Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC West [Print without images]

Friday, April 12, 2013
Considering Cards' options with McShay

By Mike Sando

The San Francisco 49ers eagerly upgraded at right guard last offseason. They were happy to move the untested Alex Boone into the lineup while watching 2011 starters Adam Snyder and Chilo Rachal leave in free agency.

The fact that Snyder and more recently Rachal have signed with Arizona strengthens perceptions that the Cardinals have serious problems on their offensive line.

How serious are those problems? Are they overstated? Are draft analysts right when they almost universally project offensive linemen to Arizona with the seventh overall pick in the 2013 draft?

Those were some of the questions on my mind during a phone conversation Friday with ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay. The Cardinals will provide their answers as general manager Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians reshape the roster over the next couple seasons. McShay has them using the seventh pick Insider for Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson, but he doesn't think the decision is crystal clear.

"The problem with them is, they don't have any necessarily glaring needs, but there are a lot of positions where you could upgrade," McShay said.

The Cardinals' line improved as the 2012 season progressed. Some of that improvement shows up in the sack numbers I've provided in the chart. Arizona ranked 13th in sacks taken per drop-back from Week 9 through season's end, up from 32nd through Week 8. Quarterbacks and other non-linemen affected those numbers, but such dramatic change reflects well on the line without much question.

Left tackle Levi Brown and center Lyle Sendlein are returning from injuries. Bobby Massie and Nate Potter improved at tackle late last season. Brown, Sendlein, left guard Daryn Colledge and Snyder are combining to count more than $20 million against the 2013 salary cap. The combined hit is scheduled to remain in that range for 2014, although much could change by then.

Adding a starting-caliber tackle with the seventh pick would give the team a lower-cost alternative.

"I just don't know who you are going to get at No. 7 that fits a need for Arizona that is a bigger one than offensive tackle," McShay said.

Keim has said he could justify selecting a guard that early if the player were talented enough. McShay projected Alabama guard Chance Warmack to the Buffalo Bills at No. 8.