The Cardinals’ front office is surveying the free agent landscape, hoping to complement a core which went 13-3 last season and advanced to the NFC Championship game. Free agency begins on March 9, and we’ll break down the team’s needs at each position leading up to the signing period.
Free agent primer: Offensive line
Cap numbers of players under contract for 2016: T
Analysis: Sixty percent of the Cardinals’ starting offensive line is scheduled to hit free agency, and there’s a chance right tackle Bobby Massie, center Lyle Sendlein and guard Ted Larsen all move on. The situation isn’t dire if former first-round picks Jonathan Cooper and D.J. Humphries can make strides to become competent replacements, although that remains to be seen. Humphries is penciled in at right tackle while there are reports Cooper could be tried at right guard or center next season, so it will be interesting to see how Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim approaches free agency.
The left side is locked down, with high-profile free agent signings Jared Veldheer and Mike Iupati manning tackle and guard, respectively. Earl Watford filled in at right tackle when Massie was suspended for the first two games of the 2015 season, and he’s increased his value by improving his positional flexibility. The Cardinals could have him compete at either guard or tackle in the offseason. Tackle Rob Crisp and guard Antoine McClain are among a group of young players who will be battling for a roster spot. A.Q. Shipley was beaten out by Sendlein for the center job in training camp last season, and he will be back, but likely in the role as an extra blocker and utility player.
The Cardinals’ offensive line will look different from the one that finished 2015. The team used significant resources on Cooper and Humphries, so it would work out best if those two players can seize starting opportunities. Center or right guard seems to be the most likely spot to add a free agent, although the team could also use the draft to address offensive line holes.
Notable past free agent OL signings by the Cardinals: Iupati (2015); Veldheer (2014); Larsen (2014); Eric Winston (2013); Adam Snyder (2012); Daryn Colledge (2011); Rex Hadnot (2010); Mike Gandy (2007); Al Johnson (2007); Milford Brown (2006); Oliver Ross (2005); Pete Kendall (2001); Mike Gruttadauria (2000); Lester Holmes (1998); Lomas Brown (1996).