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It feels as though we're about five months into free agency at this point, but the reality is that we're only five days in. Almost everyone in Scout.com's Top 20 is already gone. The ones that aren't gone are either restricted free agents or have been franchised by their team. The Arizona Cardinals did not sign any of those twenty players.
And that's okay. It's better than okay, actually, it's a very good thing.
It's an indication that Arizona is moving in the direction that a lot of successful teams have moved in over the past few years. Build through the draft, lock up your key players for the long term before their contracts expire, be conservative in free agency, using it more as a means to build depth than find a "quick fix," and seek to identify as many players as possible that can help your team in as many ways as possible.
There's a team in the Boston area that has been doing this for a while. They've had some success with it.
While it may be tempting to envy the likes of the 49ers and the Seahawks for landing a few of the marquee guys in this free agent crop, it's important to remember that the Seahawks don't need as much on both sides of the ball and the 49ers needed to make a splash this off-season after the train wreck their fan base endured last off-season.
The Cardinals already made their marquee pick up last year. They have a number of guys that they believe are the "centerstone" of the organization and they're locked up for a long time (especially on the offensive side of the ball, where they have most of their talent). They do have huge holes along the offensive line, in the secondary, and at linebacker, but no one guy is going to come in and fix all those issues. They need to find a series of role players, guys that can fill more than one void, add depth to a club that is in dire need of it, and, basically, create a mediocre shell around all the stars they have.
Adrian Wilson, Anquan Boldin, Matt Leinart, Larry Fitzgerald, Edgerrin James. That's five bankable guys and I haven't gotten to the second tier players (like Antrel Rolle and Karlos Dansby, players that are well known, well regarded, but are working mostly with potential at this stage and aren't stars). The star power is definitely already there. Adding to it with more star players and big name guys that make headlines would probably only muddy the waters.
The pieces are in place, the talent is there, the light just needs to go on. And, no, I'm not sure which of those clichés fit and which ones don't.
The important thing to remember is that they're not trying to find that one "quick fix" that will take them from annual playoff contender to Super Bowl champion in a season. They're looking for a collection of valuable supporting players that will help their stars reach their potential and, hopefully, pull the franchise out of the basement.
They've already signed Al Johnson and had very productive meetings with Roderick Hood and Mike Gandy, among others. We've got coverage of that, as well as upcoming coverage of other available free agents that won't make huge headlines, but will definitely help with the "Master Plan."
Here's the issue: It takes time. For a fan base that has suffered through decades of poor performance and broken promises, it remains to be seen whether they can endure another losing season, or even another season of barely getting to .500. Would a .500 record satisfy the fans of Red Bird Nation, or is it all or nothing?
I say we start the negotiations at .500 and work our way from there. After all, negotiations are what free agency is all about.