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The Question At Center

Froholdt is the only current Cardinals player with regular-season experience

The Cardinals are still figuring out who will play center this season.
The Cardinals are still figuring out who will play center this season.

The Cardinals are trying to find a center, and that isn't all that new.

Most of the time, it has been an addition from the outside that has been the choice. In 2007, the Cardinals signed Al Johnson to a free-agent deal, and when Johnson's body broke down, they were fortunate that undrafted rookie Lyle Sendlein developed into a long-term answer that carried them to both a Super Bowl and another NFC Championship appearance.

A.Q. Shipley also was the man for a few years, and the trade for former Pro Bowler Rodney Hudson was good in the moment. Now, though, the Hudson era fizzling out after injuries, the Cardinals are again in search of the man in the middle.

"We've got a few guys that can play center, that have played center," coach Jonathan Gannon said. "Then we will look to possibly add in free agency and the draft."

A few times, the Cardinals looked in the draft. But Evan Boehm, Mason Cole and Lamont Gaillard never worked out. That was under the previous regime, however, and new GM Monti Ossenfort has talked about upgrading the line.

Center seems an obvious choice, although Gannon said he isn't concerned about the position, at least here in late March.

"That's the one thing about adding people with multiple skillsets that can play different positions," Gannon said. "You're not, 'Well, we need a center.' We don't really need a center right now because we have guys who have done it before and can play that spot."

The "right now" is a crucial part of the comment; multiple times when he spoke to the media Gannon noted the Cardinals don't have to play a game anytime soon. There are guys who, right now, can be a center in a minicamp or OTA.

But the reality right now is that of the 12 linemen on the current roster – and there will be more – only one has played center in an NFL game. Hjalte Froholdt has played 336 snaps at center, in four games as an emergency center last season for the Browns when they had a rash of injuries at the position. Then-rookie Lecitus Smith worked on playing center in training camp and the preseason, but he had not played center in his life before being drafted by the Cardinals.

The situation can change quickly. There are centers like Ohio State's Luke Wypler and Wisconsin's Joe Tippmann in the draft. Former Titan Ben Jones is still available too.  

The line has gotten some additions in the offseason, and center figures to get its attention soon enough.

"It's shaping up pretty good," Gannon said. "We're looking to add to that (unit) as well as every room."