Arizona Cardinals Eye
Rebuilding In 2013
Although Michael Bidwill And The Cardinals Front Office Might Not Admit It Any Time Soon, This Upcoming Season May Be About Accepting Mediocrity In Preparation For 2014 and Beyond
Head Coach of the Arizona Cardinals, Bruce Arians.
By Wayne Schutsky
Modern Times Magazine
March 16, 2013 — Get ready for what could be a long season, Cardinals fans. Based on the team’s recent offseason moves, it looks like things could get worse before they get better.
Rebuilding is proving to be a witch — with a wart on its nose and a cackle in its cockles.
Initially, Arizona’s moves under new GM Steve Keim and new head coach Bruce Arians seemed to make some sense.
The team did what it had to when it released strong safety Adrian Wilson. While it was painful to let go of a franchise legend, A-Dub had lost a step and saw his playing time decrease last season. A rebuilding team needs to get younger and could not afford an aging, slow player at the safety position.
Acquiring a bigger bang for the buck is also the reasoning behind the release of Kevin Kolb. Instead of paying him a $2 million roster bonus and $9 million next year, the franchise saved $7 million in salary cap space.
Similarly, players like Beanie Wells, LaRod Stephens-Howling, and a slew of other players the team released either did not fit into Arians’ system or had a history of injury problems that Keim was eager to get rid of.
However, the Kerry Rhodes situation is a little more baffling. While reports state that the free safety already had one foot out the door, teams do not just cut ties with a talented, starting-caliber safety without getting something in return.
Even more astonishing is the player the Cardinals brought in to replace Rhodes. Former Jets safety Yeremiah Bell is older than either Wilson or Rhodes and brings very little to the table. Sure, he pulled in 89 tackles last season, but the guy made zero interceptions (which is a free safety’s bread and butter).
The Cardinals also brought in Rashard Mendenhall, a running back with attitude problems who is coming off of a major knee injury. Why didn’t the team just keep Beanie Wells?
Both Mendenhall and Bell received one-year contracts, indicating they are stop gaps until the Cardinals can draft replacements or open up enough cap space for future free agency endeavors.
Some of these moves might have come down to the circumstances surrounding the club’s 5-11 record in 2012 and that no matter how Michael Bidwill wants to spin it, the franchise nearly imploded last season. Many players may have given up on the franchise, but if their replacements are not as good, the future is dim.
But who knows? The string of other signings the team made may shed light on Keim and Arians’ vision for the future. The other signings the Cardinals have made (safety Rashad Johnson, outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, quarterback Drew Stanton, and inside linebacker Jasper Brinkley) received multi-year deals and are either young players with starting potential or relatively-young veteran role players that will help an increasingly youthful lineup mature.
The one-year deals awarded to cornerback and UA legend Antoine Cason — who might help makeup for the loss of Rhodes’ ability to nab interceptions — and former Oakland Raider Matt Shaugnessy are also nice, affordable pickups on good, young players.
These are solid pickups with little risk and big time potential. Johnson is an adequate safety with the potential to be an above-average starter. Stanton is a solid backup with knowledge of Arians’ system who, given the chance, could possibly blossom into a starter. Brinkley and Alexander are both average linebackers who provide depth and special teams experience.
Moves like this do not necessarily make the team better right now. In fact, it might be by design.
The Cardinals might not want to admit it to their fanbase, but this is looking like a rebuilding year. And by rebuilding, I mean losing with a purpose.
With Bell at safety, Mendenhall in the backfield, and no discernible option at quarterback (the only viable first-rounder in the draft, Geno Smith, will likely be off the board when the Cardinals pick), the Cardinals will probably end up with an even higher draft pick next year. This could afford them the opportunity to land a strong-armed accurate playcaller like Alabama’s AJ McCarron.
Free agent signings like the ones the Cardinals have made allow the team to sink a little deeper into inferiority without getting the team stuck in a rut. With any luck, the team will nab a high draft pick next year, open up some cap space, and sign some talented young free agents. This year’s mediocrity could be next season’s promise.
After years of struggling through mind-boggling personnel moves (Derek Anderson, anyone?), it looks like the Cardinals have a long term plan.
The new Cardinals are not going to blow anyone away. But they do serve a purpose. They fill a role. They are not the superstar starters of the today. They are the role players of the future, who, if everything works out, will mentor the young talent Arizona brings in in the future when the lineup has a balance of raw young players and savvy veterans.
Wayne Schutsky is a senior contributor to Modern Times Magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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