Cardinals Look for Leinart's Competition

It appears coach Ken Whisenhunt isn't going to hand the starting quarterback's job to Matt Leinart. Instead, Whisenhunt is looking for an experienced quarterback who can push Leinart and be a productive starter if Leinart falters or is injured.

The club is looking at several options and doesn't appear on the verge of a move.

The Cardinals brought in Chargers quarterback Charlie Whitehurst for a visit during the opening week of free agency. A restricted free agent, Whitehurst also visited Seattle. The Chargers gave him an original round tender, meaning a team signing Whitehurst would give up a third-round pick if the Chargers chose not to match.

The Cardinals would have an advantage over Seattle if they chose to go that route. Arizona has two third-round selections while the Seahawks don't have one.

The Cardinals are considering other options, too. They would be intrigued by Rams quarterback Marc Bulger, who likely will be released sometime this spring.

Marc Bulger
(AP Photo)

They also have some interest in former Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme and former Browns quarterback Derek Anderson.

If the Cardinals were to sign Anderson or Whitehurst, it could be an indication that the coaching staff is not all that confident in Leinart. All three players are in their mid-20s so not one of them would fill the role of mentor.

Whisenhunt has long believed that Leinart performs better when he's pushed, and the coach would like to create some competition at the position.

NOTES, QUOTES

--FS Antrel Rolle, who signed with the Giants last week, caused some eyebrows to raise in the Cardinals locker room when he said that he and Kenny Phillips would form the best safety tandem in the league.

"Hold on there now," strong safety Adrian Wilson told the Cardinals' website, azcardinals.com.

--If the Cardinals were to sign inside linebacker Larry Foote and outside linebacker Joey Porter in free agency, that would mean three of the team's starting four linebackers were former Steelers. Clark Haggans is the other. The fourth linebacker, Gerald Hayes, played collegiately at Pittsburgh.

--RB Beanie Williams is working out at the team's facility already this off-season, and was seen doing running drills recently with strong safety Adrian Wilson.

--The day after he was traded to Baltimore, receiver Anquan Boldin was at the Cardinals facility participating in a flag football tournament that raised funds for former quarterback Kurt Warner's foundation.

"I'm going to miss him," said Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald in a subdued voice.

"Big part of what we were able to accomplish here, a dear friend, but I'm happy for him and his family."

--WR Jerheme Urban, who wasn't given a tender offer by the Cardinals, signed with Kansas City. He will be reunited with coach Todd Haley, who has coached him in Dallas and Arizona also.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We all know the safety position was a hole we needed to fill. To be able to do that so quickly and with a proven starter off the NFL's No. 1 defense is a tremendous positive." -- Coach Ken Whisenhunt on the trade for former Jets safety Kerry Rhodes.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Most of the attention this off-season will be on quarterback Matt Leinart, but the Cardinals efforts to shore up their defense could have a bigger impact on their success in 2010.

The club needs a pass rusher. Inside linebacker Karlos Dansby is an unrestricted free agent and is likely to leave. Defensive end Darnell Dockett wants a new deal. The club still needs to add a dynamic young nose tackle.

Antrel Rolle
(Getty)

NEEDS/OFFSEASON STRATEGY

With the departures of inside linebacker Karlos Dansby and free safety Antrel Rolle in free agency, the Cardinals have more holes to fill in a defense that was porous at the end of last season.

They are looking for help in free agency, with visits from inside linebacker Larry Foote and outside linebacker Joey Porter. The club traded with the Jets for free safety Kerry Rhodes, who will take Rolle's position.

The team still would like to add a quarterback and shore up its depth in the front seven.

TEAM NEEDS

1. Pass rusher: The Cardinals did a decent job with pressuring QBs this year, but they lack an elite rusher that could help close out games.

2. Inside linebacker: Karlos Dansby left via free agency, and the team needs a playmaker at that position.

3. Quarterback: Matt Leinart is the only QB under contract. The club needs to draft a quarterback to prepare for the future.

MEDICAL WATCH: CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie underwent surgery to repair a torn MCL ligament in his knee. Rodgers-Cromartie will miss some time this spring but should be 100 percent by the start of training camp.

FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

--LB Monty Beisel is a good special-teams player and versatile backup. The team would like him back at the right price.

--CB Ralph Brown, entering his 11th season, is smart and a great locker room influence. He probably will sign a short-term deal.

--OT Mike Gandy played steady as the left tackle but likely will want something close to the $5 million he made last year. He likely won't get that.

--FB Dan Kreider is an excellent blocker. The team would like him back. Injuries are a concern, however.

--WR Sean Morey is an excellent special-teams player but he suffered two concussions in 2009. It's questionable if he returns.

--LB Chike Okeafor is getting up in age and never was a great fit as an outside linebacker. He probably won't return.

--K Neil Rackers missed only one field goal during the year but struggled with an injury in the playoffs. The team wants him back, but it won't pay him a huge salary.

--DT Bryan Robinson is 35 but outplayed younger nose tackles. The team will try to re-sign him to a one-year deal.

--QB Brian St. Pierre is liked by the team, but had had back problems throughout 2009. He needs to prove he's healthy before the club re-signs him.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers) --S Hamza Abdullah (not tendered as RFA) was a late-season addition who did a decent job.

--DE Jason Banks (not tendered as ERFA).

--FB Justin Green (not tendered as RFA).

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (*indicates restricted because of uncapped year)

--WR Steve Breaston (tendered at $2.396M with first-round pick as compensation) could be a starter, so the club would be smart to work out a long-term deal.

--*G Deuce Lutui (tendered at $1.759M with second-round pick as compensation) was a starter at right guard. He showed improvement in 2009.

--TE Ben Patrick (tendered at $1.684M with second-round pick as compensation) is a key player.

--C Lyle Sendlein (tendered at $1.684M with second-round pick as compensation) played well in his second year as a starter, and coaches think he could develop into one of the NFL's best.

--*NT Gabe Watson (tendered at $1.759M with second-round pick as compensation) has some talent but can't beat out Bryan Robinson. Needs to drop some weight and stay healthy.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

--TE Anthony Becht: UFA; $950,000/1 yr, $50,000 SB.
--T/G Jeremy Bridges: UFA; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
--DT Jeremy Clark: ERFA; terms unknown.
--C/G Ben Claxton: Not tendered as RFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--TE Stephen Spach: Not tendered as RFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--S Matt Ware: UFA; terms unknown.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED

--LB Steve Baggs: CFL FA; terms unknown.
--TE Dominique Byrd: FA; terms unknown.
--G Rex Hadnot: UFA Browns; $9M/3 yrs.
--S Kerry Rhodes (trade Jets).

PLAYERS LOST

--DE Bertrand Berry: UFA; retired.
--QB Anquan Boldin (traded Ravens).
--LB Karlos Dansby: UFA Dolphins; $43M/5 yrs, $22M guaranteed.
--S Antrel Rolle (released).
--*WR Jerheme Urban: Not tendered as RFA/Chiefs; terms unknown.
--QB Kurt Warner (retired).

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