The Cardinals believe Jared Veldheer is the answer to their left-tackle woes.
Jared Veldheer is like an overprotective father when it comes to his quarterbacks.
Defensive ends are paid millions of dollars to terrorize backfields, but the Cardinals' new left tackle still takes it personally when his signal caller is roughed up.
"I want the quarterback to have all the time in the world," Veldheer said. "I don't want him to have to pick himself up off the ground or even have people remotely around him. The goal is to keep everyone about five-to-six feet away from him. I don't even want them to smell him after the play's done."
The Cardinals have gotten a whiff of Veldheer, and so far it's all roses. The team's key free agent addition was inked to a five-year, $35 million contract with $17 million guaranteed in March and given the directive to lock down the left tackle position for years to come. It's only training camp, but there is overflowing confidence he will do just
"He's 6-8, 320 (pounds) and (27) years old," coach Bruce Arians said. "He's mean. He's athletic. He's got all the traits. You wonder how he got out there (into free agency), but we're sure glad he did. Hopefully the tackle situation's going to be put to bed for eight to 10 years."
Stability at that spot would provide a sigh of relief for an organization which has been trying to find its cornerstone for a decade. For the first 15 years in Arizona, the Cardinals were pretty well off at left tackle, going from Pro Bowler Luis Sharpe to Pro Bowler Lomas Brown to the serviceable L.J. Shelton.
The team aimed high in the 2001 draft, choosing mammoth Texas offensive lineman Leonard Davis with the No. 2 overall pick. While he was a dominant guard, Davis assumed left tackle in 2004 but never developed into a franchise tackle before he was allowed to leave as a free agent. Next came free agent pickup Mike Gandy from 2007-09, the left tackle during the Super Bowl run but more of a stopgap.
The Cardinals had passed on Adrian Peterson in 2007 to draft Levi Brown fifth overall. He started at left tackle from 2010 through early last year, but was inconsistent at best and got traded to the Steelers in October, replaced by the inexperienced Bradley Sowell.
So now Veldheer gets his shot. This time, the Cardinals are not banking on a college player with potential and no track record. Veldheer is a known commodity after starting in the NFL the past four seasons.
"He is what we thought he was," offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. "He can get better at some pass
(protection) things that we've tweaked a little bit from his past habits, but other than that, he's physical, he's aggressive, and we like what we've got. He's played a lot of football in this league at a high level."
Veldheer watched quarterback Carson Palmer's blindside in 2011 and 2012 when they played together in Oakland. Palmer said he took one look at Veldheer's physical stature when they met and knew he could be elite.
"If he can move, he can play," Palmer said. "You could tell right away. And then you get on the practice field with him and it is very apparent."
Palmer said Veldheer's nickname in Oakland was the Big Serious for the way he carried himself. Veldheer was a 2010 third-round pick out of little known Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan, who kept his head down and gave it his all, because he wasn't sure if he belonged in the NFL.
Early in his rookie season he became a starter, and the confidence grew from there.
"Being a small-school guy coming out and earning your way into the starting rotation, that was something that was my goal, but happened really fast," Veldheer said. "I went out as a rookie and I was like, 'I'm going to work out as hard as I can every day and see what happens.' And some really good things happened."
Center Lyle Sendlein has been with the Cardinals since 2007 and has watched the club cycle through various left tackles. He believes Veldheer is the long-term answer the team has been seeking, and more importantly, that his Big Serious moniker won't disappear with the lucrative contract.
"Jared's not going to get complacent," Sendlein said. "He's always going to strive to get better. It's just going to progress into him being that ultimate lockdown left tackle for this team."
The Cardinals have spent plenty of resources in recent years trying to find a left tackle savior. It has not worked out of late, and Veldheer is well aware of that fact. He's ready to flip the script.
"I welcome that challenge," Veldheer said. "I want to step out there and do my job."