After a 4-0 start, the Arizona Cardinals looked like a contender in the NFC early last season. That didn't last long as they followed the hot start with a nine-game losing streak. The season ended with 11 losses in the final 12 games and the firing of head coach Ken Whisenhunt.
One of the biggest reasons for the collapse was Arizona's inability to find a starting quarterback. Kevin Kolb played well early on, but suffered a season-ending injury. Arizona used four starting quarterbacks last season with John Skelton, Ryan Lindley and Brian Hoyer also getting a chance. The Cardinals' running game wasn't any better as Arizona averaged 3.4 yards per carry, worst in the NFL.
Change has been plentiful in the early part of the offseason as Bruce Arians was hired to replace Whisenhunt. The Cardinals will also have a new defensive coordinator as Ray Horton left to join the Cleveland Browns. The new regime will be tasked with the challenge of filling several needs. Here is a closer look at the biggest needs the Cardinals need to address this offseason.
Biggest need: Quarterback
The Cardinals thought Kolb was the future, signing him to a six-year $62 million deal, but he's been mediocre at best. He played well in the early going last season before suffering an injury and missing the final 10 games.
Skelton opened the season as the starter, but was replaced by Kolb and then by Lindley later in the season. Lindley got a chance to start as a rookie, but completed 52 percent of his passes while averaging 4.4 yards per attempt.
Kolb could be the answer, if healthy, but the Cardinals may need to rework his contract first. With Joe Flacco signing big money to stay in Baltimore, the free agent market doesn't offer a lot of options. It's also considered a down year for quarterbacks in the NFL Draft.
The Cardinals acquired Kolb via a trade and could explore the market again for a player likewho remains with the Seahawks as an expensive backup quarterback.
Jess Root of SB Nation's Cardinals blog Revenge of the Birds has more on the need for a quarterback:
What do the Arizona Cardinals need? Clearly the biggest need is the one that matters most --- quarterback. Kevin Kolb has played well enough when he has been healthy, but he hasn't been healthy. John Skelton regressed terribly in 2012 and Ryan Lindley was every bit the late round rookie quarterback he was drafted as. The team has other issues, namely on the offensive line, but improving the line is easier than finding the quarterback to take them to the postseason.The issue? The quarterback crop in the league is not impressive and the rookie class is a notch below last year's top QB.
Other needs: Offensive line, linebackers, running back
If the Cardinals' biggest need is a quarterback, offensive line is a close second. Arizona struggled in run and pass blocking last season. Arizona ended the season with Nate Potter, a 2012 seventh-round pick, starting at left tackle and Bobby Massie, a 2012 fourth-round pick, starting at right tackle. The Cardinals signed Daryn Colledge and Adam Snyder in free agency, but both have struggled in Arizona.
Daryl Washington is one of the better middle linebackers in the NFL, but the Cardinals don't have much around him. They could use an outside linebacker, possibly two. One with solid pass-rush ability would be an even bigger plus.
The Cardinals invested early draft picks in Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams, but both players have battled injuries. Wells has been plagued by nagging injuries throughout his NFL career while Williams was limited to five games last season after missing his entire rookie season.
NFL Draft outlook: Cardinals have seven draft picks
After finishing 5-11, the Cardinals hold the seventh overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. A top-10 pick should help them land a very talented player. Many draft analysts expect the Cardinals to take a quarterback with the No. 7 pick. Matthew Fairburn of SB Nation projects the Cardinals to take West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith in his latest mock draft.
The Cardinals need to restructure Kevin Kolb's contract, but even with him, it may be smart to seek an upgrade at quarterback. He'll have some room to grow in Bruce Arians' play-action, deep-passing offense, but has the skills to do so.
In addition to the No. 7 pick, the Cardinals hold picks in every round including the No. 38, No. 70, No. 101, No. 142, No. 176 and No. 214 picks.
Salary cap situation: Had to cut Adrian Wilson to get under
According to ESPN's John Clayton, the Cardinals were $723,000 over the 2013 salary cap. Everyone was expecting a cap casualty and that came in the form of veteran safety Adrian Wilson in a move that saved the team $3 million in cap space.