Although not reaching Super Bowl XLIV was technically a step back for the Arizona Cardinals, a second consecutive NFC West title and another playoff victory in 2009 was a step forward in reality. However, despite the success Arizona has experienced over the past two seasons, there is still work to be done in the desert. Significant holes need to be filled in the secondary and the trenches must be secured heading into the 2010 campaign.
While those issues will be certainly be focal points for the Cardinals’ front office, ensuring stability under center should be their top priority. Unless Kurt Warner pulls a Brett Favre and returns from retirement, Matt Leinart will be at the helm come next season. With or without Warner, Arizona has tremendous skill players on the offensive side of the ball and can’t afford inconsistent play from the quarterback position. The Cardinals window of opportunity is still open in the NFC West but the gap appears to be shrinking given the recent changes within the division.
Outside of Leinart, there is little left in the cupboard in terms of signal callers. Journeyman backup Brian St Pierre is an unrestricted free agent and health concerns have surfaced for St Pierre during this offseason. Arizona could devote a mid to late-round draft pick on a young quarterback to develop but acquiring a veteran presence is a necessity during this year’s free-agent period. If St Pierre doesn’t return names such as David Carr and A.J. Feeley are worth keeping an eye on. Both players would be excellent backups and could step in to a starting role if needed.
Losing LB Cody Brown for the entire 2009 season was a tough break but Brown’s return will essentially provide the Cardinals another draft pick. Brown was expected to make an immediate impact as a situational pass rusher last year and his contributions will be even more critical in 2010 given the retirement of Bertrand Berry and the possible defection of unrestricted free agent Chike Okeafor. In addition to the losses of Berry and Okeafor, linebackers Karlos Dansby and Monty Beisel will test the open market and are unlikely to return.
With little available bandwidth expected to replace the exiting players on defense, Arizona will likely opt for versatility over specialty. The Cardinals will address this area of need through the draft but will also need to obtain much needed depth through free agency. Scott Fujita could fit in well to Bill Davis’ aggressive defensive scheme but may demand too much money given the New Orleans Saints historic Super Bowl run. Pisa Tinoisamoa is also available and could probably be had at a bargain price.
Additional needs for Arizona come in the secondary where the team has struggled mightily in recent years. Thankfully this year’s draft class features an extremely deep and talented group of cornerbacks to choose from. However, with developing players like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Greg Toler already on the roster, experience may be more enticing to Arizona. Deshea Townsend is a possibility due to his ties with head coach Ken Whisenhunt during their time with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Townsend would provide the Cardinals with wisdom in the secondary and a leader in the locker room.
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