After months of preparation, the Arizona Cardinals 2009 draft turned out to be a resounding success.…
Arizona Cardinals Welcome 2009 X-Factors
The two should complement each other. Hightower is a solid, one-cut, downhill runner with excellent receiving skills. His blocking improved as last season progressed.
At 235 pounds, Wells has the power to run inside. What impressed the Cardinals most, however, was his ability to make moves and break tackles in confined space.
He is faster than Hightower and should provide a big-play ability the team has been missing at running back.
In the second round, the Cardinals drafted for need, too, just not an immediate one. Outside linebacker Cody Brown could see some playing time this year, but the UConn standout doesn't need to become a starter.
He has four solid veterans in front of him, so the Cardinals drafted Brown with an eye on a year or two down the road. Three of the four vets are over 30, and all four have suffered serious injuries over the past two years.
The Cardinals continued to bolster their defense in the third round. Their selection of Alabama safety Rashad Johnson was a surprise since the club is fairly deep at the safety spots.
But backups -- Aaron Francisco and Matt Ware -- might be in danger of losing ground on the depth chart. Johnson had 11 interceptions in his final two seasons and is known for having great ball skills. That's not something Francisco and Ware have displayed.
The Cardinals like to use backup safeties in nickel and dime packages, moving the starters, Adrian Wilson and Antrel Rolle down to scrimmage.
It's also a move with an eye on the future. Rolle's contract could escalate by $5.7 million in 2010, so the Cardinals might need a replacement.
BEST PICK: Beanie Wells wasn't supposed to be available at No. 31 according to most every mock draft published in recent months. The Cardinals were fortunate that Wells fell to them, because he gives them exactly what they believe they need. He's big, he's fast and should bring a big-play ability the Cardinals didn't have at running back. He should make an immediate impact. Of course, you expect that out of a first-round pick.
COULD SURPRISE: S Rashad Johnson of Alabama was a surprise pick considering the Cardinals are deep at his position. But Johnson had 11 interceptions over the past two years. Free safety Antrel Rolle's contract could escalate next year by more than $5 million. It's good to have alternatives in the event the Cardinals can't re-sign him.
A closer look at the Cardinals' picks:
Round 1/31 -- Chris "Beanie" Wells, RB, 6-2, 235, Ohio State
The club had Connecticut's Donald Brown rated ahead of Wells, but they aren't disappointed to take Wells. He gives them a power runner who is also fast enough to break big runs. That's an element they don't have, and Wells should form a nice tandem with Tim Hightower.
Round 2/63 -- Cody Brown, OLB, 6-2, 244, Connecticut
Brown played defensive end in college, but he'll move to outside linebacker in the 3-4. He'll have a lot to learn and the Cardinals don't expect him to contend for a starting spot as a rookie. They are hoping, however, he can be a spot pass rusher this season and then develop into a starter for years to come.
Round 3/95 -- Rashad Johnson, S, 5-11, 203, Alabama
A bit of a surprise pick because the Cardinals are deep at safety. But Johnson was too good to pass on. The Cardinals sometimes play three or four safeties in certain dime packages, and Aaron Francisco, the third safety, has struggled in pass coverage. Johnson has excellent ball skills and could contribute immediately.
Round 4/131 -- Greg Toler, CB, 6-0, 185, St. Paul's College
Another surprise, since cornerback wasn't labeled an area of need. Toler runs the 40 in the high 4.3s and has the raw skills to have success eventually. The Cardinals had good luck last year with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, another small-school corner.
Round 5/167 -- Herman Johnson, G, 6-7, 382, Louisiana State
The Cardinals need to develop some interior offensive linemen, and Johnson is a solid prospect, having started for three seasons in college. He could be the largest player the team has ever drafted. There are concerns about his weight.
Round 6/204 -- Will Davis, DE/OLB, 6-2, 261, Illinois
A developmental player who will have a hard time making the 53-man roster. He likely will move to outside linebacker.
Round 7/240 -- LaRod Stephens-Howling, RB, 5-7, 180 pounds, Pittsburgh.
The Cardinals would like a kick returner and Stephens-Howling could fill that role. He could also play on return teams.
Round 7/254 -- Trevor Canfield, OG, 6-5, 307, Cincinnati
A developmental player and likely headed for the practice squad, provided he shows enough ability this summer.
--The Cardinals received a small number of offers for WR Anquan Boldin, but none they ever seriously considered. The Bears offered a second-round pick, the 49th overall, but the Cardinals weren't going to let Boldin go for less than multiple picks, or a pick and a player. Contrary to reports, the Cardinals never set an asking price for Boldin, so they never had to lower a price, either, which was also reported.
"I think it was surprising there wasn't more interest," coach Ken Whisenhunt said.
--RB Beanie Wells visited the team a few weeks before the draft and before he left coach Ken Whisenhunt had one last question.
"Now, when we draft you, Chris, do you want me to call you 'Chris', or do you want me to call you 'Beanie'"?
"Beanie," Wells replied.
On a conference call with reporters, Wells said he was fine with "Chris" or "Beanie".
--Defensive coordinator Bill Davis thinks the addition of safety Rashad Johnson gives the Cardinals another secondary player with great ball skills.
"We love ball skills in our secondary and I think we have that across the board right now, which hopefully will equate to more turnovers and interceptions and getting our hands on the ball."
-- The Cardinals had an eye on safety Rashad Johnson long before drafting him in the third round. They liked him at the combine and he came highly recommended by Alabama coach Nick Saban.
"Nick Saban told us that he is one of the smartest players he has ever coached, which means a lot because Coach Saban is secondary-oriented, defense oriented," Davis said.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Cardinals are likely to release running back Edgerrin James this week since they took Wells in the first round.
That would give the club an extra $5 million of cap space, so they would have enough room to accommodate some contract extensions.
They would like to lock up inside linebacker Karlos Dansby and strong safety Adrian Wilson to long-term deals.
The team listened to trade offers for receiver Anquan Boldin before the draft, but was surprised by the lack of interest.
Boldin likely will remain with the team in 2009. Club officials say they would like to extend his contract, which runs through 2010. But it seems doubtful his situation would be addressed this year.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: LB Karlos Dansby: Tendered at $9.678M; signed tender March 4.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--G/C Scott Peters suffered a severe knee injury in camp. He likely won't return.
--TE Jerame Tuman showed his age this season, was cut in December and then brought back because of injuries. He won't return.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered)
--C Pat Ross (not tendered as ERFA) was the backup all year.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
--CB Michael Adams: ERFA; terms unknown.
--DE Bertrand Berry: UFA; $1M/1 yr.
--OG Elton Brown: UFA; terms unknown.
--CB Ralph Brown: UFA; $745,000/1 yr.
--FB Tim Castille: ERFA; terms unknown.
--LB Karlos Dansby: Franchise FA: $9.678M/1 yr.
--P Ben Graham: UFA; terms unknown.
--LB Clark Haggans: UFA; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
--TE Ben Patrick: ERFA; terms unknown.
--TE Leonard Pope: RFA; $1.01M/1 yr.
--QB Brian St. Pierre: UFA; $1M/1 yr.
--C Lyle Sendlein: ERFA; terms unknown.
--TE Stephen Spach: ERFA; terms unknown.
--LB Pago Togafau: ERFA; terms unknown.
--OT Elliot Vallejo: ERFA; terms unknown.
--QB Kurt Warner: UFA; $23M/2 yrs, $15M SB; 2009 cap: $11.5M.
--NT Gabe Watson: RFA; $1.545M/1 yr.
--TE Anthony Becht: FA Rams; $745,000/1 yr.
--FB Dan Kreider: FA; $745,000/1 yr.
--LS Mike Leach: FA Broncos; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
--S Keith Lewis: FA 49ers; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--CB Bryant McFadden: UFA Steelers; $10M/2 yrs, $1M RB/5M guaranteed; 2009 cap: $5M.
--RB Jason Wright: UFA Browns; $2M/2 yrs, guarantees unknown.
--RB J.J. Arrington: UFA Broncos; $10M/4 yrs, guarantees unknown.
--LB Monty Beisel: UFA Chiefs; terms unknown.
--CB Eric Green: UFA Dolphins; terms unknown.
--LS Nathan Hodel (released/failed physical).
--DE Antonio Smith: UFA Texans $35.5M/5 yrs, $12.5M guaranteed.
--FB Terrelle Smith: UFA Lions; 1 yr, terms unknown.
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