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Sean Weatherspoon, Corey Peters, Cory Redding Helps Defensive Transition

As Cardinals add five new players, defensive unit gets a makeover



The Cardinals wanted to rebuild their front seven and gain "competition" on the interior of the offensive line, and it took only a couple days of free agency to address both issues.

By the time Wednesday was over, the Cardinals had five new players. On offense, 49ers guard Mike Iupati (five-year contract) and Colts center/guard A.Q. Shipley (two years) were added. On defense, it was Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (one year), Falcons defensive tackle Corey Peters (three years) and Colts defensive end Cory Redding (two years).

How much of the salary cap the signings ate up are an unknown, although General Manager Steve Keim and the front office have been careful. Redding, for instance, reportedly has only a $2 million cap hit this season. Only Iupati was a big-ticket item.

While Keim has been trying to upgrade the offensive line since he arrived -- Iupati said he thinks he will stay at left guard, where he

has played his whole career, which means Jonathan Cooper would probably go to right guard and Shipley battling Ted Larsen and potential cap casualty Lyle Sendlein at center – it is the defense that continues to get a significant makeover.

"From what I've known of the Cardinals, it's always been kind of a defensive team," Peters said. "I'm excited to a part of that unit. I think they're building something special."

Change was inevitable once defensive coordinator Todd Bowles left to become head coach of the New York Jets. Now there has been player turnover.

After being cut, Darnell Dockett chose to sign with San Francisco, and Wednesday, nose tackle Dan Williams signed with Oakland. In their place – and for a little less money – come Peters and Redding, a pair of long-time locker room leaders. Peters, a one-time Falcons Man of the Year, said he can play anywhere on the defensive line, including nose tackle at 6-foot-3, 305 pounds. Peters said he has no problem doing whatever is asked, and added he turned down more lucrative offers because he liked where the Cardinals were headed as a defense.

Peters played in 2014 but admitted it wasn't until late in the season when he felt fully back to strength after tearing his Achilles in 2013.

"I'm stronger now than I was at the end of the season," Peters, 26, said. "I think that this rehab process for me has been a continuous process all the way through the season and even up until now I've continued to work to become more and more explosive. As the season comes closer, I feel like I'll be stronger and better than I ever have been."

Redding, meanwhile, played for coach Bruce Arians when Arians was in Indianapolis and has built his reputation on being an excellent leader and mentor.

"Outside of what I do on the field, the biggest thing is to make sure to work better off the field," said the 34-year-old Redding, who opted not to retire and instead come to Arizona. "You have to try to get to the guys, talk to the young guys, groom them, show them what it is to be a pro. I want to be an example as well. Get in the classroom, get in the plays as well. That's where I come in."

The biggest wild card might be Weatherspoon, who missed all of 2014 with an Achilles tear. He said he is healed and is now trying to regain his strength – shades of what Peters went through – and understood all along he was going to have to take a one-year "prove it" contract, especially after missing nine more games in 2013 because of injuries.

When healthy, however, Weatherspoon is a playmaker that Keim and the Cardinals would have loved to draft in 2010 had he slipped to them. Instead, the Falcons took him and the Cardinals went with Williams and then Daryl Washington in the second round.

If Washington is reinstated, he and Weatherspoon could become an inside linebacker duo that might be the playmaking combination the Cards got from Washington and Karlos Dansby in 2013.

"Moving forward, I'm just looking forward to getting a new set of wings," the 27-year-old Weatherspoon said. "That's kind of how I look at it. I've been a bird, but not a part of the Bird Gang. I'm definitely happy to be here and get a new set of wings and rejuvenate my career."

LEACH RETURNS; OTHER FREE AGENT NEWS

The Cardinals also re-signed long snapper Mike Leach to a one-year contract. Leach, 38, has played in 200 straight games and is in his 16th season. …

Cardinals free agent cornerback Antonio Cromartie has not officially signed with anyone yet, but reports say that he is expected to return to the New York Jets. …

Free agent guard Paul Fanaika, who wasn't expected back once Iupati was signed, was reportedly close to signing with Kansas City. 

Images of former Falcons LB Sean Weatherspoon, who agreed to terms with the Cardinals on a one-year deal


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