Cardinals Free Agent Playing Time Projections

Bryant McFadden (Getty)

Unlike last season, the Arizona Cardinals' free agent activity has been relatively quiet this year. The Cardinals have benefited from a roster with less turnover than in recent years. Arizona features several returning players but the newcomers will also play a major role during the upcoming season. Brad Wilbricht breaks down which free agent additions will have the biggest impact in 2009.

Of all the Arizona Cardinals' offseason additions, CB Bryant McFadden is the team's most prized possession. McFadden will be teamed with rising star Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie at cornerback, supplying the Cardinals with an excellent tandem at the position. With Rodgers-Cromartie still developing, McFadden could prove to be Arizona's most formidable defender on the perimeter.

McFadden is a proven commodity and has been very productive up to this point in his career. McFadden spent his first four NFL seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, compiling 135 tackles and seven interceptions during that span. McFadden might find himself lined up against the opposition's top wide receiving option on a regular basis, taking pressure off Rodgers-Cromartie in his second professional season.

In addition to McFadden, the Cardinals secured the services of safety Keith Lewis. Lewis has a history with new defensive coordinator Bill Davis during their tenure with the San Francisco 49ers. He should fit in well with Arizona's aggressive scheme on defense and possibly on special teams. Lewis' best campaign came with Davis leading the 49ers' defense in 2006 as he totaled 77 tackles and two interceptions.


Greg Toler
(Getty)

With a great deal of talent at the safety position, Lewis' playing time could be limited. SS Adrian Wilson and FS Antrel Rolle are firmly set as the starters leaving Lewis virtually no shot of cracking the starting lineup. Furthermore, Aaron Francisco and rookie Rashad Johnson provide solid depth. If an injury occurs, Lewis will likely be able to step in, but that scenario may need to take place in order for him to see the field.

On offense, the Cardinals' lone newcomers are RB Jason Wright and TE Anthony Becht. Wright will be joining a backfield already consisting of Tim Hightower and rookie Chris Wells. Wright could be delegated to a third-down back but might be pushed by rookie LaRod Stephens-Howling for that role. However, given Wells' injury history, Wright may end up playing a larger role than anticipated.

Even if Wright doesn't play a prominent role on the offense, he's a tremendous special teams player and will be a positive influence in the looker room. Wright has been praised for his leadership qualities and his activity in the community. Arizona deploys an extremely young group of running backs and Wright's experience should prove beneficial as the season progresses.

Meanwhile, Becht finds himself engulfed in a logjam of tight ends and his impact is hard to predict at this point. Given the recent news of Ben Patrick's four-game suspension, Becht is poised to see expanded action and could find a niche on the Cardinals' offense. Leonard Pope and Stephen Spach will have the inside track in passing situations but Becht could prove viable in blocking formations.

During his time with the New York Jets, Becht was an adequate red-zone target and could be utilized in a similar fashion in Arizona. Becht's production has dropped considerably in recent years and he's managed only 11 catches for 59 yards in the previous two seasons combined. The Cardinals are hopeful that Becht or one of the team's other tight ends can emerge as a reliable receiving option down the field.


Questions or comments? Contact Brad Wilbricht at brad.wilbricht@gmail.com
or click here to access the AZRedReport.com message boards.

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