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Faneca Finally A Card

Two years after initial talks, Pro Bowler reunites with Whisenhunt, Grimm


The Cardinals agreed to a one-year deal with Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca Tuesday.
The Cardinals' offensive line was under construction this season.

Somewhat surprisingly, one of the key building blocks – a player coach Ken Whisenhunt and offensive line coach Russ Grimm sought two years ago – suddenly arrived Tuesday.

The Cards and nine-time Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca agreed to a one-year contract, which reported was worth a guaranteed $2.5 million.

"We feel like it was meant to be," Whisenhunt said of getting Faneca to Arizona. "It just took two years longer than we hoped for."
Said Faneca in an e-mail to the Associated Press, "It's a great situation for me with a group of coaches I'm familiar with, especially to be back with Russ again."

The Cards would have made an effort to sign Faneca in the offseason following 2007, but salary cap restrictions while the team re-did Larry Fitzgerald's contract made it impossible.  Faneca signed with the Jets and played well, reaching the Pro Bowl this past season while blocking for the top rushing team in the NFL.

But Faneca was cut over draft weekend, and even with the Cards flush with veteran offensive linemen, the Cards looked into signing him. Because he was already still due more than $5 million from the Jets, Faneca didn't need to break the bank and made him more attractive to the Cards.

"When you talk about making changes in your offensive line, which at this point we are talking about, it's outstanding to know you have a player like Alan coming into this team, because of what he has accomplished in this league and what he will mean to this team," Whisenhunt said.

Whisenhunt insisted Faneca is not guaranteed a starting job.

"It won't be given to him," Whisenhunt said. "I don't think Alan would have it any other way."

Changes to the line could be significant. Until left tackle Mike Gandy was sidelined with a hernia last year, the starting five linemen had been working on a consecutive games streak as a unit dating back to the start of the 2008 season.

But Gandy, a free agent, was not brought back. Levi Brown will be moved from right tackle to left tackle. And restricted free agent and right guard Deuce Lutui has yet to sign his tender offer, making his spot suddenly much more vulnerable.

Whisenhunt said Tuesday he has not heard from Lutui and doesn't know if Lutui will sign his tender in time to report to this weekend's minicamp. "I would hope he will be here for minicamp," Whisenhunt said.

Faneca, however, will be there assuming there are no setbacks before he signs his contract.

Faneca is 33, but Whisenhunt said he still plays at a high level. "There is a reason he has been to nine Pro Bowls," Whisenhunt said.

With Brown moving, Brandon Keith is expected to have the first chance to start at right tackle, and Jeremy Bridges should compete for that starting role.

On the interior, however, there are three spots and a lot of possibilities now that Faneca has arrived. Faneca has made his reputation as a left guard, but Whisenhunt said he can play either side and even some tackle or even center. Incumbent left guard Reggie Wells can play both sides, although Lutui – once and if he signs his tender offer – will remain on the right side competing for his job.

Then there is still veteran Rex Hadnot, who can play guard or center, incumbent starting center Lyle Sendlein, and second-year man Herman Johnson, who could still be a guard or tackle.

"Part of this minicamp is seeing how this shakes out," Whisenhunt said.

"We understand chemistry is an important component of the offensive line. We'll go through the process of competition and it will sort itself out."

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