General manager Steve Keim may need to overhaul an offensive line that he has invested heavily into over the past few years
Arizona Cardinals’ team President Michael Bidwill knows that having a good offensive line is not an impossibility. His father, Bill Bidwill Sr., ran the organization back in the 1970’s when they had perhaps the best group of blockers in team history. They were known as the St. Louis Cardinals back then, and Michael was just a kid when he bore witness to it.
The youngster watched as quarterback Jim Hart was rarely touched by opposing defenses. Running backs such as Terry Metcalf and Jim Otis had holes that seemed as wide as a city block to run through. Names like Dan Dierdorf, Tom Banks, Conrad Dobler, Bob Young and Roger Finnie paved the way.
Ever since the franchise moved out to the desert, however, the Cardinals have been unable to duplicate the offensive line success that they enjoyed in Missouri. Of course, free agency didn’t exist back then in the way that it does now. An o-line’s best friend is continuity, and that’s hard to come by with the constant shuffling of players that goes on in the league today.
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Current general manager Steve Keim has certainly attempted to return the line to it’s past glory. There’ve been grade-A free agent signings such as Jared Veldheer, Mike Iupati and Evan Mathis. First-round draft picks have been spent on players such as Jonathan Cooper and D.J. Humphries.
Despite all of the efforts by Keim, the line over the past few years has been nothing to write home about. Injuries and mediocre play have stunted it’s growth. In fact, a whole new configuration could be in store for it in 2018.
Oft-injured components like Veldheer and Iupati have buy-outs in their contracts that the Arizona front office may wish to exercise in the upcoming offseason. Alex Boone, currently starting at left guard for the sidelined Iupati, will be a free agent at the end of the year. Center A.Q. Shipley has another season left on his deal, but the 31-year old veteran hasn’t been anything special.
Humphries, who’s also suffered a couple of injuries this season, will most likely be the Cards’ left tackle in ’18. After failing to dress for any contests in 2015, his rookie campaign, the University of Florida product has developed nicely. Humphries needs work on his pass-protection, but his run-blocking has been just fine.
If continuity is what the Cardinals have been looking for from the five protectors up front, their search has been unsuccessful. There’s a good possibility that 80 percent of the offensive line will be new faces in 2018. Not great news for next season’s quarterback, whoever that turns out to be.