Whisenhunt wants stability on offensive line

Ken Whisenhunt (Getty)

The offensive line has been a source of consternation for the Cardinals for most of Ken Whisenhunt's five seasons in Arizona. Will this season be any different?

The offensive line has been a source of consternation for the Cardinals for most of Ken Whisenhunt's five seasons in Arizona. At least it has been for the team's fans.

The run game has never been consistent, and the Cardinals have yet to produce a Pro Bowler. In fact, the last Cardinals offensive lineman to make a Pro Bowl was Lomas Brown in 1996.

But Whisenhunt and his staff have always felt better about the offensive line than outsiders have. And while none of the four projected starters are household names, all are under contract for at least the next four years.

Left tackle Levi Brown just re-signed for five seasons. Right guard Adam Snyder signed a five-year deal. Right guard Daryn Colledge and center Lyle Sendlein signed five-year deals a year ago.

The Cardinals have made a strong commitment to the group they have, but no one knows yet just how good that group will be.

Brown, the fifth overall pick in 2007, never played up to that level. At mid-season last year, the Cardinals weren't even sure they wanted him back.

But Brown played much better over the last eight games. That, combined with the dearth of talent in free agency, led the Cardinals to re-sign him to a contract that includes a $7 million signing bonus.

Retaining Brown makes some sense, although the team is betting heavily that he will continue the standard of performance he displayed in 2011.

Brown is smart, works hard and is a good teammate. He played right tackle his first two seasons, so he could move back there should the Cardinals draft a left tackle.

Colledge did a decent job in his first year with the team, and Sendlein is an underrated center.

The right side of the line contains larger questions. Snyder started at four different spots during his seven years with the 49ers. Currently, he's penciled in at right guard, and the right tackle spot is open.

If the Cardinals draft a guard, say Stanford's David DeCastro, Snyder has the flexibility to move to right tackle. It's also possible the club could re-sign Brandon Keith, who started there at times the last two seasons.

Even though the Cardinals have four veterans under long-term contracts, they are expected to draft an offensive lineman with one of their first two picks: a first and third-rounder.

(They traded their second-round pick to the Eagles for Kevin Kolb).

The team hasn't drafted an offensive lineman the last two years. And Brown is the only one they've taken above the fifth round in Whisenhunt's five seasons.

Part of the reason for that is philosophical. Whisenhunt has great faith in assistant Russ Grimm's ability to develop linemen. But that ability has not been that evident over the last five seasons.

Whisenhunt and Grimm also prefer to play veterans because of the complicated defenses prevalent in today's NFL.

"If you have a veteran group that can adjust, that can make the calls, that can be on the same page, there's no question there's an advantage to that," Whisenhunt said recently. "But you can't always have that."

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