Saturday, March 01, 2008

Team Needs: Arizona Cardinals

1. Outside Linebacker
Adding a pass-rushing linebacker/nickel defensive end is a must with one starter, Chike Okeafor, coming off an injury and the other, Calvin Pace, a free agent. Bertrand Berry hasn't been able to stay healthy and has played basically half the season for three years running. Monty Beisel is a versatile backup and experienced special teams coverage guy, but that's about it.

2. Running Back
Edgerrin James's first two seasons in Arizona have been a disappointment. This year he turns 30, making it unlikely that better days are ahead. 2005 second-rounder J.J. Arrington has been a bust. Backup Marcel Shipp also turns 30 this year and I can't imagine Arizona keeps him around much longer.

3. Defensive End
One side is set with Darnell Dockett, while the other side is manned by restricted free agent Antonio Smith who recently received the first-round tender. Ideally Smith would be upgraded, but he's young and could continue to improve. The big problem is the lack of depth, with nothing at all beyond the two starters. And rotation of defensive linemen is more important than ever in the NFL.

4. Cornerback
Rod Hood had some outstanding metrics last season and is arguably one of the most underrated players in the league right now. Eric Green was far less than stellar, but if Arizona's mediocre pass rush could be improved, Green could be adequate. The eighth overall pick in the 2005 draft, Antrel Rolle hasn't met expectations, but it looks like he has a future at free safety, where he could be a good one. A young cornerback to challenge Green for his starting spot is a must.

5. Wide Receiver
With negotiations to restructure Larry Fitzgerald's contract reaching an impasse, the Cardinals might have to swallow his $14.6 million salary in 2008. But he's due even more, $17.4 million to be exact, next year. Needless to say, Fitzgerald's future in Arizona is questionable. They do still have Anquan Boldin signed through 2010, but Bryant Johnson will leave via free agency. 2007 fifth-rounder Steve Breaston did well as a returner and has some upside, but the Cards need to start developing another young receiver.

6. Punter
When the Mike Barr experiment didn't pan out, the Cards turned to 12-year vet Mitch Berger who had been out of football for over a year. About that time off: yeah, it showed.

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