Originally posted on The Sports Headquarters  |  Last updated 3/14/13
It’s NFL 101, if the old team doesn’t want the player, there’s no need to overpay for that player to get him to come in. Maybe that was the old regime, honestly Rod Graves did no favors to the Cardinals when it comes to roster or cap management, but maybe it’s because they felt the pressure to continue success, success that they had never had before. This year the Cardinals are going to be forced to make smaller, more conservative moves, ones that won’t send any shockwaves through the NFL landscape, but will hopefully set the tempo for future moves. You see the Cardinals need to not spend their cap space in trying to build a team through free agency; no they need to build a team through the draft, and then keep those players that deserve to be extended. Guys like Daryl Washington and Calais Campbell are perfect examples of building blocks on defense, but know how to supplement losses of players like Karlos Dansby without signing Joey Porter for big money. How did that play out with the Arizona Cardinals 2013 free agents signings on Wednesday? Rashard Mendenhall, RB Pittsburgh 1 year $2.5 million Mendenhall has his warts off the field, but the former Steelers running back brings some good stuff to the field. Strengths: Quick to find the hole, runs with a good burst, and is excellent in pass protection. Mendenhall keeps his hips squared towards the line of scrimmage well and knows how to bounce outside when the hole is clogged down. Shows good speed when getting to the edge and can make people miss in the open field, keeps his feet churning when near the goal line, and more importantly he shows a nice top gear when he’s in the open field. Weaknesses:  Like Beanie Wells doesn’t always run as tough as his size and physical presence would have you assume he would, and at times he can go down to easily. Has some fumbling issues, and an injury history similar to Wells. My thoughts: Getting a motivated Mendenhall on a small one year contract is something that I can get on board with.  He never developed into the special runner so many saw coming out of Illinois, I vividly remember there even being chatter about the Cardinals having interest in Mendenhall. He isn’t going to create a lot on his own, and needs help from his offensive line, again like Beanie, but he has a burst and a higher top end speed than Beanie ever had. I would call this an upgrade for the Cardinals and a good signing. Lorenzo Alexander, LB Washington 3 years $9.5 million While I don’t have the scouting report on Alexander, he was drafted as a defensive tackle and transitioned to linebacker that I did on Mendenhall but I do have some thoughts on the signing. First off, Alexander is a fantastic special team’s player and will come in and contribute on teams right away. That being said, he isn’t getting paid $3 million a year to just play on teams.  Alexander has never been an every down linebacker. He is ok as a run defender, and if he is playing as a two down linebacker he may be adequate or more, but I am not sure I see a guy I am comfortable with as an every down player. I am ok with the signing, because of Alexander’s expertise on special teams, but I feel that the price will be too steep if he isn’t able to at least contribute on defense. Yeremiah Bell, S Miami 1 year Money not disclosed yet Bell is a veteran presence to a young Cardinals secondary and comes in with knowledge of how defensive coordinator Todd Bowles likes things done. Strengths: While Bell is effective in coverage, he is better working in the box and attacking the run game downhill. Excellent in run support, and a sure tackler, Bell is similar to Adrian Wilson in the way he plays in the box. Bell does a good job when asked to work in halves coverage, and I am assuming Bowles will utilize that to his strengths. Weaknesses:  While he is decent in coverage, he isn’t at his most effective, which makes me believe he needs to be used more as a strong safety than a free safety, something that concerns me with the Cardinals also resigning Rashad Johnson. My Thoughts: Bell is a fine stop gap at safety, but I fear his strengths won’t play to Johnson’s strengths, and it will cause the Cardinals to need to add a free safety as well. Jerraud Powers, CB Indianapolis 3 years Money not disclosed yet Injury concerns and being slightly undersized seems a bit odd, when it sounded like the other day the Cardinals were trending towards big defensive backs like the rest of the NFL. Strengths: Despite being smaller in stature Powers is a willing tackler, but not always able in run support, but more importantly, what do we think of his cover skills? Powers has actually regressed as a cover man each of the last three years since his rookie year, but he consistently flashes ability to be at least a CB2. He shows excellent burst, turns and runs well, and mirrors players in and out of their breaks. He makes plays on the ball, and stays away from costly pass interference penalties when doing so. Weaknesses: Can get overpowered too often by bigger, more physical receivers, gets beat at the line when in press coverage, more effective as an off man or in zone, and can get beat on deep routes as he doesn’t have great long, make up speed. What is most frustrating thing with Powers are his inconsistencies with technique and injuries. He’s never played a full season. When Powers doesn’t keep himself in good position early he can get beat, as he lacks elite make up abilities. My thoughts: I was a little perplexed by the Powers signing, as it went away from the physical, bigger corner the Cardinals had talked about, but he does fit into the Chris Houston mold that I had talked about earlier as a flexible corner that could play inside or out, and be effective. I will reserve overall judgment for when the official numbers come out, but right now I am slightly optimistic if they got him at the right price. Drew Stanton, QB Indianapolis 3 years $8.2 million My thoughts: A full breakdown of Stanton will be coming after I get to re-watch his 2009 and 2010 games this weekend. I am fine with the Stanton signing simply because it is inexpensive, only $3 million in guaranteed money, and an easy out if he flops.
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