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Projecting ahead for the Cardinals' offensive line

So Andre Smith is gone and Korey Cunningham will get a shot at right tackle after a couple of pretty decent games at left tackle. And for the first time not because of injury, the Cards start to look at younger players for the 2019 version of the offensive line.

The offensive line, correctly, will be one of the Cardinals' top priorities -- if not the top priority -- of the offseason. The question is what do the Cards already have in place, and what could change? Center Mason Cole has been OK as a rookie, forced to play when A.Q. Shipley hurt his knee in the preseason. Shipley signed an extension to return next season, and he'll have a chance to battle back to get that spot, but for a team seeking to build for the future, Cole will have the inside track. He needs to get stronger, but that can easily happen in the offseason, and Cole has a work ethic to get himself there.

At tackle, D.J. Humphries figures to be on the left side as he goes into the last year of his rookie deal. In a perfect world, Cunningham proves to be the guy on the right side. Cunningham might just end up being the top swing tackle in reserve, taking over for John Wetzel, and the Cardinals mine the draft or free agency for a new right tackle.

At guard, Mike Iupati's 2019 season has voided on his contract, so he is set to be a free agent, and it would not be a surprise to see the Cardinals look at that left side as the main priority given all the other people involved on the line. Maybe that is a free agent, but it could be through the draft. On the right side, Justin Pugh figures to return from his knee injury and get a second season to show why the Cardinals wanted him in free agency. According to Pro Football Focus' grades, Pugh was a 51.7 this season, well below the grades he posted in New York with the Giants, and the Cards need him to get back to that level.

The line has to be fixed. No one disputes that. How much it is fixed -- in terms of numbers -- will be in the spotlight.

C Mason Cole snaps to QB Josh Rosen.
C Mason Cole snaps to QB Josh Rosen.

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