The Arizona Cardinals have made a few free agent moves that addressed some key needs. They added Pro Bowl guard Mike Iupati to play left guard. They added linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. They are looking at linebacker Nate Irving. They added defensive linemen Cory Redding and Corey Peters.
They are all areas they wanted to improve at. They are also areas where they have young players.
At guard, they have 2013 first round pick Jonathan Cooper. He was drafted to play left guard. He has been injured much of his first two seasons. Now the Cardinals added Mike Iupati, who is a left guard. That presumably moves Cooper over to right guard, where there is a bunch of competition. They have Cooper, 2013 fourth round pick Earl Watford, veteran Ted Larsen and Anthony Steen, an undrafted rookie the team likes quite a bit.
The team would definitely like to have Cooper win the right guard job, but with the players they have there, especially Larsen, who was a starter all last season, they aren't counting on him.
At linebacker, the story is different this offseason. After Karlos Dansby left in free agency, the team said Kevin Minter, their 2013 second round pick, was ready to be a starter. He was, but played less than 30 percent of the team's snaps because he only played in base defenses. He played injured, but he did not play great and missed a lot of tackles.
As of right now, it looks like Daryl Washington could return to play for Arizona. They added Weatherspoon, who will be Washington until he returns from whatever discipline the league gives him after being reinstated from his substance abuse suspension. After that, one would think the team could go with a Washington/Weatherspoon pairing, which would give the defense a dynamic similar to when they had Washington and Karlos Dansby.
However, the pursuing of Nate Irving is interesting. It would be the ultimate "we're not counting on you" message to Minter. As it is, if Washington and Weatherspoon play together, that leaves Minter on the bench. If they add Irving, then Minter will have to battle for a roster spot.
Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM discussed this topic, essentially saying Minter could be done in Arizona. You can listen to the segment here. This discussion begins around the 22-minute mark.
On the defensive line, it is more understandable. Before free agency, they had Calais Campbell and Frostee Rucker as veterans. They re-signed Alameda Ta'amu, who has only 21 NFL games. Everyone else -- Kareem Martin, Ed Stinson and Josh Mauro -- have only a handful of games in the career. while they look talented and intriguing, it isn't a group you want to count on trying to win a championship now.
The Cardinals added Redding and Peters. You have to project both of those guys, along with Rucker and Campbell, as locks for the roster. That leaves Mauro, Stinson and Martin, along with any other free agents or rookies they bring in between now and training camp, to battle for the last couple of roster spots.
Arizona would like all these young players to develop well. They just aren't counting on it. They will have to step up to make the team and play. But the message is clear to the young players -- don't get too comfortable. We want to get younger, but you have to play well or you will be replaced. We're not just going to count on you to get a championship.
And that's exactly how it needs to be.