter, Fanaika, 2013 RD 1-3 draft pick
Defensive line: 4
The concern is simple... How do they bring everyone back? Darnell Dockett has the ninth biggest cap hit in the NFL as a defensive end, Dan Williams has a one year club option and Alameda Ta'amu needs to be resigned despite his likely torn ACL.
Then there is Matt Shaughnessy and Frostee Rucker who both were excellent this season.
2014 Early Roster thoughts: Campbell, Dockett, Williams, Ta'amu, Ricky Lumpkin, 2014 FA
The on the field performance from the inside linebackers was a five, easy, the outside linebackers was closer to a three, but the uncertainty of what the future holds makes this only a tentative strength.
Is Daryl Washington's legal situation going to cause issues, can they re-sign Karlos Dansby, is Kevin Minter ready, can Jasper Brinkley make plays if needed?
Then there are the unknowns coming back from injury at OLB.
John Abraham was pretty much fantastic, but he'll be another year older and they need to find him some help.
2014 Early Roster thoughts: Abraham, Okafor, Acho, 2014 RD 1-4 draft pick at OLB, Washington, Minter, Brinkley
Defensive Backs: 3
Tyrann Mathieu's injury is a concern, as is the unknown of who will be playing safety next him next year, but the corner's are just as big of a question.
Patrick Peterson is close to moving into the upper echelon and Jerraud Powers is your typical number two corner in the NFL, which means he can always be upgraded if need be.
The question becomes who replaces Mathieu in the slot if he can't come back, and who do they bring in as a dime back?
2014 Early Roster thoughts: Peterson, Powers, Mathieu, Rashad Johnson, Tony Jefferson, 2014 FA corner, 2014 NFL Draft safety
Jay Feely was good, Dave Zastudil was excellent, and the coverage teams were good, but the return games need an upgrade, and Feely is a free agent that needs to be looked at to upgrade.
2014 Early Roster thoughts: Zastudil, 2014 FA kicker
There isn't any huge need anywhere outside of tight end, but upgrades are needed throughout the roster, mostly at OT, OLB, and S. Then there is the whole quarterback conundrum, but the 2014 Cardinals aren't in a bad place.