Fooch's Note: If you have any suggestions for additional free agency information for each opponent you might like included, let us know in the comments.
Hello everyone, and welcome to our free agency preview. This is my first post in a regular series on how free agency may affect the 49ers 2010 opponents. In each post I will choose one of the teams San Francisco will be playing next year, and provide details on their free agents, their needs, and provide a general outline of what they might do this off-season in preparation for 2010. If you are unclear on what RFA and UFA stand for you can find an excellent FAQ on the different free agent classifications here, courtesy of Scout.com. First up, the Arizona Cardinals.
The Cardinals proved they were no fluke by returning to the playoffs in 2009, for the second consecutive year. However, after falling short of the ultimate prize yet again, they could see a lot of turnover in their roster this off-season. The biggest change will be the loss of quarterback Kurt Warner to retirement. Warner has defined Arizona's offensive attack during his stay in the desert, and it is difficult to predict what his departure will mean for the team.
On the other side of the ball, they will likely need to replace linebacker Karlos Dansby. Dansby is a very versatile player and should be the most highly coveted linebacker on the open market. It seems probable that he will take more money to play elsewhere in 2010.
Let's take a look at the rest of the Cardinal's free agents and needs after the jump.
DB Hamza Abdullah (RFA) - Signed on Dec, 22 to add depth at the safety position. He did not perform well in his Week 17 start.
DB Michael Adams (ERFA) - At 5'8", Adams is relatively short and was victimized during both of the Cardinals' playoff games.
DL Jason Banks (ERFA) - Banks spent most of the season on the practice squad before injuring his ankle in the season finale.
WR Steve Breaston (RFA) - Breaston has been somewhat fragile during his stay in Arizona, but when he has been on the field he has been productive. If the Cardinals decide to trade Boldin this offseason, Breaston will likely battle with Early Doucet for the number two receiver position.
C Ben Claxton (RFA)
LB Karlos Dansby (UFA) - Dansby is regarded as the top free agent linebacker, and he is not expected to resign with the Cardinals. He could get more money on the open market than Arizona can offer, so they would need to use the franchise tag for the third consecutive year to keep him.
DL Keilen Dykes (ERFA) - Provided depth at the start of the season before being waived on October 12, and spending the rest of the year on the practice squad.
T Mike Gandy (UFA) - Gandy's stay in the desert is likely over following a disappointing season that ended on December 23rd when he was placed on Injured Reserve after suffering a sports hernia.
G Deuce Lutui (RFA)
TE Ben Patrick (RFA) - Arizona does not rely on their tight ends very much, but Patrick was the best receiver at the position in 2009.
K Neil Rackers (UFA) - Rackers' struggles in the clutch this postseason were apparently due to an injured groin. The Cardinals are interested in bringing him back but only at the right price.
G Lyle Sendlein (ERFA)
TE Stephen Spach (RFA) - The Fresno State alumn was second on the Cardinals' tight end depth chart. He only made four receptions in 2009.
WR Jerheme Urban (RFA) - Urban fell behind Early Doucet on the depth chart and lost a key fumble in Arizona's playoff loss to New Orleans.
DL Gabe Watson (RFA) - Although he was recovering from off-season knee surgery, Watson eventually won the starting nose tackle job and recorded 27 tackles for Arizona.
Left Tackle - With the likely departure of Mike Gandy, Arizona will need to find an athletic tackle to shore up the left side of their offensive line.
Inside Linebacker - If the Cardinals are unable to retain the services of Karlos Dansby, look for them to target a veteran player who can play the run well.
Outside Linebacker - Although they did finish 6th in the league with 43 sacks this season, Arizona could solidify their pass rush by adding an athletic outside pass rusher.
Offensive Line Depth - The Cardinals would do well to add some depth to their offensive line this offseason. Depending on what they hope to do with their offense sans Warner, they may try to add some bigger bodies to help out their run game or more athletic types to improve their pass protection.
Cornerback - Arizona desperately needs to improve the depth in their secondary. Once you get past their starting cornerbacks, their backups just don't have the talent to stay with the league's top receivers. Look for them to pick up a young defensive back, both to add depth in 2010 and to build for the future.
Tight End - The Cardinals have not gotten much production out of the tight end position in recent years, and if they can add an athletic receiving threat to the position it could help open up new dimensions for their offense.
Despite being the two-time defending NFC West Champions, the Cardinals have a lot of questions to answer this offseason.
Their most pressing need is the addition of depth and playmaking ability along the offensive line and in the defensive backfield.
Arizona has already been involved in several trade rumors, most notably involving Anquan Boldin and Donovan McNabb. I think they will try and trade Anquan Boldin as a way of picking up an extra draft pick or two, but I just don't see them attempting to trade for Donovan McNabb. It wouldn't make much sense given his age and the fact that he's been playing in a West Coast offense for all these years.
The Cardinals are more than likely going to give Matt Leinart another chance as their starting quarterback, so look for them to acquire a veteran backup rather than a future Hall of Famer.
I fully expect Steve Breaston to return in 2010, and to be a big part of their offense. Despite his history of injuries, there is no denying his talent. He will most likely be competing with Early Doucet for playing time.
On defense, Arizona will need to replace the production of Karlos Dansby.
Who do you think Arizona will target in free agency? Has the departure of Kurt Warner ended their reign atop the NFC West? Do you think Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt will put an increased emphasis on the running game with Matt Leinart at quarterback?