Cards a few players away from contention

The off-season is just around the corner and for the Arizona Cardinals, the question is what to do about the quarterback situation.

Josh McCown has shown some upside as of late. In the St. Louis game two weeks ago, he looked solid, throwing for two touchdowns and running for another two.

Last Sunday against Seattle, however, he looked like a rookie again, making some questionable decisions at times. But then again, McCown threw three deep touchdown passes (two to Larry Fitzgerald and one to Anquan Boldin) that made him look like he actually has a bright future as the Cardinals starting quarterback.

Head Coach Dennis Green stated that McCown will indeed be the starting quarterback of the Cardinals next season. But then again, he also said that Pete Kendall would be the anchor of the offensive line before cutting the center in training camp.

As of right now, the Cardinals would own the seventh pick in the draft. The quarterback class of 2005 should be a weak one meaning if the Cardinals decide that McCown is not the future of this ball club, they will need to weigh their options heavily before investing millions of dollars on a top ten draft pick.

The free agent market isn?t much better.

If the Cardinals can develop a running game over the off-season, the offense will open up for McCown and he may work out after all.

At running back, the Cardinals have Marcell Shipp coming back next season. In 16 games last season, Shipp ran the ball 228 times for 830 yards. In 2002, Shipp ran the ball 188 times for 834 yards and six touchdowns. So his numbers aren?t all that bad, he just simply didn?t have the receiving threats that he will have complementing him next season.

If the Cardinals want to look elsewhere for a running back, Derrick Blaylock of Kansas City and Nick Goings of Carolina are restricted free agents; Kevin Faulk of New England and Reuben Droughns of Denver are both unrestricted free agents and Duce Staley of Pittsburgh is a free agent.

Coming out in the draft will be Cedric Benson, who had four straight seasons of over 1,000 yards rushing for Texas; Ronnie Brown, who can do it all from Auburn; and Carnell Williams of Auburn.

In my opinion, the Cardinals should draft a running back, perhaps Ronnie Brown, with their top ten pick. They should keep McCown and hope he can come out in 2005 with some poise running a wide open offense.

The Cardinals then need to seek a shut down cornerback in free agency. This off-season, Chris McAllister will be available via free agency, Champ Bailey will be a free agent, Troy Vincent will be available, and Charles Woodson will be an unrestricted free agent. If Dennis Green and the front office can come out aggressive this off-season and pick up a top tier cornerback, the Cardinals defense will improve drastically.

As of right now, the nucleus is there for the Cardinal defense. They have Bertrand Berry, who will be playing in the pro bowl this year, and Darnell Dockett, a rookie who showed signs that he will be a solid defensive tackle in the NFL, running the line. Carlos Dansby, who also showed signs of future greatness at linebacker and safety Adrian Wilson, who just signed a five year deal to remain an Arizona Cardinal, in the defensive backfield.

With a shut down corner and possibly another solid linebacker, which they should use their second round pick on, the Cardinals defense will be something to fear come next season.

Despite their 5-10 record heading into the final week of the season, the Cardinals showed some upside in the desert for the first time since 1998 when they last went to the playoffs. And as you can see, they are a mere three players away from becoming a playoff contender.

Now lets see if the front office can put their act together and take advantage of this upside.


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