Inside The Arizona Cardinals

With a new stadium on the horizon, new uniforms debuting this season, and the Super Bowl coming in 2007, optimism for football in the valley is starting to emerge and the Cardinals have done all they can to continue the positive vibe. In fact, some believe they've had one of their best off-seasons since moving from St. Louis.

Offensively, they upgraded in several areas. Behind center, bringing in a veteran like Kurt Warner is a good move. The offense that new offensive coordinator Keith Rowan will run is very quarterback friendly and Warner should thrive as long as the pass blocking is better than it was last season.

To help their shaky offensive line, they signed former Steeler lineman Oliver Ross who did a solid job last season in his first as a starter.

Defensively, the team upgraded in several areas. Up front, the signing of former Seahawk end Chike Okeafor was a solid move. Teaming him with veteran end Bert Berry should give the team perhaps the best tandem in the NFC.

The signing of another former Seahawk, linebacker Orlando Huff, brings competition to the middle spot.

To bolster their secondary, former Brown safety Robert Griffith was signed. He'll provide excellent veteran leadership to the defensive backfield.

As the team heads in to this month's draft, they have filled several holes this off-season and probably have less needs going in to any draft in recent memory-and that's a good thing.


RUNNING BACK: With the retirement of veteran back Emmitt Smith, the team really doesn't have a back left on the roster who they feel is worth taking over the starting role. At the very least, they want someone to challenge Marcel Shipp for the top spot on the depth chart. Look for them to continue to pursue a deal for veteran back Travis Henry. If they don't acquire a back before the draft, look for them to select one on the first day of the draft.

GUARD: They were able to sure up the right tackle spot after the signing of Oliver Ross but serious questions remain at right guard. They're looking for someone to challenge Jeremy Bridges.

TIGHT END: With veteran tight end Freddie Jones not expected to be re-signed, the Cardinals don't have a replacement left on the depth chart so they'll need to look to the rest of free agency or to the draft-on the first day to find their starter.

CORNERBACK: With veteran cornerback Duane Starks traded to New England and part-time starter Renaldo Hill un-signed, the team has at least one opening for a starting position and they also could use some depth at the position.


QB Kurt Warner: UFA Giants; OT Oliver Ross: UFA Steelers; DE Chike Okeafor: UFA Seahawks; MLB Orlando Huff: UFA Seahawks; CB Rhett Nelson: UFA Vikings; S Robert Griffith; UFA Browns.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: QB Josh McCown: RFA; RB Troy Hambrick: UFA; DE Peppi Zellner: UFA; DT Ross Kolodzjei: RFA.

KEY DEPARTURES: QB Shaun King (Released); RB Emmitt Smith (Retired); WR Karl Williams (Released); LB Lavar Fisher (Released. Signed with Saints); S Michael Stone: UFA Rams; CB Duane Starks (Traded to Patriots).



UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: WR Nate Poole; TE Freddie Jones; G Cameron Spikes; DE Kyle Vanden Bosch; MLB Ronald McKinnon; CB Renaldo Hill; CB Robert Tate.



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