Cardinals back-to-work FYI


Readiness factor: It's tough going this deep into an offseason without a starting quarterback. Any veteran the team acquires through trade or free agency will have relatively little time to learn the offense and adjust to his teammates. The Cardinals were so shaky at the position last season, however, that any significant upgrade behind center will energize the team. Moving quickly to land a quarterback will improve the Cardinals' readiness. But with key offensive linemen unsigned and a new defensive coordinator in place, the Cardinals face difficulties.

Biggest challenge: Ray Horton, the new defensive coordinator, will have relatively little time to establish the aggressive mentality he promised to instill when the Cardinals hired him. He'll also have an abbreviated window to install schematic changes and get players accustomed to his approach. Horton is the Cardinals' third defensive coordinator in four seasons, so continuity is an issue. Horton was already going to face challenges as a first-time coordinator. The lockout magnifies those challenges.

Who will Arizona target at quarterback? Reports strongly suggest Arizona will pursue Philadelphia's Kevin Kolb right away when the signing period opens. Speculation suggests a deal for Kolb was already in the works. What if it's not that simple? If the Eagles want too much in return and if acquiring another veteran such as Denver's Kyle Orton isn't a realistic option, then what? The Cardinals' prospects in 2011 rest on the team's ability to upgrade the position. Extending Larry Fitzgerald's contract will also be tougher without a viable quarterback.

Key players without contracts for 2011: Guard Deuce Lutui, defensive lineman Alan Branch, defensive lineman Gabe Watson, receiver Steve Breaston, center Lyle Sendlein.