SS Adrian Wilson (Al Messerschmidt/Getty)
Arizona will play it safe with its last line of defense and not go looking for greener grass. The Cardinals have a deep pool of talent in the safety position, but injuries prevented the position from making a splash. Adrian Wilson is the key to getting the safeties back to the high dive.
Last season, Ken Whisenhunt said the secondary went too soft on receivers. Too much cushion gave opponents 232.2 passing yards per game and a 63.3 completion rate. A lot of the yards were chalked up to injuries. The safeties suffered a major meltdown when
Adrian Wilson (heel) was sent to injured-reserve.
The Cardinals interchanged free and strong titles to fill in the void of Wilson, but it was a daunting task. Arizona missed Wilson’s consistency. He is a ballhawk in the middle of the field and an enforcer in an otherwise soft secondary.
Wilson’s franchise player role will not be in jeopardy any time soon. His career numbers are worth modeling: 16 sacks, 16 interceptions, two 100-tackle seasons and 537 total tackles. Wilson has two years remaining on the six-year pact he signed in 2004 and will be looking for an extension this off-season.
Wilson wants something along the lines of the five-year, $37.5-million deal
Bob Sanders recently signed.
Working free safety is Terrence Holt. His 69 tackles in his first year with the Cardinals make a strong case for him to retain the starting gig. The four years left on his contract make the argument official. Holt boasts solid man-to-man skills for a safety and shows tremendous ability in the open field.
Aaron Francisco started 2007 in the No.3 role, but was quickly promoted. Francisco is a dynamic player, but should be demoted to Wilson’s backup next year. His best contributions are on special teams. Francisco struggles to defend the pass and failed to pick off any balls this seasons. Francisco is in ink until 2010, when he will earn a career-high $1.5 million.
Playing behind Francisco is Oliver Celestin. In his four starts with the Cardinals, he made 12 tackles and two pass deflections.
Matt Ware sits shotgun. He is scheduled for free agency and is unlikely to return. Ware will bring a modest résumé (13 tackles in seven games) to the bidding table.
The backseat driver is Bhawoh Jue, who was signed as an injury replacement on Nov. 29. In his seventh year, Jue provides the depth every secondary needs. As a former cornerback, Jue can cover receivers out of the slot or man center field. He will be an unrestricted free agent but could be brought back at the right price.
Amberly Richardson is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a correspondent for Scout.com. She has contributed to the official Web sites of several NFL players for Sixthman Communications.