Tight end Stephen Skelton fights through traffic.
FLAGSTAFF – Since the day coach Ken Whisenhunt arrived in Arizona, he wanted to upgrade the tight end position, making a run at Cincinnati's Reggie Kelly in the 2007 free agency period.
But the spot never really got a major makeover until now.
The Cardinals agreed to a two-year contract with veteran and Mesa native Todd Heap Sunday, just a few days after signing underrated blocking tight end Jeff King and a few months after spending a third-round pick on Rob Housler.
The Cards now have six tight ends – holdovers Stephen Spach and Jim Dray, and undrafted rookie Stephen Skelton – and arguably the strongest group since the team moved to Arizona.
"There has been a lot been said about that and it's not an easy position to address," Whisenhunt said.
Heap, who like all the veterans can't practice until Thursday, had 40 catches for 599 yards and five touchdowns last season for Baltimore. He was released in a salary-cap move, and it was clear he wanted to return home (Heap is from Mesa, and attended Mountain View High School and Arizona State).
Whisenhunt said the first couple of weeks of practice, the Cards will determine Heap's strengths "but thinking of our receivers and combining Todd with them and trying to create mismatches, that's exciting."
Tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens also liked the idea of Heap mentoring Housler. Now that Heap and King are aboard, the pressure is lessened on Housler to contribute right away.
"Whoever shows he can make the plays – and we have some guys now that have shown they can do that and I would assume that is still the case – we will find ways to get the ball to them," Kitchens said.
HIGHTOWER TRADED TO REDSKINS
In a move not surprising after the Cards drafted running back Ryan Williams in the second round, veteran back Tim Hightower was traded to Washington Sunday for veteran defensive end Vonnie Holliday and a conditional draft pick.
"Ultimately this works out the best for him and the best for us," Whisenhunt said. "He's a good football player and it's tough to do that. But these are the decisions you are faced with when you are trying to improve."
Running back Beanie Wells now is the unquestioned No. 1 back, especially since Williams just signed and has not even practiced yet.
The trade "was shocking," Wells said. "But you know it's a business and you know what business entails.
"I knew somebody would probably going to not be here, I just didn't know who it would be."
Holliday is expected to provide depth behind Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett, joining free-agent signee Nick Eason.
Friday, guard Deuce Lutui left the Cardinals, agreeing to a two-year deal with Cincinnati. Sunday, he was back, having failed the Bengals' physical – reportedly for being overweight, a problem Lutui had last training camp as well – and ended up agreeing to come back to Arizona on a one-year contract.
"We love Deuce," Whisenhunt said. "He's a good football player. We tried to get him back. He comes back to us now with some things to prove. Sometimes it is meant to be.
"He has a chance to come here but he has to earn his way on the field. When he does it right and his weight is not an issue, he's a good football player. Hopefully Deuce understands that now. But I respect what Deuce has done for us."
Last year, Lutui had issues at the beginning of camp – reports said he was near 400 pounds, and he is listed at 338. He wasn't around the Cards last offseason because he was unhappy about his contract and had no supervision this offseason because of the lockout.
"It's a little bit different scenario here," Whisenhunt said. "Sometimes you either get it or you don't get it. There is no special consideration for Deuce."
There will be an afternoon practice every day through Friday at 3:05 p.m. and a morning practice at 9 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It should be noted, however, that morning practices – because of the new collective bargaining rules – are just walkthroughs without helmets.