- Josh Weinfuss, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
One team's loss is another team's gain in free agency.
On Tuesday, just a few minutes after the new league year began, left tackle Jared Veldheer left the Oakland Raiders for the Arizona Cardinals, reportedly signing a five-year contract worth $35 million.
ESPN.com Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez and Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss discuss the move, diving into Veldheer's decision, how he got to Arizona and what's awaiting him in the desert.
Weinfuss: How healthy is his left triceps? Were there any lingering issues associated to the injury and him missing 11 games last season?
Gutierrez: Rust, really, seemed more of an issue than his triceps when he came back to play the final five games of the season. He insisted the strength was coming back and the season simply ended too soon for him. If anything, he told me near the end of the year that he was still working on getting the strength back in the arm and was not wearing a brace on it, so he should be at full strength come training camp. It is interesting, though, that he reunites with Carson Palmer, who praised Veldheer after he shut out Jared Allen in 2011. "Do you realize what you just did?" Palmer asked him. I imagine Palmer recruited him pretty heavily to come to the desert. You get that sense, and if so, what do you think the hooks were?
Weinfuss: I've heard that Palmer was definitely part of the recruiting process, including telling the Cardinals what Veldheer can bring to the table. I bet Palmer went to Veldheer and said, "Hey, we finished the season 6-2 all because our offense finally figured it out and with you at left tackle, I'll have more time to spin it, which means more touchdowns and fewer interceptions." Sounds like a solid argument. Arizona turned a corner under coach Bruce Arians and Palmer midway through the season and there's no reason why it won't continue in 2014. Palmer has seen both sides of the table -- he knew what life was like in Oakland and he knows what it's like to play for the Cardinals and a coach like Arians. Arizona is close and with some better protection early in the season, 10-6 could've been 12-4 or better.
What does Veldheer specialize in? Is it blocking for the run, pass protection or both?
Gutierrez: He's a beast, at 6-feet-8, 322 pounds, he is actually better at pass blocking, as noted earlier with his shutout of Jared Allen in '11. And that was on the artificial turf of the Metrodome, where Allen got more push and thus, speed. Still, he was improving at run blocking. Imagine this: His first-ever NFL start came at center. Yes, in Tennessee in 2010. It was a baptism by fire and he was immediately switched to tackle, where he thrived.
The Raiders actually will actually pay Rodger Saffold more than the Cardinals will Veldheer, who stated from Day 1 that he wanted to return to Oakland. So what about Arizona, do you think, appealed to Veldheer?
Weinfuss: I think a few things -- the idea that he can have a significant impact on a winning team, playing with Palmer again and getting paid. His reported salary of $7 million a year is a bump of more than $5 million a year. And with Palmer, Veldheer knows his tendencies which could eliminate that learning curve during training camp. And who doesn't like winning? He's coming off back-to-back four-win seasons and hasn't won more than eight games in a year. The Cardinals won 10 last year and made a splash in the vaunted NFC West.
Why didn't Veldheer want to stay in Oakland? And how is he at handling the spotlight when times get tough?
Gutierrez: And with that, you just endeared yourself to Raider Nation by saying Arizona was more of a winning organization than that in Oakland. But, as the man said, facts is facts, right? Honestly, I always got the impression that he wanted to stay in Oakland. He went on the record several times as saying he wanted a long-term deal and expressed frustration with the lack of talks and said he did NOT want to be franchise tagged because that would have been counter-intuitive to the message the Raiders were giving about him being a building block. Maybe that's why he decided to walk ... unless the Raiders low-balled him and gave him no choice. Early in his career, he shied away from reporters but last year especially he was readily available at his locker and became a team spokesman, so to speak.
Would this be the biggest splash the Cardinals make on offense this offseason and could it vault them into that second wild-card spot next year (yes, I realize it's March)?
Weinfuss: Short answers? Yes and yes. Arizona doesn't need much on offense. They have two very good wide receivers, two running backs of the future and a quarterback for at least 2014. The only move that could top this would be getting a big-name receiver to take a pay cut for the third spot or a known tight end. Other than that, Veldheer is the biggest splash. And yes, this move could vault the Cardinals into the second wild-card spot (it's never too early to talk playoffs) because protecting the edge was the difference between a couple of wins and losses -- and the difference between watching the playoffs and being in them.