AZ Signs Johnson, Visits With Chillar

The Cardinals remain active in free agency, signing punter Dirk Johnson and brining in linebacker Brandon Chillar for a visit. examines how Johnson will stop the punter carousel from spinning, while one Rams coach offers an exclusive no-spin analysis of Chillar.

The Cardinals signed Dirk Johnson to a one-year contract on Wednesday, marking the seventh stop along his seven-year professional career. For his career, Johnson averages 41.7 yards per punt and has placed 79 of 268 punts inside the 20-yard line. He recently authored two of his best seasons, setting a career-high net average of 38.4 in 2005 and a career-best gross average of 42.6 in 2006.

Johnson ends a spinning carousel at the punter position for the Cardinals. Scott Player began the 2007 season as the Cardinals punter but was released prior to the final preseason game. Mike Barr stepped in and played inconsistently until late November, when he was replaced by Mitch Berger.

The more noteworthy move would be if the Cardinals can land Brandon Chillar to fill out their linebacking corps. Chillar has spent his entire four-year career with the St. Louis Rams, piling up 200 tackles and 4.5 sacks during that span. He has started 29 games over the last two seasons.

In Arizona, Chillar would challenge for a starting job opposite Gerald Hayes in the Cardinals 3-4 defense. Whether he can be as effective as Hayes remains to be seen.

"Chillar is just a guy," said one Rams coach who has been with the team since Chillar's arrival. "He's solid but he doesn't stand out or make a lot of big plays."

Chillar is scheduled to visit the Green Bay Packers after his tour in the desert. He will be the final free agent the Cardinals bring in until Larry Fitzgerald's contract renegotiations are complete. Fitzgerald carries a $16.5 million salary cap figure and is seeking a contract similar to the one signed by Calvin Johnson, who was selected by the Detroit Lions with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 draft. Fitzgerald is said to be demanding in excess of $25 million in guaranteed money.

The Cardinals believed they were closing in on a new deal last weekend, but the two sides were unable to close on final figures. Team sources remain confident that an agreement is imminent.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the network.

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