Cardinals coach Bruce Arians downplayed the idea that acquiring a left tackle to help protect quarterback Carson Palmer was a pressing need, according to Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com. While Arians noted that improving the blind side will be a priority, he said “it doesn’t have to be the highest.” “(Current left tackle) Bradley (Sowell) played OK, and he’s going to get better with another year of strength and conditioning,” said Arians.
Arians’ opinion that Sowell “played OK” seems to be without much validation. After taking over for the injured Levi Brown following the fourth week of the season, Sowell gave up seven sacks, 12 quarterback hits, and 40 quarterback hustles, leading to his being graded as the worst offensive lineman in football, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). However, as Weinfuss notes, Sowell did not allow a sack over the course of the final four games. Brown, meanwhile, was traded to the Steelers, meaning Sowell currently sits atop the depth chart.
Palmer has never been the most mobile of quarterbacks, meaning that the Cardinals’ left tackle position is even more crucial than it may be on other teams. If they do opt for improvement, Chiefs tackle Branden Albert may be the primary option, tweets Mike Jurecki of Fox Sports Radio 910. Albert played the 2013 season under the franchise tag, and Jurecki notes that Albert’s asking price in free agency will determine if the Cardinals draft a left tackle. Eugene Monroe of the Ravens and Jared Veldheer of the Raiders are also scheduled to hit free agency, and could interest the Cardinals.
The Cardinals hold the 20th pick in the first round, so potential options like Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews and Auburn’s Greg Robinson will likely be off the board. However, Taylor Lewan of Michigan and Zach Martin of Notre Dame present intriguing selections. Additionally, the Cardinals will have 2013 first-round guard Jonathan Cooper back in the fold after returning from a broken leg, which should help steady the line play.