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Offseason Forecast: Arizona Cardinals

With the offseason officially under way, Around the League will examine what's next for all 32 teams. The series continues with the Arizona Cardinals.

What's changing


Former general manager Rod Graves was known as a better contract negotiator than talent evaluator. His inability to find a successor to Kurt Warner ended up not only costing him his own job but also the job of respected head coach Ken Whisenhunt. Replacing Whiz is Bruce Arians, who arrives from Indianapolis as the only reigning Coach of the Year in NFL history to change teams the next offseason.


With the offseason officially under way, Around the League will examine what's next for all 32 teams.

AFC East
» Bills | Dolphins | Jets | Patriots
AFC North
» Bengals | Browns | Ravens | Steelers
AFC South
» Colts | Jaguars | Texans | Titans
AFC West
» Broncos | Chargers | Chiefs | Raiders
NFC East
» Cowboys | Eagles | Giants | Redskins
NFC North
» Bears | Lions | Packers | Vikings
NFC South
» Buccaneers | Falcons | Panthers | Saints
NFC West
» Cardinals | Niners | Rams | Seahawks

While Arians is one of the brightest offensive minds in the game, the defense will be a major question with Todd Bowles replacing up-and-coming coaching star Ray Horton as coordinator. The Philadelphia Eagles' defense imploded in November and December once Bowles took over for Juan Castillo in an interim capacity.

Biggest free agents


» CB Greg Toler: Just a part-time player last season after coming back from 2011 anterior cruciate ligament surgery, Toler came on strong down the stretch. With the athleticism, size and tackling chops to succeed as a press corner, Toler tops one analyst's list of under-the-radar free agents this offseason.

» LB Paris Lenon: Now 35, Lenon has started every game over the past three years, holding off a string of competitors. The rebuilding Cardinals would do well to find an upgrade, as Lenon was the weakest link in a run defense that was trampled in the second half of the 2012 season.

» RB LaRod Stephens-Howling: While he's nobody's idea of a workhorse, Stephens-Howling showed flashes of big-play ability when pressed into service as the lead back last season. Expect the Cardinals to make a run at re-signing him for his versatility and special teams work. He won't land a starting job on the open market.

Other key free agents: QB Brian Hoyer, S Rashad Johnson, OT D'Anthony Batiste, DL Nick Eason, LB Quentin Groves

What they need


The major needs are the exact same ones as this time last offseason: quarterback and offensive tackle. Arizona had arguably the worst situation in the NFL at both positions last season. Although Ryan Williams and Beanie Wells will be returning from injured reserve, another tailback should be added for depth. The major building blocks already are in place on defense, so the Cardinals can get by with mid-round draft picks and late-wave free-agent signings for depth.

Offseason crystal ball


The Cardinals seem likely to lose out to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Alex Smith derby, leaving little but quarterback dregs in free agency. Should Kevin Kolb agree to a restructured contract to return in a "band-aid" capacity, Arians can target his vertical quarterback of the future (EJ Manuel?) in the second or third round. The No. 7 overall pick should be directed at a left tackle prospect such as Central Michigan's Eric Fisher or Oklahoma's Lane Johnson to team with a healthy Levi Brown.

Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.

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