New Cardinals tackle Jared Veldheer (right) shakes the hand of team president Michael Bidwill after Veldheer signed his new five-year contract with the team.
His game video itself was easy to grade, and once the Oakland Raiders declined to put the franchise tag on left tackle Jared Veldheer, the Cardinals went "full steam ahead" in chasing the offensive lineman at the top of their free agent list.
But General Manager Steve Keim was looking for other "intel" on his prospective pricey addition.
He heard from cornerbacks coach Kevin Ross, who knew Veldheer when both were with the Raiders, and Ross said Veldheer was a dedicated battler who might get in a practice scrap or two. More importantly, Keim heard from quarterback Carson Palmer, who has already had his blindside protected by Veldheer in Oakland.
"Steve had asked me a handful of questions that he'd already known the answers to, really," Palmer said Wednesday, soon after Veldheer officially signed his five-year contract. "He had done plenty of research and turned over every stone. He asked me questions where he kind of stated the answer and I just kind of said, 'Yeah, that's correct. That's correct. That's correct.'
"There is nothing you can say negative about it," Palmer added. "It's easy to find those things in free agency because
everyone is looking for a flaw, but what you see is what you get with Jared. Old school."
There was no surprise that Veldheer landed in Arizona, not after he was linked to the Cardinals almost as soon as the "soft" free agent open period started Saturday morning. By the time team president Michael Bidwill flew to Veldheer's home state of Michigan to pick him up, details of the contract -- $17 million guaranteed, a $6.25 million signing bonus – had already leaked out.
All that was left was for him to eat dinner with Bidwill, Keim and coach Bruce Arians Tuesday night before passing a physical (his 2013 triceps injury is healed and of zero concern) and then scribble his name on the contract the next day.
"(I'm) a guy who kind of flies under the radar," Veldheer said. "I don't call a ton of attention to myself. As you can probably imagine, a press conference like this is not really my gig. My gig is out there on the field."
His gig will be as the anchor to the left side of the line that will be brand new this season, since left guard Jonathan Cooper missed his whole rookie year with a broken leg. Arians broke into a grin when asked about his new left side.
"You can't put that into words," Arians said. "The right side of the line will be fine. And (center) Lyle (Sendlein) is a great leader."
Arians said he expected more offensive line help via free agency "shortly" and figured six or seven players will battle
for the five starting spots. Last year's left tackle starter, Bradley Sowell, will be part of the mix and possibly could provide depth as a reserve swing tackle. The right side, with players like Earl Watford and Paul Fanaika at guard, Bobby Massie at tackle (and still possibly Eric Winston) will try to find spots. Veldheer, Cooper and Sendlein should be set on the left.
That was the point of chasing Veldheer, even though Arians said "it's not about left tackles it's about offensive linemen." Keim said Veldheer still has work to do from a technical side, but believes Veldheer – who came from Division II Hillsdale Colledge when he was a third-round pick of the Raiders in 2010 – has the drive to improve.
Until the triceps injury that sidelined him for the first 11 games of the 2013 season, he had played in 48 straight games for Oakland and started 42 of them. He came back late last season to play in the final five games and said his triceps was fine and his strength had returned to pre-injury form.
"He loves the game, loves talking it, loves working out," Palmer said, adding the 6-foot-8, 321-pound Veldheer was a "football goof."
"He owns a weight room. He looks like he owns a weight room. Awesome in the locker room."
Veldheer didn't get deep into his exit from Oakland. The Raiders reportedly wanted him to stay and what was offered and how it was offered has engendered much speculation. Veldheer just said the two sides couldn't reach a deal and "I'm looking forward now. I'm not looking back."
Forward means fulfilling the role as the Cardinals' left tackle.
"I like the challenge," Veldheer said. "It's very stimulating from a mental standpoint and from a physical standpoint. You always have to be on the top of your game. There's never a plateau that you hit and sit back and say, 'Well, this is kind of getting so-so.' It's always a new challenge.
"That's, I think, why I love it so much."
CARDS SIGN DWYER, LARSEN, BENARD
The Cardinals added three more players Wednesday evening, re-signing linebacker Marcus Benard to a one-year contract and signing former Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer (one year) and former Buccaneers center/guard Ted Larsen (two years).