On the day after training camp opened, the Cardinals brought in something old and something new for their offense, and both items should pay dividends.
On the same day the team signed free agent tight end Todd Heap, the team also welcomed back right guard Deuce Lutui, the starter the past five years.
Heap, who played 10 years in Baltimore, gives the team its best receiving tight end since moving to Arizona in 1988.
In 10 years, Heap caught at least 40 passes in six seasons. Since 1988, a Cardinals tight end has caught 40 passes in just three seasons.
That was Freddie Jones.
Granted, Heap is 31 and injury prone. He does not block well, but the Cardinals signed free agent Jeff King for that.
Heap should be able to work the middle of the field to relieve pressure on receiver Larry Fitzgerald, as well as give quarterback Kevin Kolb a pressure relief valve.
Kolb had a special connection in Philadelphia with tight end Brent Celek and sees no reason why he and Heap can't replicate that.
"It means a lot," Kolb said of Heap's signing, "and I think it can mean a lot to this offense, just from the few days I've spent in it."
The Cardinals remain interested in adding a second receiver, but Heap's signing makes it less important.
Heap and Fitzgerald should make the team difficult to handle in the red zone.
The Cardinals were successful there during their playoff seasons of 2008 and 2009.
Kolb and Heap have had only a few practices together, but already seemed to be forming a bond. In a scrimmage a week into practice, Kolb threaded a pass to Heap for a 20-yard gain.
Heap had other offers and was visiting the Jets when he decided to sign with Arizona. Heap is from Mesa and grew up a Cardinals fan.
Lutui also is an Arizona product, too. He's from Mesa and was a fan favorite for a few years.
But he's butted head with the coaching staff over his weight for the last two seasons.
Lutui's return could be a boost to the offense, provided he drops weight. Lutui was ready to sign a two-year deal with the Bengals, but flunked the physical because he weighed 381 pounds.
The Cardinals signed Lutui to a one-year contract and would like for him to get down to 350 pounds over the next month.
If Lutui does that, he should be able to beat out Rex Hadnot for his old job.
Lutui is a powerful run blocker and decent in pass protection. But coaches felt his play suffered the past two seasons because his weight ballooned.
Lutui vowed that he had learned a lesson, but then he's said that before.
"You kind of hope it's a little bit of an awakening," said assistant head coach/offensive line Russ Grimm, "but that remains to be seen. Sometimes you need a little bit of a reality check to realize where you're at."
The Cardinals have set gradual benchmarks for Lutui to hit with his weight. If he does, it would be a huge boost for this offensive line, which needs an infusion of ability and toughness.
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