Cardinals expected to make a run at LT Branden Albert this offseason
One major flaw with the Cardinals' roster, however, is their offensive line. Among the five offensive linemen who played 800+ snaps for the Cardinals this year, just one of them graded out positively in Pro Football Focus' rankings - center Lyle Sendlein, who graded out barely above average at 0.5.
The left tackle position, which is widely considered the most important spot on the offensive line, was particularly messy in 2013. After trading draft bust Levi Brown to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Cardinals rolled with Bradley Sowell on the blindside. Sowell was simply horrible, struggling in both run blocking and pass protection while grading out as the worst offensive tackle in all of the NFL, according to PFF.
Looking to take their team to the next level, the Cardinals know that they can not move forward with a turnstile on the blindside. As a result, they are widely expected to address the position over the upcoming offseason, either by targeting a player with the 20th overall pick in the draft, or by making a run at an impending free agent.
Mike Jurecki of Fox Sports 910 Phoenix was asked Tuesday about Branden Albert, who is a free agent this offseason. His response: "He'll be the #1 targeted free agent, his asking price will dictate if they draft a LT." Playing for the Kansas City Chiefs, Albert excelled in pass protection in 2013, earning the 11th-best grade in that area, according to PFF. The 29-year-old would provide immediate stability at left tackle for the Cardinals, and it would make it much easier for head coach Bruce Arians to unleash his vertical passing scheme.
If Albert is truly the Cardinals' top free agent target, they should have a solid chance of landing him. The Chiefs drafted a left tackle, Eric Fisher, with the first overall pick in 2013, so they are unlikely to shell out big bucks to bring Albert back. They are also unlikely to apply the franchise tag to Albert, as he received the franchise tag last year, and a second straight season under the franchise tag would force the Chiefs to pay a lofty price. The most likely scenario in Kansas City currently looks like Fisher moving to left tackle (he played on the right side as a rookie) and Donald Stephenson sliding in at right tackle.
Albert will be an interesting player to watch over the offseason due to his likely departure from Kansas City, as well as the fact that a team - such as the Cardinals - could vastly improve by adding him to their squad. He is widely considered one of the top 3 or 4 free agent offensive tackles this offseason, and very well could be the best at his position to actually hit the open market.