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Cardinals Lock Up Five Free Agents

Posted Mar 13, 2013

QB Stanton, RB Mendenhall, LB Alexander, DBs Bell, Powers added; Rhodes cut

Among the five free agents the Cardinals added Wednesday were (clockwise from top left): quarterback Drew Stanton, running back Rashard Mendenhall, safety Yeremiah Bell and cornerback Jerraud Powers. The team also signed linebacker Lorenzo Alexander.

Jerraud Powers had promised the San Diego Chargers and new general manager Tom Telasco – who used to work in Indianapolis with Powers – he would visit after the cornerback made his free-agent stop with the Cardinals.

Powers was feeling guilty Wednesday afternoon he wasn’t going to be a man of his word, after he signed a new three-year contract with the Cardinals.

“I felt bad about it,” Powers said. “As a man, you want to go through on those promises, but when it came to this situation, I couldn’t pass up, I couldn’t turn it down.

“From the time I walked in, I tried to tell B.A. (Bruce Arians), ‘Look, I’ve got a visit with San Diego that I got to go to.’ He just told me, ‘You’re not leaving this building without a red pen in your hand (to sign a deal).’ ”

Powers wasn’t the only one convinced by the Cardinals to wield the pen. The Cardinals didn’t make any moves the first day of free agency, but they seriously made up for it on day No. 2, adding five new players: Powers, running back Rashard Mendenhall and each signed contracts, while safety Yeremiah Bell and Pro Bowl special teamer and linebacker Lorenzo Alexander agreed to terms.

The Cards also subtracted Wednesday, with Bell’s arrival leading to the release of safety Kerry Rhodes. That move does not come as a major surprise, since Rhodes was due $6 million in salary and bonuses in 2013. Even Rhodes at the end of the season quietly believed it could be his last in Arizona. Bell and the re-signed Rashad Johnson could be the starting safety tandem in 2013.

Bell and Mendenhall have one-year contracts. Powers, Alexander and Stanton got three-year deals. Reports have the Cardinals still talking with receiver/return man Josh Cribbs, and the team also hosted linebacker Rey Maualuga for a visit Wednesday. Cornerback Antoine Cason and linebacker Jasper Brinkley are also reportedly on their way for visits.

Four of the five additions have ties to the Cardinals’ coaching staff. Stanton and Powers played for head coach Bruce Arians last season in Indianapolis, with Stanton a knowledge of Arians’ offensive system. Mendenhall’s best years in Pittsburgh came when Arians was offensive coordinator there. Bell played for Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles when Bowles was with the Dolphins.

All five have realistic chances to become starters. Mendenhall is coming off a rocky finish to his career in Pittsburgh after suffering an ACL tear at the end of the 2011 season, but after five seasons he is still only 25 years old. The one-year contract allows him to prove himself to the Cardinals – he will make $2.5 million with a possibility of $1 million in incentives – but also allows him to get back into the free-agent market for a bigger deal next year.

“He’s a big man with little people feet, meaning he can run like he’s 180 (pounds) but also pound the ball like he’s 230,” Arians said.

Mendenhall was suspended a game in Pittsburgh last season because he left the stadium the week before after finding out he was going to be inactive.

“I’m looking forward to moving forward and moving on, not looking back to last year or even past great years that I had,” Mendenhall said, adding “I’m not ashamed of who I am.”

Bell, who had had 89 tackles and a sack last year with the Jets, has 12 career sacks and six career interceptions. He has started 91 games in his career. Powers started all 42 games he played in Indianapolis over four seasons, although he finished the last three on injured reserve. He is a top candidate to start across from Patrick Peterson as the Cardinals try and replenish their cornerback depth.

Alexander did start 12 games for the Redskins in 2010 but has been a reserve most of his career. Still, he did go to Hawaii on his special teams skills this past season and chipped in 2½ sacks on defense.

“The Cardinals have already kind of pegged me in a starting role which is very exciting for me,” Alexander told cbsdc.com. “I’ll be a linebacker that helps out on special teams instead of special teams being my bread and butter. It’s going to allow me to grow as a player.”

But it is Stanton who could be the most intriguing, if for no other reason the Cardinals have such uncertainty at the position. He figures to battle Brian Hoyer for at least the backup role, and potentially the starter based on who the Cardinals draft at the position and what their plans are for incumbents Kolb, John Skelton and Ryan Lindley.

“They need to find answers at this position,” Stanton said. “I want to be that answer. I’m going to do everything in my power to be that answer.”

 

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