Cardinals center A.Q. Shipley returns after starting all 16 games last season.
As A.Q. Shipley prepared to hit free agency near the end of the season, he and the Cardinals professed a mutual admiration for one another.
It proved to be genuine, as the team's starting center re-signed Thursday on a two-year deal.
"The closer we got to free agency, other teams were starting to show interest, and I was hoping to get this done," Shipley said. "When they started putting something together, it was nice to know I was going to be staying here for another two."
Shipley became a full-time starter for the first time in 2016 at age 30, and, as injuries popped up all around him, was the most consistent piece on the line. He will aim to lock down the center spot once again in 2017 after winning the training camp battle a year ago.
"Same (mindset) as last time," Shipley said. "Take over in the middle like I did last year. Hopefully be a veteran presence. Obviously I've got more experience now, so do everything I can to bring the young guys along. Be a leader and command that middle spot."
The Cardinals now have four of last year's offensive line starters under contract: Shipley, tackle Jared Veldheer, guard Mike Iupati and tackle D.J. Humphries. The biggest question mark will be the starter at right guard. Second-year player Evan Boehm or others on the roster could be in that mix, or the team could dip into free agency or the draft.
Shipley believes continuity at several spots would benefit the group in 2017.
"There were a lot of new faces last year and a lot of different, moving parts," he said. "I remember my first year in Pittsburgh in this offense and my head was kind of spinning a little bit. Now it's second nature."
"We've just got to get smarter across the board," Shipley added. "I've been re-watching a lot of the film from last year just kind of trying to break it down, critique, all of that stuff. There were a lot of good things but there were a lot of things that we just missed seeing. From a mental standpoint, I think we can all just be better at that."
The Cardinals also officially re-signed Jermaine Gresham to a four-year contract on Thursday. He played on a pair of one-year contracts with the team and now has longer-term stability.
"It feels weird to have security, but I'm truly happy and blessed," Gresham said. "Now I'm back to playing football. That's the mode going forward."
Gresham had 37 catches for 391 yards and two touchdowns this season. He saw more action in the passing game down the stretch, but isn't worried about how much involvement he will have moving forward.
"Honestly, I don't care as long as we win," Gresham said. "If I'm blocking more and catching less balls and we're going 13-3 again – if that's what we need to do, I'll do that."
Images of the 18 players scheduled to hit free agency on March 9