Offensive Lining up options early on

Posted by Darren Urban on January 18, 2012 – 4:51 pm

Sometimes, all signs point to a blog post. So you see a handful of assistant coaches re-signing — including offensive line coach Russ Grimm — and then Mel Kiper unveiling his first-of-the-season mock first round — with the Cards taking Stanford tackle Jonathan Martin — and then some Twitter talk about expected-free-agents-to-be like Carl Nicks and Ben Grubbs — a pair of upper echelon guards — and two weeks gone apparently means it’s time to revisit for the first of many.

The news Grimm returned was not a surprise. I know it was floated nationally other teams might have an interest in hiring him away and that he has ties to other head coaches, but I personally never thought he was going to go anywhere. For those wanting to know why the Cardinals and Ken Whisenhunt didn’t make a change, well, signs never pointed that way. Whiz has, while noting a few times the offensive line needed more consistency, still made sure at every turn to stay positive about the unit. You never got the sense he wanted to make a change there, and ownership must have had been convinced because I don’t see them offering up a new contract otherwise.

The personnel Grimm is going to work with, however, certainly seems likely to change, and possibly change drastically. Is Martin the pick at No. 13? No way to know right now. You’d figure offensive line or defense would make the most sense with the first choice, but we are so, so early in the process. Stanford guard David DeCastro could be another possibility. You figure top tackles Matt Kalil and Riley Reiff will be gone by then. Kiper is high on Martin’s potential, but then again, many felt Levi Brown could develop into a high-end tackle too and that hasn’t played out.

(I do promise this: If Andrew Luck is there at 13, the Cards will take him.)

Of course, that takes us to questions about Nicks and Grubbs and the subject of free agency. I could see the Cards, if they decide they like a tackle in the draft better than what they see in free agency, considering a big-ticket guard. But they already did that last year with left guard Daryn Colledge (whose cap number will be $5.5M next season and $6.5M after that going forward) and I’m not sure you do that with a second guard — especially when there are so many unknowns at tackle.

I could see them bringing Brown back at a reduced rate, but as I have said many times, I expect Brown to want to get cut and test the market first if he is going to have to take a pay cut anyway. (By the way, the picture below is Brown shoving the heck out of Seattle’s Chris Clemons after Clemons got a little chippy with prone Cards QB John Skelton in the finale.) The desire to bring Brandon Keith back may hinge on what happens with Brown.

Free agency starts March 13, and we should have an idea where the Brown thing is headed — at least, whether a deal can be reached without a release — a little before then. Obviously, that’s almost two months away. Lots of time for more speculation (without any concrete answers).

— A couple of interesting links from Cardinals past. First, concerning one of the true good guys of that Super Bowl team, fullback Terrelle Smith has gotten into high school coaching in California. But for a great read, check out this feature about long-time (and long-time ago) Cardinals long snapper Trey Junkin, who had his stalled career briefly return in 1991 only to have it end on a bad snap the last time the Giants and 49ers met in the playoffs.

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35 Responses to “Offensive Lining up options early on”

  1. By Matt in Philly on Jan 18, 2012 | Reply

    I’ve been a fan of Melvin Ingram out of South Carolina — a guy who can line up either on the D-line or as a linebacker — since midseason. The kid can flat out play, and his versatility would fit in perfectly for a defense that likes to scheme so much (think DWash on the outside). As much as I’d like to see the Cards get a Tackle in the first round, it just doesn’t seem like the level of talent we need will be there.

    My perfect scenario is that they draft Ingram in the first round and figure out a way to get the best possible tackle and #2 receiver theycan find in either the 3rd round or in free agency. It seems like those three positions — OLB, WR, and OT — are where we’re weak, and it shouldn’t be too tough to fix that. I’m a BIG fan of the motor/drive in kids from the Big 12 (see: Curtis Loftin, Sean Weatherspoon, Aldon Smith), and wouldn’t mind seeing the Cards draft a guy like Levy Adcock (OT, OKstate), Ryan Broyles (WR, Oklahoma), or Travis Lewis (OLB, Oklahoma) in rounds 3-6.

  2. By AndyStandsUp on Jan 18, 2012 | Reply

    As much as I hate to say it, Brown needs to stay.
    OL stability is one of the key points to having a successful offense and the FA market for tackles is razor thin.
    Unless one of the college guys, Martin, e.g., is going to be able to step right in, re-signing Levi may be the most prudent decision. (And unfortunately, he and his agent probably know this.)

    Just can someone, anyone, please teach the man to move his feet!

  3. By vnk on Jan 18, 2012 | Reply

    Keith needs to go first, then Levi. Cards would also have to spend on Calais. Would they face any cap constraints to signing free agents this year, esp after last season’s frenzy?

  4. By Darren Urban on Jan 19, 2012 | Reply

    vnk —

    RE: Cap room

    I don’t expect the cap to be a major issue.

  5. By Brandon on Jan 18, 2012 | Reply

    Darren : how come people are saying trade Kerry Rhodes away? To me I think he is one of our best defenders.

  6. By Darren Urban on Jan 19, 2012 | Reply

    Brandon —

    RE: Rhodes

    I would assume it is because the defense with Marshall and Rashad Johnson played well. Everyone has an opinion how to make the team better. This is just one of them.

  7. By D on Jan 18, 2012 | Reply

    I don’t see AZ spending big money on a guard, even though those two are really good, I think they can draft a guard in the 3rd round to replace Hadnot in a year. Tackles are not cheap–it will be interesting because Levi will probably be cut by the draft and there isn’t a whole lot of good UFA Left tackles on the market unless someone gets cut, but that will be for a reason, poor performance, high salary or injury prone. It would be risky though to wait until the draft to hope Martin would be there, I see at least 4 teams above the Cards who could take a Left tackle and there really are only 3 of them worth a high pick, so they will need to sign someone before the draft in free agency…

  8. By Peter in Canada on Jan 18, 2012 | Reply


    As Darren says Brown has to be cut in view of his unrealistic salary for next year so he will naturally test the market. As you say the market for FA tackles is razor thin so it looks like bringing Levi back is no slam dunk. Everybody says we have to upgrade the O-line but it seems easier to say than to do. It may have to be done through the draft, while other holes are filled through FA.

  9. By Michael on Jan 18, 2012 | Reply

    Hey Darren…

    Hearing anything about them possibly looking for a #2 receiver in free agency?


  10. By Darren Urban on Jan 19, 2012 | Reply

    Michael —

    RE: WR

    I could see them looking at WR in FA. If anyone is expecting a splashy WR signing though, I’m not sure that’s going to happen.

  11. By Brad on Jan 18, 2012 | Reply

    Levi Brown will not get any better, stop hoping he will, hopefully Martin is there for us at 13, if he is its a no brainer, we need protection for our passing game, our D has enough talent to get us through, sure upgrading would be nice but our O-line is what needs talent…

  12. By ringlaterra on Jan 18, 2012 | Reply

    Hi, I did not know where else to post about a bit of a tangent.
    It seems clear that big, super athletic tight ends are creating mismatches all over the NFL (i.e. Gronkowski, Graham, Davis, etc.). I came across this interesting article (link below) which discusses that a bit, with the idea being that perhaps tight ends will have to start learning defense to cover other tight ends since no other position in football has the same mix of height, strength, and speed. I was just wanting to know if perhaps the Cards might try doing some of that. I see that Housler is faster than just about any tight end in the league. Perhaps he’d be a perfect candidate for the new tight end-cornerback position. Any other thoughts from Horton on how to keep up with those kinds of mismatches? Thanks for fielding the random question.

  13. By Darren Urban on Jan 19, 2012 | Reply

    ringlaterra —

    RE: Tight end coverage

    I think that’s not going to happen.

    Give it a year or two. The “new” tight ends are doing well. But the defenses will catch up. They always do.

  14. By Zach on Jan 18, 2012 | Reply


    I don’t really care much for Deuce until he loses a drastic amount of weight and truly shows some effort and shows that he cares about being a part of what the Cardinals are trying to accomplish, but what is the status with him? Will he be coming back next year too?

  15. By Darren Urban on Jan 19, 2012 | Reply

    Zach —

    RE: Deuce

    I think that’s totally up in the air. I think he wants to start. Not sure he’ll get that chance here.

  16. By in fitz we trust on Jan 18, 2012 | Reply

    kinda agree on keeping brown. would it be best to keep him at LT, or move him to right and draft a LT. could work nice. of course depending on his price tag, but his current scheduled salary should be by far out of the question.

    off topic which im sure u get alot but academically important to me. ur title is a writer right darren?? you must have a good education when it comes to writing an english an stuff?? asking cuz im taking an english 102 class which i just suck at. maybe u can help me out, maybe not…. lmk either way thanks man

  17. By Darren Urban on Jan 19, 2012 | Reply

    In Fitz —

    RE: Writing

    Your number one job would have to be making an effort. Jumping on blog posts and writing “cuz im” doesn’t help. Not everyone is cut out to be a writer, but my guess is you know better. It starts there.

    You play like you practice, right?

  18. By Steve on Jan 19, 2012 | Reply

    Darren: O-line and possibly a pass rushing OLB probably makes the most sense in the first round, would you be at all surprised if a WR ends up being the Cards first choice? Perhaps Baylor WR Kendall Wright whose speed and and game have been compared to Eagles wideout Desean Jackson. It still seems like the Cards need a stretch the field WR to take pressure off Fitzgerald.

  19. By Darren Urban on Jan 19, 2012 | Reply

    Steve —

    RE: WR in first round

    I would be shocked if the Cards take a WR in the first round. Never say never — say, if Blackmon dropped there — but highly unlikely.

  20. By Christo on Jan 19, 2012 | Reply

    We need to do everything we can to snag Bell away from BUF. Tall task for sure, but he is the only LT of note that is coming free.

    We’re stuck here.

    I can’t for the life of me tell if it is poor players? Or poor coaching on the OL? I am saddened that Grimm has returned. His high salary doesn’t match the production we get out of the line. The line ranks very poorly.

  21. By D on Jan 19, 2012 | Reply

    I could see this playing out to where AZ works out a deal to keep Levi next year if they don’t see a LT falling to #13 in the draft.

    Then,if they don’t get a chance at a LT or if the top 3-4 pass rusher is also gone, I could see them taking Luke Kuechly at ILB and releasing Bradley.
    In the 3rd round they could take the best RT tackle available, either a A Datko or N. Potter and going after the best G available in round 4.
    They would have to address the OLB and WR in free agency…

  22. By Jeff Gollin on Jan 19, 2012 | Reply

    Andy may be right about our needing Levi to stay on the unit for consistency purposes; but not necessarily forever and not necessarily as a starter (either right away or down the line).

    Forget about isolated instances of a Cardinal lineman pancaking an opponent or standing up for a teammate. The issue at hand is consistency of offensive line-play, and – as a unit – the number of downs where the job didn’t get done was (at least as I perceive it) exessively high compared to most other NFL O-lines.

    However we get there, our offensive line play has to be far better (+35% to assign an arbitrary number). Whether and how Levi is part of that improvement is less relevent than what steps we take to bring in enough talent to make a sizable difference.

  23. By Mike T on Jan 19, 2012 | Reply

    I’m not sure we can afford to get rid of Brown. Are there really going to be any decent Free Agent LTs or even RTs that hit the market? Bringing back Brown might be our only real option unless we want to throw a rookie into the fire from day one. We all know that Whiz doesn’t like to start rookies right away if he can avoid it.

    Last offseason I wanted the Cards to pick up one of the many quality FA tackles on the open market. Yet the Cards made no moves at tackle and I think that was Graves biggest failure of the past offseason. Not only did we fail to bring in a FA tackle we also didn’t draft any. So now we have no options at OT other than to stick with what we got or bring in an unproven rookie.

  24. By Mike Ellingboe on Jan 19, 2012 | Reply

    Before the anti-Levi crowd gets on their kick of replacing him with a potential first round pick, remember that Levi was considered the second best LT available in 2007. The odds of us getting either of the top two ranked LT’s (Kalil & Reiff) this year are remote at best. Martin looks pretty good, most of the time, but was turnstiled quite a bit in the USC game. Wasn’t overly impressive against Oregon either. Adams from OSU looked better in the few times I saw him, but was a part of the off-the-field problems they had.

    Whether his critics want to acknowledge it or not, Levi’s play over the last six games was as good as anyone. If he’s willing to redo his contact I don’t see a realistic upgrade over him next season. One other word of warning, the high priced Guards from the Saints look great now, but how good will they look in an offense still finding it’s identity that doesn’t have Drew Brees taking the snaps?

  25. By lg on Jan 19, 2012 | Reply

    i think we need to give russ grimm something to work with the line did good this year but it can be better with carl and ben

  26. By Scott H on Jan 19, 2012 | Reply

    Darren / ringlaterra –

    Just to chime in on the TE discussion…I would not be so sure about the league “catching up” to guys like Graham and Grontkowski. Two reasons. One, with their size, these guys create TREMENDOUS mismatch problems for the defenses. They are also fast and extremely atheletic. When balls are placed in certain places, they can just get up higher than the guys convering them. That is not something defenses can just catch up with. And I cite Antonio Gates as an example. He is the prototype for guys like this. And he was absolutely un-stoppable for many years. He still can be when healthy.

    Two, look at the offenses they play in. Pass-oriented attacks with elite QB’s and surrounded by weapons everywhere else on the field. If anyone dares committ too much toward stopping either Graham or Grontkowski, they will only get killed by Wes Welker / Aaron Hernandez / Deion Branch / Darren Sproles / Marquis Colston / Robert Meachum / etc. Drew Brees and Tom Brady don’t care who catches the passes. In these offenses where there are just too many guys to cover on any given play, these guys will continue to thrive.

  27. By azfancolo on Jan 19, 2012 | Reply

    I wonder if Hightower from bama is still on the board in the first round if the cards will go after him the guy would be a awesome fit for our defense.

  28. By Stewart Badly on Jan 19, 2012 | Reply

    This new “videos game offences” dont work in the playoffs, N.O. Saints, G.B. Packers are out of the play off, and after this weekend the N.E. Patriots are going to be out too. This is great for people like me that loves football the way football should be played, great defense and a balance ofence.

  29. By Mike Ellingboe on Jan 20, 2012 | Reply

    @Scott H,

    Agree with everything you said, but would place more emphasis on who is throwing the ball rather than catching it. All are legit All-Pros, but if we look at how guys like Branch & Welker did in offenses where Brady wasn’t taking the snaps they pretty much disappeared. But to your point, put a guy like Gronkowski or Graham with Brady and Brees and the combination can only be slowed down, not stopped (ala Warner/Fitz, Montana/Rice, etc.). Especially with today’s rules (back in the 70’s that pass Brees threw to Graham against San Fran would have put Graham in the hospital, but not being allowed to hit 6’8″ TE over the middle kind of turns it into glorified flag football.

  30. By Mike Ellingboe on Jan 20, 2012 | Reply


    Like your way of thinking, and since ILB’s typically slide a bit nowadays I think we could trade down in the first round to get him, and possibly pick up a second that we lost in the Kolb trade. Agree that he’d look pretty good next to Washington.

  31. By Scott H on Jan 20, 2012 | Reply

    Mike –

    Yes, I agree with your point of view. Hopefully, my post conveyed that the offenses AND the QB’s making the throws are absolutely a part of the success these TE’s are having.

    In regard to what you say about Wes Welker, I do not necessarily agree with that. In New England, with Tom Brady, and with the chemistry they have developed, Welker just goes off the charts. But I think he is a legit and very talented WR in the Ricky Phroel mold and I think he would still be quite productive on many teams. But you are right on with Branch. He was in WR hell when he went to Seattle and he DID disappear. Came back to NE and he picked right up where he left off. Then again…it was Seattle. Branch IS talented enough that he would have been better in many other places than that. Bottom line, these guys are definitely better / more productive in NE WITH Brady dealing the cards than they probably are anywhere else. But I don’t think either “disappears” WITHOUT Brady. Especially Welker.

  32. By Mike Ellingboe on Jan 20, 2012 | Reply

    @Scott H,

    Disappear may have been too strongly worded, but the main point being that outside of Chad Johnson, anyone and everyone who’s on the receiving end of Brady’s passes suddenly elevates to superstar status. Welker going from 60 to 100+ receptions, Branch regaining his SB MVP form (will concede that Seattle is a WR deathbed, puts Largent’s career in it’s proper perspective). Kind of reminds me when Gretzky would turn 40 goal scorers into 70. Can only imagine what kind of numbers a guy like Fitz would put up there. However, we are in complete agreement about guys like Gronkowski and Graham. Two physically and athletically superior guys like that, combined with Brady & Brees, with today’s pro-offense rules, virtually unstoppable. I’m not sure what adjustments defenses will be able to make to that. Nowhere was that on display better than the aforementioned TD to Graham. Not allowed to hit him because of the “defenseless” argument, so two all-pros are forced to play jump ball with him (right), end up on their ass as he walks in for six. Having to wait for guys like that to come down with the ball before hitting them is like playing with handcuffs on.

  33. By Scott H on Jan 21, 2012 | Reply

    Mike E –

    First, nice dialogue. Yeah, Chad Johnson…I was wondering how that would work out. Not really surprised that it turned out as it did. It really is a testament to how great Brady is in that system that a WR like Chad Johnson can go there and he becomes totally un-necessary. Quite a jolt for Johnson, I’ll bet! Interesting to think that he could actually get a SB ring…but he will have done NOTHING to help the team win it. And how ‘ bout last year when the Pats RELEASED Randy Moss and then actually seemed to get BETTER after they did??? But Moss was quite productive there until then, so…he certainly wasn’t as useless as CJ was. Hey, maybe they can bring T.O in next year and make him completely irrelevant as well…just a thought.

  34. By William Barry on Jan 22, 2012 | Reply

    Rob Housler is definitely a “keeper”…he has great talent, and paired with Todd heap, we really have created some mismatches this year, its just many times our QB, missed him or did not see housler, wide open sometimes. I think we really need a really good #2 WR, to take the pressure of Larry F.

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