Free agency begins on March 11. The Cardinals have many key pieces in place, but there are still needs to be addressed. We’ll break it down by position over the next 10 days as unsigned NFL players prepare to hit the open market.
Free agent primer: Offensive line
Cap numbers of players under contract for 2014: RG
Analysis: The Cardinals have crucial decisions to make at offensive tackle for 2014. Left tackle Bradley Sowell is under contract after starting the final 12 games last season, but the team will try to upgrade the position. Kansas City’s Branden Albert, Cincinnati’s Anthony Collins, St. Louis’ Rodger Saffold, Baltimore’s Eugene Monroe and Oakland’s Jared Veldheer are among the top scheduled free agents and could be options for General Manager Steve Keim. At right tackle, the Cardinals could attempt to re-sign Eric Winston, let backup Bobby Massie take over or find a player in free agency or the draft.
Lyle Sendlein is expected to return at center and 2013 first-round pick Jonathan Cooper will take over left guard after missing his rookie season with a broken leg. Daryn Colledge will shuffle over to right guard if he returns, but a $4.8 million salary makes him a possible cap casualty. The Cardinals would be on the hook for $4.55 million of dead money if Colledge is released – while saving $2.73 million – so it may be a fluid decision depending on how the market develops. Earl Watford would be next in line for playing time if Colledge is cut.
The Cardinals don’t have the cap space to be huge players in free agency, but this is one position where they are expected to be aggressive. The addition of a premier left tackle could be one of the first dominoes to fall in the team’s free agency plans.
Notable scheduled NFL free agents: OT – Eugene Monroe, Branden Albert, Jared Veldheer, Anthony Collins, Rodger Saffold, Zach Strief, Austin Howard, Tyson Clabo, Michael Oher. C – Alex Mack, Brad Meester, Brian De La Puente, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Jonathan Goodwin. G – Richie Incognito, Geoff Schwartz, Jon Asamoah, Travelle Wharton, Zane Beadlers, Willie Colon.
Notable past free agent OL signings by the Cardinals: 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).