Which Free Agent Will Make the Biggest Impact for the Arizona Cardinals?


December 23, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall (34) rushes the ball against the Cincinnati Bengals during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

During this year’s free agency period, the Arizona Cardinals were perhaps the most aggressive team in the NFL. Furthermore, the Cardinals were perhaps more aggressive than they have ever been in franchise history.  With that in mind, a question was requested to me today.  The question was which free agent pickup by the Cardinals will make the biggest impact?

Although the Cardinals were extremely aggressive in this year’s free agent period and there are at least a handful of free agent acquisitions who you could probably select from, to me, the question is extremely easy to answer.  The answer is Rashard Mendenhall, without question.

Why, might you ask?  Well, here is my long answer.  From the outside looking in, again, there are at least a handful of new players wwho can be impact players this year.  Players such as cornerbacks in Antoine Cason and Jerraud Powers, should provide a huge impact.  Cason and Powers should provide solid depth at the corner back position, helping Patrick Peterson defend the defensive backfield.

Another option could be linebacker Jasper Brinkley, which will provide quality depth at the position.  Last year Brinkley approached the 100-tackle mark for the Minnesota Vikings.  Another free agent acquisition that could provide a big impact is outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander.  Alexander will provide much-needed depth as a pass rush outside linebacker and on special teams, which has been a strength (special teams) of his since coming into the NFL.

A couple more quality free agent additions would be Matt Shaughnessy and Frosty Rucker on the defense line, who will also provide depth at the position and help the likes of Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell.

However, without question in my opinion, the free agent acquisition that will provide the biggest impact this year is Mendenhall.  Mendenhall is extremely familiar with new head coach Bruce Arians’ offensive system.  Mendenhall was Arians’ starting running back for three years in Pittsburgh, when Arians was the Steelers offensive coordinator.  He had back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons for Arians (in 2009, 10) and approached 1000 yards in the 2011 season, before tearing his ACL.

It is my belief, with the trust Arians will have early on (the 2013) in Mendenhall, that Arians will be the (featured) back this season.  He is a three-down back who is a very good blocker in the passing game and has the power to run in between the tackles and the breakaway speed to be able to break long runs.

Provided that Mendenhall can stay healthy, which is a very big if, look for him to have a 1,000-plus yard season and make a huge impact for the Cardinal offense. This big impact will create a huge play action pass option for Carson Palmer in the passing game.  This in turn will create a dynamic passing game for Arians’ offense.