A year ago nobody really knew what to expect from the Arizona Cardinals.
Ken Whisenhunt was out as head coach. Bruce Arians was in. Steve Keim replaced long-tenured general manager Rod Graves. The nest needed a makeover. 10 wins later the Cards were back on the NFL map, punctuated by a road win against the eventual Super Champion Seattle Seahawks.
Despite the double-digit win season Arians and Keim have areas to address when NFL free-agency officially starts Tuesday at 1:00PM Arizona time.
The good news for the Bird Gang is no longer will free-agents consider Arizona for the nice winters and excellent dining options. It all starts at the top.
“The biggest selling point for the Cardinals used to be Scottsdale,” Fox NFL insider Jay Glazer said before Arians’ charity golf classic Saturday. “But now playing for a guy like Bruce…Bruce is the ultimate player’s coach without being a guy you can walk over. He just connects with players. Doesn’t matter your race, your age. Where you come from. Your background. He connects with you. So when you sit in a room with him, he’s going to sell you. So is Steve Keim. These guys have completely changed the way this franchise is.”
Glazer isn’t the only well-respected national analyst who believes Arizona’s future is in good hands.
“I’m a big Steve Keim fan,” NFL on CBS insider Jason LaCanfora told Sports360AZ.com’s Brad Cesmat in a recent phone interview. “I thought he was ballin’ on a budget last year. He didn’t have a whole lot of means to do a lot of things and he actually had to cut the fat in a lot of areas and they came out of it a better team on the field and positioned better moving forward cap-wise…I think they’re on the up-swing and they’ll continue to get better.”
The Cards won’t have free-agent running back Rashard Mendenhall back after the 26-year-old announced his retirement. It also appears coveted free-agent left tackle Brandon Albert could be headed to the Dolphins according to reports. Arizona has been linked as a landing spot for 6’8, 321-pound tackle Jared Veldheer, who’s played the past four seasons for the Oakland Raiders, starting 48 games.
Other notable free-agents who may not return include linebacker Karlos Dansby who had a big season last year, as well as wide receiver Andre Roberts who may test the open market.
Arians said Saturday the Cards simply want to get better this off-season but was careful in his response.
“Without giving it away, get bigger and stronger on both sides of the ball at a couple of positions,” he explained. “I can’t wait for Tuesday. It’s going to be fun.”
The Cardinals’ front-office is also scouting for May’s draft. Arizona has the 20th overall pick.