Cardinals Excited By New Pass-rush Options

The Cardinals didn't exactly dive into the deep end of the free agency pool this offseason. A lack of cap space and the delay in signing Larry Fitzgerald prevented that. But somewhat quietly, they did shore up their pass rush, which was a weakness in the second half of last season.

Starting outside linebackers Bert Berry and Chike Okeafor are back, although both suffered significant injuries last season. Berry missed the last half of the season with a torn triceps tendon, and Okeafor missed the whole year with a torn biceps muscle.

And when the club lost Calvin Pace, Okeafor's replacement in free agency, finding a proven pass rusher was a necessity.

They signed Travis LaBoy from the Titans in the opening days of free agency and signed Clark Haggans last week. Both have proven pass-rush skills. Combined with Berry and Okeafor, the Cardinals now have four veterans that defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast can use in various combinations.

The challenge, however, will be keeping all of them healthy. Berry has finished the last three seasons on injured reserve. Okeafor is returning from a serious injury, and LaBoy has a history of concussions.

Many people felt Haggans' play dropped off last year, which is one reason the Steelers felt they could let him go.

But as a whole, that group gives the club some decent options. If it can add a pass rusher in the draft, some of the team's depth problem will have been addressed.


Matt Leinart and Bryn Cameron attend to their son, Cole
Victor Decolongon/Getty

NOTES, QUOTES

--QB Matt Leinart is catching heat again after photos of him partying with college girls hit the Internet. Leinart was entertaining at home and by all accounts has worked hard this offseason. Yet, his image took another hit with the pictures. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he was "disappointed" with Leinart but sees no reason to think Leinart won't be able to lead the Cardinals in 2008.

--The team's scouts are due to arrive at the facility this week and stay through the end of the draft. The Cardinals have the bottom half of their draft board set but usually wait until April to nail down the top half.

--The club will wrap up its preseason schedule with a game against Denver. No surprise there. It's the fifth straight year in which they've finished the preseason against the Broncos. The best news for the Cards is they won't have to travel far in the preseason. The road games are in Oakland and Kansas City. With a regular season road schedule that includes several trips East, the Cardinals wanted to avoid another long trip.

--Receiver Larry Fitzgerald has returned from his three-week trip to Brazil and is working out at the team's facility. Parts of the trip weren't that relaxing as Fitzgerald kept in touch while his agent and the Cardinals finalized his contract.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm not really disappointed. I understand what's going on in free agency, with Fitz's deal (Larry Fitzgerald) and all. I'm optimistic that this is probably going to be the best option for me anyway." -- Defensive end Antonio Smith on not getting a multi-year deal from the team.


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