The Other 31: How the Arizona Cardinals have changed this offseason

May 9, 2013

Arizona’s Nate Potter, left, blocks Lorenzo Alexander during a voluntary Cardinals football minicamp practice on April 23. (Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press)

This part of the offseason is as good a time as any to remember there are 31 other teams out there making moves they hope lead them to the same Lombardi Trophy the Redskins are chasing. Mark Maske takes a look at what the rest of the league is doing this offseason, and why it matters:

Arizona Cardinals

Last season’s record: 5-11

Coach: Fired Ken Whisenhunt, hired Bruce Arians

Key players released: LB Stewart Bradley, CB William Gay, S Adrian Wilson, WR Early Doucet, RB Beanie Wells, S Kerry Rhodes, QB Kevin Kolb, QB John Skelton, G Adam Snyder

Key free agents lost: CB Greg Toler, LB Quentin Groves, RB LaRod Stephens-Howling

Key free agents re-signed: S Rashad Johnson

Key free agents added: RB Rashard Mendenhall, LB Lorenzo Alexander, QB Drew Stanton, CB Jerraud Powers, S Yeremiah Bell, LB Jasper Brinkley, DE Matt Shaughnessy, CB Antoine Cason, DE Frostee Rucker, S Jonathon Amaya, G Chilo Rachal

Key trade additions: QB Carson Palmer, CB Javier Arenas

Key trade losses: FB Anthony Sherman

Draft:

ROUND (PICK) PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
1 (7) Jonathan Cooper Guard North Carolina
2 (45) Kevin Minter Linebacker LSU
3 (69) Tyrann Mathieu Cornerback LSU
4 (103) Alex Okafor Defensive end Texas
4 (116) Earl Watford Guard James Madison
5 (140) Stepfan Taylor Running back Stanford
6 (174) Ryan Swope Wide receiver Texas A&M
6 (187) Andre Ellington Running back Clemson
7 (219) D.C. Jefferson Tight end Rutgers

Analysis: The key issue for the Cardinals after hiring offensive guru Bruce Arians as their coach was what they would do at quarterback. That question was answered when they traded for Oakland’s Carson Palmer after the Raiders had obtained fellow quarterback Matt Flynn in a deal with Seattle. Palmer ended up being unwanted by the Raiders after only two seasons in Oakland. But he did manage to surpass 4,000 passing yards in 15 games last season and at 33, he’s not too old. Perhaps Arians can coax a few more productive years out of him.

The Cardinals had a promising draft, starting by getting guard Jonathan Cooper with the seventh overall pick. He should help the running of free-agent addition Rashard Mendenhall. Linebacker Kevin Minter, taken in the second round, and defensive end Alex Okafor, chosen in the fourth round, should help, and the Cardinals’ good draft could become very good if the third-round risk that they took on former Louisiana State cornerback Tyrann Mathieu works out.

The problem for the Cardinals is that they play in the suddenly rugged NFC West. The 49ers are the defending NFC champions. The Seahawks appear to have joined the 49ers as Super Bowl contenders, and the Rams are improving. The Cardinals have a greater distance to travel to reach contender status and it’s difficult to envision them passing the 49ers or Seahawks even if things fall into place with Palmer.

Why Redskins fans should pay attention: Former Redskins linebacker and special-teams captain Lorenzo Alexander signed with the Cardinals as an unrestricted free agent. Alexander, a Pro Bowl selection on special teams last season, is the lone significant free-agent loss for the Redskins so far this offseason, even as they have dealt with the second half of their two-year, $36 million salary cap penalty imposed last year by the league with the NFL Players Association’s consent. The Redskins must replace Alexander as a special-teams standout and locker-room leader. He could receive more consistent playing time on defense in Arizona.

Background: Schedule | Depth chart | Draft results | Home page

Conversation starter: Do the Cardinals improve on their five wins from last season, and do they finish above fourth place in the NFC West?

Mark Maske covers the NFL for The Washington Post.
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Mike Jones · May 8, 2013

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