Last off-season the Arizona Cardinals roster was ravished by free agent signings and trades. Anquan Boldin was sent to the Baltimore Ravens, Antrell Rolle signed with the New York Giants, Karlos Dansby went to the Miami Dolphins and Kurt Warner retired. Needless to say, they fall back a lot in 2010.
Fast forward a year and things have changed quite a bit, Arizona has been extremely active in the open market as they attempt to contend in the weak NFC West once again.
Analysis: Kolb was Philadelphia's starting quarterback heading into the 2010 season, but was quickly surpassed by Michael Vick due to a combination of play and injury. Kolb seems to have the talent necessary to be an above average starting quarterback in the NFL. He has a great arm, reads the field well, and is pretty accurate on the intermediate routes.
That said, he isn't strong in stretching the field and that could be an issue because of Larry Fitgerald's ability to do so. He hasn't performed up to the level that you would expect form a quarterback with his ability and Arizona gave up a bounty in order to get him.
Listen, anything is an upgrade from the likes of Derek Anderson and John Skelton, but how much of an upgrade is it? Arizona, who drafted Patrick Peterson 5th overall in April, got rid of their best cover guy in the trade and replaced him with a below average starter in Richard Marshall (see below). We will know who got the better end of this deal rather quickly, but I would give the early lead to Philadelphia at this point.
Analysis: Arizona must have a lot of confidence in 2nd round pick, Ryan Williams, to take over the primary running back duties. Not as much in the running game, but in the blocking and receiving game, where Hightower was extremely solid. Arizona isn't going to be able to rely on Beanie Wells, who has struggled to be that featured back and this trade give them one less option.
They did acquire a veteran pass rusher in Vonnie Holliday, who will fit a rotational need a long the front seven, that is a solid addition.
Free Agent Signings
TE- Todd Heap: Two Year, 5.5 Million Dollar Contract
2010 Stats: 40 Receptions, 599 Yards, 5 TD
Analysis: Heap's statistics have decreased a great deal over the course of the last season. The former all-pro receiver appears to be on his last legs, but this doesn't mean he cant be a major contributor to the team moving forward. Heap will be coming home to Arizona, where he starred for the Sun Devils in the 1990s.
You are looking at a player that will be a solid safety valve for Kevin Kolb and team up to make a real nice three men rotation at TE.
What it means for the 49ers? Heap is that big presence that can really hurt opposing defenses, San Francisco included.
TE- Jeff King: Three Year Contract, Terms Undisclosed
2010 Stats: 19 Receptions, 121 Yards, 2 TD
Analysis: Kings statistics don't seem to impress, but they aren't indicative of his pass catching abilities. Carolina, under their prior regime, didn't utilize tight ends as well as they could have. King has solid hands and is a physical beast up the middle. Look for Arizona to use him a lot more in this aspect of the game to help Kevin Kolb as a safety valve.
How does this effect the 49ers? San Francisco has had issues with covering tight ends over the course of the last couple of seasons. Some of that has to do with coverage issues as they relate to safety play as well as defensive schemes. Hopefully this will change in 2011, however, King is going to make that a little more difficult twice a year.
OT- Daryn Colledge: Five Year, 27 Million Dollar Contract
Analysis: Skeptics will question why Arizona threw 27 million at Colledge, who was a bit more than mediocre during his tenure with Green Bay. However, I am going to play devils advocate here. The former Boise State standout has been really good in terms of run blocking and improved a great deal pass protecting in 2011. Still, he will never be an all-pro caliber offensive tackle in the NFL. What Colledge will bring is toughness and strength to an offensive line that has been missing that the past couple of seasons.
How it effects the 49ers? It looks like Arizona might be thinking about moving Colledge inside, which could work. Either way, he will have difficulty with athletic pass rushers and the 49ers have a couple of those on the roster.
DT- Nick Eason: Two Year Contract, Terms Undisclosed
2010 Stats: 16 Tackles, 1.5 Sacks
Analysis: This is pretty much a depth move for Arizona, who lost Alan Branch in free agency. Eason has been a pretty reliable rotational player over the course of his first seven years in the NFL. You are not going to get a player that will put consistent pressure on the quarterback, but Eason is pretty solid in terms of rush defense; which has been an issue for Arizona.
How it effects the 49ers? Minimal
LB- Stewart Bradley: Five Year Contract, Terms Undisclosed
2010 Stats: 60 Tackles, 1 Sack, 1 INT
Analysis: Bradley jumped onto the scene in 2008 having a breakout season. He compiled 122 tackles with a rare six passes defended from the LB position. However, he missed the entire 2009 season with injury and never regained form in 2010. You would think that he is a major upgrade over Gerald Hayes, who Arizona released, but that isn't a given at this point.
However, if Bradley returns to 2008 form this is a huge signing for the Cardinals at a previously weak position.
Effect on the 49ers: Bradley is an extremely versatile linebacker that can play multiple positions in the front seven. He has tremendous coverage ability, but who really thinks any LB can go one-one with Vernon Davis?
WR- Chansi Stuckey: Two Year, 3.5 Million Dollar Contract
2010 Stats: 40 Receptions, 346 Yards, 0 TD
Analysis: Arizona lost Anguan Bolden last off-season and are going to lose both Steve Breaston and Early Doucet this off-season. Needless to say, Arizona is in need of a receiver opposite the great Larry Fitzgerald. However, you really cannot view this signing as much of an upgrade for Arizona. When a wide receiver average less than 10 yards per catch, there has to be an issue. Some of that had to do with the play of Colt McCoy in Cleveland last season, but Stuckey is a marginal #3 wide receiver at best.
Effect on the 49ers: Minimal
CB- Richard Marshall: One Year Contract, Terms Undisclosed
2010 Stats: 88 Tackles, 1 Sack, 1 Forced Fumble, 3 INT, 7 Passes Defended
Analysis: When a corner has 88 tackles and just 7 passes defended it usually means one thing; he had a lot of passes completed on him. Well, this is the case with Marshall. According to various statisticians Marshall was burned more than any other starting corner in the league last season. In fact, I would venture to guess that he was burned more than Nate Clements and Shawntae Spencer combined.
Marshall, who wasn't happy with his contract during the 2010 season, was extremely valuable to Carolina prior to last year. As a rookie in 2006, Marshall recorded 70 tackles, 3 INT and a career high 14 passes defended. Arizona is hoping that he regains earlier form, but I wouldn't bet the bank on it.
How it effects the 49ers: The combination of Patrick Peterson and Richard Marshall at the corner position isn't going to be too great in 2011. Peterson is a rookie and young corners tend to struggle, while Marshall is an extreme downgrade from Rodgers-Cromartie.
Re-signed: P- Ben Graham and C- Lyle Sendlein,
Free Agent Losses: WR- Steve Breaston (Kansas City), DL- Alan Branch (Seattle), Deuce Latui (Cincinnati Bengals)
Players Traded: CB- Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Players Released: QB- Derek Anderson and LB- Gerald Hayes
2011 Draft Picks
1st Round, 5th Pick: CB- Patrick Peterson, Louisiana State
2nd Round, 38th Pick: RB- Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech
3rd Round, 69th Pick: TE- Rob Housler, Florida Atlantic
4th Round, 103rd Pick: DE- Sam Acho, Texas
5th Round, 136th Pick: FB- Anthony Sherman, Connecticut
6th Round, 173rd Pick: LB- Quan Sturdivant, North Carolina
6th Round, 184th Pick: DT- David Carter, UCLA
7th Round, 249th Pick: WR- Demarco Sampson, San Diego State
Notable Undrafted Free Agent Signings: C- Kris O'Dowd (USC) and OT- D.J Young (Michigan State)