The Cardinals and linebacker Joey Porter agreed to a three-year contract Friday.
Ken Whisenhunt talked to Joey Porter a couple of times while the free-agent linebacker was mulling his future, and a definite theme emerged.
"I know Joey wanted to be here," Whisenhunt said.
Friday, the four-time Pro Bowler made sure that happened, agreeing to a three-year contract with the Cards on the same day he was finishing a visit to the Washington Redskins. He brings with him a résumé as an outside pass rusher unmatched by anyone on the Cards' roster, even though he will turn 33 later this month.
"It is exciting on many levels," Whisenhunt said. "Two areas that come to mind are his productivity on the field, (because) getting 26½ sacks over the last two years is pretty impressive, especially considering last year with not even playing a full season.
"Also the mentality he brings, it's something we have made great progress with as a team. Having another veteran player, who has had great success in this league, to contribute to that will only help us in an area defensively where we want to improve."
Porter is expected to step into the starting role formerly held by Chike Okeafor, who is a free agent not expected to return. ESPN reported the deal was worth $17.5 million.
"I feel I can fill the need for what they are looking for as far as an outside linebacker and that I can bring that whole presence of making sure I get to the quarterback," Porter said during his visit to the Cardinals' facility last week. "I'd be doing my job, but not trying to step on anybody's toes."
With Miami last season, Porter had nine sacks, a total which would have led the Cardinals. But when the Dolphins decided to get younger at the position, Porter was released – although he made sure to vocalize his discontent on how he was used last season.
Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland insisted at last month's scouting combine that Porter's potential release from the team (Porter was cut earlier this month) would be for football reasons only. Whisenhunt, who spent six years on the Steelers' coaching staff while Porter played in Pittsburgh, said he was not concerned about Porter disrupting the locker room.
"Other than the occasional comments to the media, which we all know Joey has a tendency to make, that bulletin board material we are all so familiar with, I have never heard of Joey spoken of anything but a great teammate," Whisenhunt said. "That's what I have seen in my experiences with him. Fitting in with some of our veteran leaders, who have already done a good job with us, is no issue with me. I know the work ethic and the mentality he brings will fit in well with our team."
Porter's age is also a concern, although the Cardinals see him as a productive bridge to young linebackers like Cody Brown and Will Davis, mentoring those players while providing heat on opposing quarterbacks in the short term.
"That's a big part of the reason we have had success, we have had guys who are willing to show the way," Whisenhunt said. "Kurt Warner is a guy who comes to mind. I know our fans haven't seen it, but with the progress Matt (Leinart) has made, that's part of that. Steve Breaston and Early Doucet have been beneficiaries of the same thing. It's been an important component."
The signing also figures to go over well in the locker room, especially after defensive stalwarts Karlos Dansby and Antrel Rolle left in free agency. Fellow starting linebacker Clark Haggans is close with Porter, having been teammates with Porter at both Colorado State and with the Steelers. Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett has been encouraging his team, through Twitter, to sign Porter.
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald summed up the feeling.
"Our team just got ALOT better after signing Joey Porter 2day!" Fitzgerald wrote on his Twitter page.
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