Aside from the quarterback situation — which will always have top offseason billing unless you have an established stud in place — the spotlight would seem to fall brightest the next on the offensive line as the Cards plan for 2012.
The Cards were already going to have to figure out what to do with their starting tackles, and that was a given even before taking their performance into account. Right tackle Brandon Keith, ravaged by injuries the past two years, is an unrestricted free agent. Left tackle Levi Brown isn’t a free agent, but something will have to be done about his contract, which will slide up to a $16.9 million salary cap number in March. You figure center Lyle Sendlein and left guard Daryn Colledge are set, but do the Cards leave Rex Hadnot at right guard? Is there a chance Deuce Lutui comes back and gets that job? Or could they sign someone else?
The tackles, however, are the most important storyline. Jeremy Bridges filled in for Keith when Keith’s knee and ankle didn’t allow him to play, and Bridges will return. Whether Bridges is a guy they want to make a full-time starter is another question. The Cards have always liked Keith’s raw potential, but he has not reached it, whether that’s because of injuries or otherwise.
Brown is the more famous question mark. The website profootballfocus.com, which studies such things, said that Brown, through 10 games, had allowed 10 sacks, five quarterback hits and 32 quarterback hurries. Over the last six games, Brown allowed one sack and eight hurries. That aligns with the thoughts of coach Ken Whisenhunt, who had noted Brown played well down the stretch. Does playing better the second half of the season create enough interest/comfort to bring Brown back? If the Cards did, might he move back to right tackle and a new left tackle found?
FootballOutsiders.com has compiled a list of “notable” free agents on offense and defense, including linemen. The tackles list is sparse: Jeff Backus, Max Starks, Vernon Carey, Sean Locklear, Stephon Heyer, Jared Gaither and Demetrius Bell. The Cards have to figure out if someone else is an upgrade (or draft a player). If Levi hits the open market, he’d probably be considered as “notable” as anyone else in this group. The Joe Thomases of the world aren’t available.
Tags: Brandon Keith, Daryn Colledge, Deuce Lutui, Levi Brown, Lyle Sendlein, offensive line, Rex Hadnot
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