Whenever Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians is asked about his team's needs this off-season, the answer is always the same: "We need to get stronger on both lines of scrimmage."
The Cardinals' first step in free agency seemed to back that up. They are expected to sign Oakland left tackler Jared Veldheer in the first day or two of the new league year.
Veldheer is young, 27, and huge, 6-8, 321 pounds. The hope is that he is also talented. The Cardinals haven't had an elite left tackle since Luis Sharpe retired in the mid-1990s.
The remaking of the offensive line, however, won't stop there. Guard Daryn Colledge, a starter since 2011, was released. Jonathan Cooper, who missed all of last season, his rookie year, with a fractured leg is the replacement.
Earl Watford, a fourth-round pick a year ago, is the leading contender to start at right guard. He was active a year ago but didn't play a snap of offense.
The starting right tackle probably isn't on the roster right now, although Bobby Massie could assume that job.
But the way it looks now, the Cardinals will have at least three new starters on the offensive line in 2014, and quite possibly four. At least two of the starters, Cooper and Watford, have no experience.
But Arians is a believer in playing youngsters. He did it as the interim coach with the Colts in 2012 and with the Cardinals in 2013.
He's willing to endure some tough stretches if it makes the long-term product better.
In the weekend before free agency, the Cardinals resigned themselves to losing linebacker Karlos Dansby. So it wasn't a surprise when word spread that he had reached a deal with Browns.
According to a source, it's worth $24 million over 4 four years, including $14 guaranteed.
The Cardinals didn't want to offer more than two years to the 32-year-old linebacker.
Dansby produced at a high level in 2013 and the Cardinals will miss his leadership, too.
They will count heavily upon Kevin Minter, a second-round pick a year ago, to pick up the slack.
--CB Tyrann Mathieu's rehabilitation from two torn knee ligaments is progressing on schedule. That doesn't mean, however, he will be ready to practice in training camp.
Mathieu seems to know that he needs to be smart in returning.
"You just have to be mindful that this is the NFL. Those guys don't ever stop coming after you. I think the key is you want to take care of your body and just have that veteran mindset.
"This has helped me become more of a veteran, see it as a career and not just as a season or a game or two. I definitely have to be mindful of being 100 percent and finishing each and every season."
--The Cardinals built a board of free agents much like they do for the draft each year. It's about 35 players deep and players are ranked by ability, age and contract parameters. Having that board helps the team move quickly and decisively in free agency, GM Steve Keim said.
"Once a free agent leaves the building...we're moving on to the next guy," Keim said. "If you don't take that approach, you're going to miss out on two or three other players. You just can't get caught flat-footed."
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--EDGE DEFENDER: After signing that big offensive tackle, this is the Cadinals' biggest need. They need a defensive end to groom as a replacement for Darnell Dockett, who will be 33 at the start of the season.
--SAFETY: Tight ends hurt the Cardinals badly last season, partly because they weren't physical enough at safety. One starter, Yeremiah Bell, is a free agent. The other, Tyrann Mathieu, suffered two torn knee ligaments last December.
--RECEIVER: Andre Roberts, the No. 3 receiver, left via free agency. Larry Fitzgerald's contract will force the team to make a decision about his future in 2015. The Cardinals need help now and to start grooming a possible starter down the road. They signed Ted Ginn, but that might only be the beginning.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--RB Alfonso Smith (not tendered as RFA) is a decent back, a good special teams player and a hard worker. The team appears ready to move on, however, to find a running back to fill the fourth of fifth slot.
--DE Ronald Talley (not tendered as RFA)) is a decent backup but was hindered most of last season with a wrist injury. If he's healthy, he could help a team, maybe even the Cardinals.
--DE Everette Thompson (not tendered as ERFA).
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--CB Javier Arenas was obtained in a trade last offseason; there is a possibility Arenas could be back, but he's not a priority. He played some nickel and dime corner and returned kicks. But he didn't make many plays as a returner.
--SS Yeremiah Bell started all 16 games last year after signing a one-year deal. But he's 36 and the team will look to get younger at the position. Bell is in tremendous shape and there's a chance he could return, but it likely will be only if the Cardinals can't find a replacement.
--CB Antoine Cason wasn't given much of a chance to compete for a starting job, but he played well in limited time. In this cornerback market, Cason could find a better opportunity elsewhere.
--C/G Mike Gibson played in every game a year ago, but only on special teams. He will look for opportunities but could end up back in Arizona.
--TE Jeff King missed all of last year with a knee injury. He should be able to work out for teams by the end of the month. The Cardinals haven't shown much interest in re-signing him.
--CB Bryan McCann has potential and the team would be smart to bring him back. A good special teams player.
--TE Kory Sperry hasn't seen much interest in being re-signed.
--RT Eric Winston started 16 games and was up and down. Still, he's better than anyone else the team has. But the Cardinals want him at the right price, so they will wait to see if any other team pursues him.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
--TE Jake Ballard: Not tendered as RFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--LB Marcus Benard: Not tendered as RFA/1 yr, terms unknown.
--K Jay Feely: Potential UFA; $1.02M/1 yr.
--DE Frostee Rucker: $2.145M/2 yrs, $590,000 guaranteed.
--LB Matt Shaughnessy: UFA; terms unknown.
--NT Alameda Ta'amu: Potential ERFA; $570,000/1 yr.
--P Dave Zastudil: Potential UFA; $2.95M/2 yrs, $545,000 SB.
--TE John Carlson: FA Vikings; $4.65M/2 yrs.
--RB Jonathan Dwyer: UFA Steelers; terms unknown.
--WR Ted Ginn: UFA Panthers; $9.75M/3 yrs.
--C Ted Larsen: UFA Buccaneers; terms unknown.
--T Jared Veldheer: UFA Raiders; $35M/5 yrs, $6.25M SB/$17M guaranteed.
--LB Jasper Brinkley (released).
--G Daryn Colledge (released/post-June 1 designation).
--LB Karlos Dansby: UFA Browns; $24M/4 yrs, $14M guaranteed.
--TE Jim Dray: UFA Browns; $5.625M/3 yrs, $2.25M guaranteed.
--LB Dontay Moch (released).
--WR Andre Roberts: UFA Redskins; $16M/4 yrs.
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- Karlos Dansby