Cardinals: Mass Exodus Possible in the Desert

(Bruce Yeung / Yeung Photography)

With the potential of a mass exodus occurring in the desert, here's a look at the top three areas to be addressed in this year's offseason and draft.

The Cardinals already have several areas of need but a mass exodus of players could make it even more challenging to put together a solid roster in 2011. Quarterback will obviously a hot topic but with Stanford QB Andrew Luck out of the mix, there appear to be no signal callers that could step in and start immediately. Expect Arizona to sign a veteran via free agency and let the competition begin with John Skelton for the starting spot.

With quarterback more than likely not to be addressed early in the draft, here's a look at the top three positions that will come under debate from now until April.

1. Linebacker - With the fifth pick in the draft, it's still uncertain whether a linebacker can emerge to be worthy of a pick that high, but if one does GM Rod Graves and company will be tempted to make the selection. The middle linebacker position hampered the Cardinals defense all season long and the likely departure of Gerald Hayes will leave yet another hole to fill. Outside linebacker was also a disappointment in 2010, and due to Arizona's continued pledge to the 3-4 defense, it's a vital position. The Cardinals must be able to get pressure off the edge, something Joey Porter was unable to accomplish during his projected one-year stint in the desert. Impact pass rushers are always highly coveted, so a capable outside linebacker or defensive end with the skill set to make the transition would be a logical fit in the first round.

2. Offensive Line – There seems to be a similar theme at the conclusion of each season, that Arizona must improve along the offensive line. This year is no different. The Cardinals o-line wasn't horrible in 2010, but the unit was unable to create an identity as a physical group up front. Similar to what the 49ers did a year ago, there's a chance this will be an area emphasized by the Cardinals' front offense, particularly with the chance of another questionable quarterback situation heading into next year. When talking about the potential mass exodus, the offensive line could be the hardest hit group. Alan Faneca is mulling retirement while Deuce Lutui and Lyle Sendlein are both unrestricted free agents. Levi Brown could be the only starter returning next year, and his play as a former No. 5 overall pick has been severely underwhelming.

3. Defensive Line – The saying goes that you can never have too many good defensive lineman and if the draft board calls for it, Arizona won't pass on value here. Core players such as Darnell Dockett, Calais Campbell and Dan Williams will be back but everyone else will be up in the air. Alan Branch and Gabe Watson are both unrestricted free agents and could look elsewhere. Bryan Robinson is another player considering retirement and would leave a substantial void in experience and leadership. 2011 will be an important season for Campbell who struggled for most of this year. Campbell will be in a contract season, similar to Branch this year, and will be playing for a future contract. Kenny Iwebema will be a restricted free agent, and while he's shown promise on special teams, it's unclear if he'll be able to contribute on a consistent basis on the d-line.

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