Arizona – Head coach Dennis Green has stated he would like to bring in a veteran quarterback to compete with incumbent QB Josh McCown during training camp. But Green has also stated that he feels comfortable with the 4th year man from Sam Houston State. Veterans Rob Johnson and Jeff Garcia are candidates to sign free agent contracts.
It also appears Green has given up on RB Marcel Shipp. Shipp suffered a season-ending ankle injury during training camp and rumors are swirling that Green is ready to trade T L.J. Shelton straight across for Buffalo RB Travis Henry. Henry doesn't have the speed the Green seems to covet in his backs (ala Robert Smith and Michael Bennett) but his workmanlike style would be an upgrade over what the Cardinals have had the last two seasons. Some feel that Green may attempt to acquire Bennett from Minnesota, but Green has stated before that he doesn't believe in sacrificing high draft choices for one player.
On defense, the Cardinals played well above expectations for much of the season, but look for changes as the team tries to upgrade their athleticism and depth.
One player who could be on the way out is LB Raynoch Thompson. For most of last season Thompson was hampered by injuries and he was eventually replaced in the lineup by James Darling, who went on to become on of the team's most consistent players. Also affecting Thompson's status is the grievance he has filed against the team in a contract dispute. Thompson could be released as soon as June 1st, but look for the Cardinals to do what they can to retain his services at least until training camp.
Draft Stats: If the Cardinals do not acquire a legitimate game-breaking back in free agency, then look for the team to use one of their early picks on one of the backs from what is considered a deep class. Auburn RB Carnell "Cadillac" Williams is a definite possibility in the first round, but Green may turn his attention to the offensive line or the secondary.
Aside from C Alex Stepanovich and LT Leonard Davis the Cardinals are unsettled along their offensive line and it is imperative, with a young and talented corps of skill position players that the line is not a weakness.
Green believes in drafting for talent, not need and with the eighth overall selection University of Miami CB Antrelle Rolle, Oklahoma DE Dan Cody or DT Shaun Cody may be higher value picks for the Cards.
San Francisco – New head coach Mike Nolan is a defensive coach first and he already has plans for DE Andre Carter. Carter, who was the seventh overall choice in 2001, suffered through an injury-plagued 2004 season, but Nolan sees him as the Lawrence Taylor in the 49ers' new 3-4 defensive scheme. Carter will play mostly with his hand on the ground but fans can expect to see him as a stand-up rush end, as well as a rover who can wreak havoc along the line of scrimmage.
Offensively, Nolan is intrigued by newly released Titans WR Derrick Mason. With a relatively young corps of wideouts on his roster, Nolan sees Mason as the veteran presence that could be a leader on the field as well as the locker room. Look for the Niners to be in hot pursuit of Mason once free agency starts.
Draft Stats: The 49ers have the number one overall selection but that may be more of a curse than a blessing. Quarterback would seem to be the biggest need area, but with no clear-cut leader between Utah's Alex Smith and California's Aaron Rogers, the Niners my find it more suitable to trade down and pick up other choices and hope that one is still available.
Texas RB Cedric Benson is also a possibility but is we worth the number one overall choice?
St. Louis – Rumors out of Rams Park are that there are concerns about FS Adam Archuleta's coverage abilities and the team may be in the market for an experienced coverage safety. With former LB Pisa Tinoisamoa moving to strong safety the Rams need a proven ball-hawk who can mask any coverage breakdowns. For his part Archuleta has stated he has no qualms about his move to the deep patrol and he is going to work hard this offseason on his ball skills.
Recent medical tests have revealed that Archuleta finished the season with a herniated disc in his back. Archuleta is avoiding surgery through epidural shots and an extensive rehab program, but how the back holds up over the course of a season remains to be seen and could be cause for concern if it needs to be addressed.
Draft Stats: The Rams are a team that has talent up and down their entire roster, but they seem to lack that one difference maker who can be counted on in the crunch. Could second-year RB Steven Jackson be that man? Even with all of his stats, QB Marc Bulger hasn't been able to win the big games when the team needs him most and his penchant for holding the ball too long has gotten him beat up.
The offensive line, and especially right tackle is a sore spot for head coach Mike Martz but don't look for the Rams to necessarily address the position with their first round choice.
With the likely loss of DE Bryce Fisher in free agency the Rams may need to look to the draft for a pass-rusher. Iowa's Matt Roth or Georgia's David Pollack fit the mold that defensive coordinator Larry Marmie likes his ends to be. They are stout against the run and above average rushers.
.NET Reporter Scott
Eklund writes for Seahawks.NET every week. Feel free to contact him at email@example.com.
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