Will Cardinals keep offensive line together?

Arizona's offensive line was ineffective in 2010 but the team wants to keep the group intact.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt would be content if he could keep his starting offensive line from 2010 intact for this season, even though the Cardinals ranked 31st in overall offense.

Whisenhunt doesn't believe the offensive line was responsible for the team's struggles, although he would like the unit to be more productive.

Keeping the group together won't be easy. The three inside players - guards Alan Faneca and Deuce Lutui and center Lyle Sendlein - are not under contract for 2011.

Faneca is contemplating retirement. Lutui, a six year veteran, and Sendlein, who has been in the league five years, are hitting their primes.

Cardinals management, however, has not made move to re-sign either player. The main reason is the threat of a lockout and labor uncertainty in 2011.

Coincidentally, both Sendlein and Lutui grew up in the Phoenix area. That doesn't mean they will be giving the Cardinals a hometown discount in negotiations.

That's especially true for Lutui, who was not pleased last year when the team didn't extend a multi-year offer.

He signed the restricted free-agent tender in mid-June and missed all of the team's workouts.

Lutui reported to training camp overweight, and while he managed to lose pounds before the start of the season, coaches believed he could have played much better if he had been lighter.

Sendlein is a low-key player who shouldn't be difficult to re-sign.

Whisenhunt already has reached out to Faneca, telling him the Cardinals would love to have him return. Whisenhunt, however, is giving Faneca time and space in which to make his retirement decision.

Whenever a CBA is reached, the Cardinals are going to have to move quickly to re-sign those three interior players.

The Cardinals shouldn't feel too comfortable with either of their starting tackles. Levi Brown struggled in 2010 after moving from the right side to left.

The fifth overall pick in 2007, Brown has never played up to the level expected of a top-10 selection. He struggled in pass protection last year, tends to get beaten by speed rushers and needs to improve the use of his hands in protection.

Right tackle Brandon Keith missed the latter half of the season after suffering a severe hamstring tear.

Keith, in his first season, got off to a slow start but played better as the season progressed. He was really starting to show signs of improvement when he suffered the tear.

Coaches think Keith has the athletic ability to eventually move to the left side.

If the Cardinals can re-sign their three interior starters, this line has a chance to be decent.

Brown and Keith should improve in their second seasons as starters at new positions.

Faneca, 34, played better than many people realized. While not the dominant pulling guard he was with the Steelers, Faneca can still find defenders at the second level better than most offensive linemen.

Lutui is a powerful run blocker who needs to play in the range of 345 pounds. If he can maintain that weight, he has the ability to play at a Pro-Bowl level.

The club doesn't have a lot of young talent in the developmental stages. But guard/center Rex Hadnot and guard/tackle Jeremy Bridges are quality veteran backups.

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