Arizona: Career Graveyard?

The Arizona Cardinals have nabbed plenty of veteran talent over the years, many of whom saw their final playing days in the desert. Will this new crop of veterans meet their NFL maker or is their best football still to come? What will each of their impact be on the younger Cardinals? Amberly Dressler explains.

Arizona once seemed to be a hot spot for players who were ending their careers, or rather where careers went to die (see Emmitt Smith). But the Cardinals still got plenty of production out of some of the "old-timers" like Edgerrin James who produced 1,100-plus seasons for two out of three years. While James will always be a Colt at heart, he garnered much respect in Arizona. He even helped coach up his eventual replacement, Tim Hightower, who thrived under James. Hightower enjoyed a breakout rookie season where he scored 10 regular-season touchdowns with James as his biggest cheerleader.

Hightower eventually simmered down in the 2008 playoffs, so the veteran James stepped up. But after the Cardinals Super Bowl loss to the Steelers, he would never suit up in red again. The James-Hightower example is similar to what the Cardinals will want to see in the immediate future.

Joey Porter
(AP)

The Cardinals picked up veteran talent this offseason with the likes of 12-year veteran Joey Porter and 13-year veteran Alan Faneca with Kerry Rhodes teetering on his sixth year. Faneca marks the second-most senior player on the roster, only behind 14-year player, Bryan Robinson.

It's a safe bet that Russ Grimm, who worked with Faneca when both were with the Steelers, will utilize Faneca's experience to help out Herman Johnson who, like Faneca, is not only a fellow guard, but also an LSU alum.

Faneca, 33, may not be the young player Ken Whisenhunt and Grimm once knew, but he has plenty of fuel to burn. Faneca, who hasn't missed a start since 2001, is an upgrade to the Cardinals offensive line and has made Grimm's offseason. The Cardinals hope he also makes their season.

On the other side of the ball is Porter who also played with and under Faneca, Whisenhunt and Grimm. The Pittsburgh-West theme aside, the coaching staff is bringing in proven players. While Porter doesn't offer a sterling rep, he could reach the double-digit sack count his first year in Arizona and give guys like Cody Brown, Will Davis and O'Brien Schofield something to attain to.

The defense is definitely a big concern heading into the summer, but the biggest question is whether Matt Leinart can lead the Cardinals. Leinart seems to have benefited from sitting behind a future Hall of Fame quarterback.

"When you get into a situation he did, playing behind a quarterback like Kurt and the level he was playing, that's tough," Whisenhunt said. "But Aaron Rodgers has seemed to certainly respond to that very well after being behind Brett Favre. And we're obviously hoping for a lot of the similar things to happen."


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