Analyzing the Arizona Cardinals 2018 offensive line

GLENDALE, AZ - AUGUST 01: Offensive tackle D.J. HumphriGLENDALE, AZ - AUGUST 01: Offensive tackle D.J. Humphries #74 of the Arizona Cardinals arrives to the team training camp at University of Phoenix Stadium on August 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)es
GLENDALE, AZ - AUGUST 01: Offensive tackle D.J. HumphriGLENDALE, AZ - AUGUST 01: Offensive tackle D.J. Humphries #74 of the Arizona Cardinals arrives to the team training camp at University of Phoenix Stadium on August 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)es /
facebooktwitterreddit

The Arizona Cardinals’ offensive line is full of question marks that general manager Steve Keim needs to find answers for

Arizona Cardinals’ general manager Steve Keim has his hands full this offseason. The main objective for the executive, of course, is to address the quarterback issue. The Cards, or any other football team for that matter, will not achieve success without a competent individual under center.

Protecting the passer is also of vital importance for any squad. No disrespect to wide receivers, but offensive linemen are probably the best friends of any signal-caller. Keim has allocated big money to blockers in the past, and could very well be doing so again in the upcoming weeks.

The most-important slot of the group appears to be settled. D.J. Humphries missed 11 games last season due to injury, but is set to resume his left tackle role in 2018. The former first-round draft pick has performed well after a rocky start to his career.

The left guard spot is currently in flux. Incumbent starter Mike Iupati also succumbed to the injury bug in 2017. Triceps surgery cost the former San Francisco 49er 15 contests, creating question marks relating to the 30-year old’s durability going forward.

Iupati’s contract has also become a concern. The four-time Pro Bowler carries an undesirable salary-cap number for the upcoming campaign. If the $9.7 million cap hit can’t somehow be reduced, the native Samoan may have played his final game with Arizona.

If Iupati’s days in the desert have come to an end, free agent Andrew Norwell would be one heck of a replacement. The Carolina Panther certainly has familiarity with the Cardinals’ new coaching staff, particularly offensive line boss Ray Brown. Alex Boone, who’s also headed for free agency, filled in admirably for Iupati in ’17.

Center A.Q Shipley is under contract for one more season. The 31-year old has started the last 32 contests for the club, and is expected to anchor the line once again. Shipley could face some competition from Max Tuerk, however, who was picked off the Los Angeles Chargers’ practice squad last November.

It got a bit messy at right guard a year ago. The Cards had hoped that Evan Boehm would handle the duties, but the 2016 fourth-round draft pick has been mediocre at best. Earl Watford returned in October to help stabilize things, but will once again be testing the free agent waters in a couple of weeks.

The Chicago Bears’ Josh Sitton would be a tremendous upgrade over both Boehm and Watford. The four-time Pro Bowler became a free agent when the Bears declined an option in the 31-year old’s deal. Other right guards who’ll be available include Luke Joeckel and Jack Mewhort.

Jared Veldheer struggled when the coaching staff decided to move the giant to right tackle. After years of playing on the left side, the adjustment was rough for the 30-year old. Veldheer’s play at his new position improved during the second half of ’17, but his future with the organization is still in doubt.

A $10 million-plus cap figure for 2018 is the reason for the uncertainty. That’s too high of a number for a right tackle who’s performance is nothing worth bragging about anymore. Veldheer’s contract needs to be made more salary-cap friendly, or the 6’8″, 321 pounder could be headed to the unemployment line.

Arizona should try it’s best to keep Veldheer on board. Free agent replacements for the team’s 2014 offensive MVP are few and far between. The draft is always a possibility, but Keim seems to have a blindspot when it comes to selecting college linemen.

Next: Cardinals one of four teams left in Kirk Cousins race

It appears as if the Cards may be doing some patchwork on this year’s offensive line. It’s a situation that’s almost as dire as the franchise’s quarterback conundrum. It will be interesting to see what management comes up with to solve the ongoing dilemma.