Team Needs: Arizona Cardinals

The NFC West could be a wide-open race in 2005, and the Arizona Cardinals could be in the mix if they secure the talent they need at the draft.

Sporting a trio of wide receivers that should give new starting quarterback Kurt Warner options to be successful, the Cardinals are focused on improving the rushing attack, which progressed over the second half of last season. Marcel Shipp is the current No. 1 running back, but that could change if the team trades for Buffalo's Travis Henry or selects a running back early in the draft.

With the ingredients in place to be a solid offensive team, Arizona must improve its defense to be considered a serious contender in the NFC.

The defensive front four was a weakness prior to the arrival of Green, but the Cardinals may offer the best one-two punch of starting defensive ends in the game with Bertrand Berry and Chike Okeafor. Along with a change in scheme and attitude, Arizona's defensive line could be a force in 2005.

The play of the defensive backfield must improve. Starting cornerbacks David Macklin and Robert Tate are adequate at best, so the Cardinals need to add a quality corner in the draft. Veteran Robert Griffith adds experience and depth at free safety. Up-and-coming star Adrian Wilson holds down the middle.


Running back – With the retirement of Emmitt Smith, the Cardinals have a rather large hole to fill. Shipp is expected to return in 2005, after missing the 2004 season due to a fractured leg. While Shipp was the team's leading rusher in 2002 and 2003, he has not shown the consistency and ability to be the every-down running back that Green seeks. Arizona has been in lengthy discussions with the Bills about Henry, but a trade remains far from a reality. If the Cardinals don't finalize a deal for Henry, they could very well use their first-round draft pick, the eighth overall, to select a running back.

Cornerback – Duane Starks was traded to the New England Patriots and Renaldo Hill left for Oakland in free agency, leaving the Cardinals with suspect starters in Macklin and Tate. With the inexperienced Tyrone Sanders and Rhett Nelson making up the remaining cast, quality and depth is a significant concern. The 2005 draft is deep at cornerback and the Cardinals should not have any problem selecting a viable talent on the first day of the draft. If a deal for Henry materializes, Arizona would be best served in securing a starting quality corner with the No. 8 pick.

Linebacker – The strong-side and weak-side spots are set, with the middle being manned by the recently acquired Orlando Huff. Depth is the biggest concern. Arizona stripped itself of depth at the position with the release of veteran Ray Thompson and LeVar Woods. The Cardinals have no option but to address the depth issue in the draft and potentially add a veteran before training camp.

Tight end – With Freddie Jones signed by Carolina as an unrestricted free agent, the Cardinals have absolutely no proven quality or depth at the position.




UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: TE Freddie Jones, MLB Ron McKinnon, WR Nate Poole, OG Cameron Spikes.



PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: RB Damien Anderson, OT Jerry Bridges, RB Troy Hambrick, S Quentin Harris, DT Ross Kolodziej, QB Josh McCown, CB Robert Tate, DE Peppi Zellner.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED: S Robert Griffith (Browns), LB Orlando Huff (Seahawks), DE Chike Okeafor (Seahawks), OT Oliver Ross (Steelers), QB Kurt Warner (Giants).

PLAYERS LOST: CB Renaldo Hill (Raiders), TE Freddie Jones (Panthers), QB Shaun King (released), RB Emmitt Smith (retired), CB Duane Starks (traded to Patriots), S Michael Stone (Rams), LB Ray Thompson (released), DE Kyle Vanden Bosch (Titans), WR Karl Williams (released), LB LeVar Woods (released).

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