Following a 5-11 campaign, the Cardinals enter the offseason with several holes to fill in April's draft and free agency. With the labor situation in its current state and no resolution on the horizon, the team will be unlikely to commit to any big contracts. However, Arizona needs to field a more competitive team than the one that finished at the bottom the worst division in football in 2011.
1. Veteran Quarterback – Arizona is likely to tab a young signal caller in the early rounds of the draft, but need a reliable, steady quarterback to give them a chance to win now. Reports have surfaced that coach Ken Whisenhunt tabbed Marc Bulger as his choice to succeed Kurt Warner, but was overruled by the front office and wound up with Derek Anderson. Now, Anderson won't be back and John Skelton is currently the only QB on the roster with a respectable chance at a roster spot. Bulger would fit well within the system and stem the tides until a long-term answer becomes known. Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb and Tarvaris Jackson might be available, but their price tag and compatibility in the Cards' system is questionable.
2. Offensive Line – Reshuffling along the offensive line was a major factor in the unit's struggles in 2010. The line struggled in blitz pickup, opening holes for running backs and developing any consistency following Alan Faneca's signing. Faneca is an unrestricted free agent and might be headed to retirement. Arizona also needs to make decisions on Deuce Lutui and Lyle Sendlein, who are also unrestricted. Top priority at this position should be left tackle, where Levi Brown failed in his transition from the right side. A draft pick in the first three rounds should be used to address this, perhaps in the form of Mississippi State's Derek Sherrod, Arkansas' Demarcus Love or BYU's Matt Reynolds. As for guard, if Lutui or Faneca does not return, TCU's Marcus Cannon, Pitt's Jason Pinkston and Wisconsin's Jason Moffitt could be targeted in the draft.
3. Middle Linebacker – Arguably the biggest hole in the Cardinals defense was left by the departure of Karlos Dansby. Paris Lenon was serviceable, but lacked the speed and playmaking ability of Dansby. Daryl Washington was solid in his rookie season, but needs someone beside him to be most effective. Gerald Hayes is going into an expensive final year of his contract and seems unlikely to return after a largely ineffective showing in 2010. Barrett Ruud (Tampa Bay), Stephen Tulloch (Tennessee) and Ernie Sims (Philadelphia) might end up as options in free agency, while Maryland's Alex Wujciak, Cal's Mike Mohamed and Mississippi St.'s' Chris White should be available in the middle rounds of the draft.
4. Outside Linebacker – The Cards' pass rush was often non-existent in 2010 and that needs to be remedied for them to improve next season. Will Davis, Clark Haggans, Joey Porter and O'Brien Schofield remain under contract, though Porter is a likely cap casualty. Schofield and Davis have shown potential and Haggans is still a dependable veteran presence at the position, but more viable options are needed. Kansas City's Tamba Hali would be a good fit, but could demand more than his worth. Kamerion Wimbley (Oakland) and Manny Lawson (San Francisco) are also on the market, but this need could certainly be filled early in the draft. If the Redbirds pass on a quarterback with the number five overall pick, Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers or North Carolina's Robert Quinn could fit the bill. They could also wait and select Nevada's Dontay Moch, LSU's Kelvin Sheppard, or Pitt's Jabaal Sheard in the later rounds.
5. Tight End – This is a position that has been like a turnstile for Arizona with no one staying for very long. This stigma is not helped by the likely exits of Ben Patrick and Stephen Spach, both unrestricted free agents. That could leave Jim Dray as the lone tight end on the roster. The Cardinals passed on Oakland's Zach Miller in the 2007 draft and would be remised to pass a second time. The Phoenix native would be a welcome addition to whomever the Cards insert under center, as both a receiver and blocker. Bo Scaife (Tennessee), Dante Rosario (Carolina) and Desmond Clark (Chicago) are also expected to be on the free agent market. The Big Red could opt for South Carolina's Weslye Saunders or Wisconsin's Lance Kendricks in the mid to late rounds of the draft.
Follow Ryan Knowles on Twitter: @RyKno52
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