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Cardinals Get Eric Winston, John Abraham

Posted Jul 25, 2013

Team adds veteran offensive lineman and linebacker, release Schofield

The Cardinals agreed to terms with tackle Eric Winston (left) and pass rusher John Abraham Thursday.

It was a simple opening to training camp Thursday for the Cardinals – a conditioning test that coach Bruce Arians ended up cutting short.

But for the front office, the day was anything but simple, as General Manager Steve Keim churned the roster and added two big-name veterans for not such a big price.

The Cards brought in offensive tackle Eric Winston on a one-year contract and linebacker John Abraham with a two-year contract. Reports have Winston getting the veteran minimum plus incentives if he wins a starting job, while Abraham’s deal is worth about $3 million a season.

In the day of transactions, linebacker O’Brien Schofield, the team’s 2010 fourth-round pick, was released. The Cards also put rookie wide receiver Ryan Swope on the reserved-retired list and signed linebacker Kenneth Rowe.

Nothing was finalized by the time Arians spoke to the media, so the coach wouldn’t speak in much detail.

“We are always going to turn over stones and turn over to make our team better,” Arians said. “It’s a cold business some days. We’ll see how that unfolds.”

Arians also declined to talk about unsigned first-round pick Jonathan Cooper.

“Guys that aren’t here, I’ve got nothing to say about them,” Arians said.

Winston had been released by Kansas City earlier in the offseason, not a surprise given the Chiefs’ selection of tackle Eric Fisher with the No. 1 overall selection and the presence of franchise-tagged tackle Branden Albert. The year before, Winston had been released by the Texans. Earlier in the offseason, he said publicly he was looking for a contract of $3 million a season, and signing his deal with the Cards underscores the difficulty many veterans have had in free agency.

He goes into a mix at tackle that includes Levi Brown, Bobby Massie and Nate Potter. First-round pick Jonathan Cooper – still unsigned – will be the left guard and Lyle Sendlein should be the center, but there will be opportunities for mixing-and-matching if the coaching staff would so choose.

Winston told Sirius XM NFL Radio Thursday morning he would have preferred a multi-year deal but realized that option wasn’t out there, and looked forward to parlaying this opportunity into a longer contract. He also said he understood he wasn’t going to be handed a starting job.

“I’m kind of going into this wide-eyed and knowing that I have to go and compete and win another spot like I have the last seven years,” Winston said. “That’s just the way my mindset is and that’s kind of the way I always approach it, no matter what my contract’s always been or the stipulations have been. I look at it like you got to win a job every time you step on the field during camp.”

Brown declined to talk to the media after the conditioning test. Arians acknowledged he was more satisfied with what he had seen from his in-house offensive linemen on video rather than what he had seen during offseason work.

But “I always give offensive linemen the benefit of the doubt in shorts,” Arians said. “That’s not their game. I will judge them more by Wednesday.”

Arians had already said he hadn’t made any firm decisions on his starting offensive line.

“(Winston) goes to show you are going to have to compete for a job, whether you are competing with a guy in your (meeting) room or with someone from another team,” center Lyle Sendlein said.

“I wouldn’t expect them to put anything in cement because we haven’t even put on pads and that’s when we do most of our work.”

Abraham has had 32½ sacks the past three seasons. He likely would fit in as more of a situational pass rusher given his vast experience as a 4-3 defensive end in the Cards’ base 3-4 scheme. But he gives the Cards their first true proven edge rusher since Bertrand Berry.

Abraham fits into an outside linebacking corps that includes Sam Acho, Lorenzo Alexander and newcomer Matt Shaughnessy.


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