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Haggans Officially a Card

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The Cards officially signed linebacker Clark Haggans to a one-year contract Thursday.

Free agency, Clark Haggans said, has been "interesting."

But the veteran linebacker, who spent eight seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, finally has a new home with the Cardinals almost a month after being on the market.

"The dust has settled now, I am here, and I am excited," Haggans said Thursday, after passing a physical and officially signing a one-year contract.

The Cards had been searching for depth at linebacker, losing out on one candidate when free agent Brandon Chillar chose to sign with Green Bay. But Haggans was still available, and with the connections with coach Ken Whisenhunt and many of the staff, Haggans was a natural target.

"I was surprised he was on the market," Whisenhunt said. "We had a high grade on him and we thought he would go early in the free-agency process.

"After we came to terms with him and our staff found out about it, I had more offensive coaches coming in excited about signing Clark because of looking at the cut-ups from last year and watching how he played against us."

The 6-foot-4, 243-pound Haggans started all 16 games for the Steelers in 2007, making 71 tackles with three sacks and a fumble recovery. He has 32½ sacks in his career.

The Cardinals may still sign another linebacker, too. The team has not closed the door on bringing in free agent Matt Stewart, who missed all of 2007 with an injury while with Cleveland. The veteran would be a reserve for both inside and outside spots and also excels on special teams.

While word of Haggans' decision leaked Wednesday, the contract was not finalized until Haggans took his physical Thursday.

Whisenhunt said Haggans' role is yet to be defined. He will be used as a pass rusher and likely would be used to spell projected starter Chike Okeafor on first and second downs.

Bertrand Berry and Travis LaBoy will battle for the other linebacker starting spot. The Cards already have Karlos Dansby and Gerald Hayes at inside linebacker with Monty Beisel providing depth.

Haggans said it was comforting to see familiar faces like Whisenhunt, offensive line coach Russ Grimm and special teams coach Kevin Spencer – all former Pittsburgh coaches.

Haggans also knows linebackers coach Bill Davis, whom Haggans met when Davis was coaching linebackers for the Giants while New York tried to sign Haggans as a free agent in 2004.

Haggans joins tight end Jerame Tuman as ex-Steelers to join the Cards as a free agent this offseason, and their familiarity with Whisenhunt is expected to ease their transition to a new team.

"When we are bringing in guys that know how we want to operate, that have been successful and that have a Super Bowl ring, I think it helps your team," Whisenhunt said. "They have been in big games, they have been successful in big games, and they bring an attitude of how you have to work."

The Cardinals have seemed to recover from the free-agent inertia forced upon them while waiting to restructure and ultimately re-do the contract of wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

"I feel good about some of the players that have been patient and waited on us and that have re-signed," Whisenhunt said. "There is always of sense of uneasiness when you have good football players that are on the market you can't (yet) re-sign, and others you want to go after.

"Now, we lost a couple. We lost (receiver) Bryant Johnson, we lost (guard) Keydrick Vincent. But we have also had some positive things."

Haggans, meanwhile, is just happy he has figured out where he will play this season. Asked if he was surprised he remained a free agent for so long, Haggans paused.

"The way I look at it, hindsight is 20/20," Haggans said. "I know for me, this is the best thing for me and my family. I know everybody else might have a different opinion, but I am excited to be here and moving on. I am embracing some new challenges in my life."


Contact Darren Urban at askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net. Posted 3/27/08.

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