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NFL Arizona Cardinals

Peyton Place Not Lone Destination for Arizona Cardinals in Free Agency

They lose out on one future Hall of Fame quarterback, and their fan base pushes the panic button. Relax, Arizona Cardinals fans.

ESPN.com recently wrote a report in which some fans on twitter were wondering what the Cardinals have been doing with their offseason while teams around them have been making moves.

Let us count the ways.

First, Arizona hung on to its best defensive lineman when it put the franchise tag on end Calais Campbell – without making him angry – and the move allows the team to continue long-term contract negotiations with the fifth-year player.

It renegotiated with left tackle Levi Brown, whose original $17 million salary would’ve put the Cardinals on the shelf in free agency for the rest of the offseason. True, Brown was awful the first half of 2011, but he played much better during the club’s 7-2 record to close the season. Most NFL analysts said despite his subpar year, he was the best free-agent left tackle on the market.

Financial terms were not disclosed on the Brown deal, but Arizona then went out and found its quarterback.

Not Peyton Manning, mind you, but a cheaper one with better long-range potential in Kevin Kolb; the Cards picked up his $7 million roster bonus. The $12 million in savings – if Manning gets all of his $96 million over five years, will give Arizona further negotiating power in free-agency.

Last season, Arizona drew rave reviews for signing Kolb away from the Philadelphia Eagles, and his confidence has to be on the rise after his organization signed his bonus with one of the most prolific QBs in NFL history available on the open market.

What if the Cardinals had let Kolb go and lost out on the Manning sweepstakes, anyway? They revealed they’re not yet ready to hand over the keys to the kingdom to quarterback John Skelton.

Kolb’s protection improved with Brown back in the fold, as well as the addition of guard Adam Snyder, who left the 49ers to sign a five-year deal to play in Glendale. Arizona was able to dump guard Rex Hadnot and wide receiver Chansi Stuckey, and re-signed wide receiver Early Doucet.

They still need a cornerback to fill the void left by Richard Marshall when he signed with the Miami Dolphins. The Cards made a run at free-agent Jarrett Bush, who ended up re-signing with the Green Bay Packers. But that can be addressed in next month’s NFL draft.

All the moves Arizona has made has given the team some freedom during the draft to get the best player, rather than having to reach for a lower-rated player just to fill a need. The Cardinals don’t necessarily have to go strictly for an offensive lineman or a wide receiver or a defensive back. They just have to improve their talent level.

So, the Cardinals didn’t make the big splash with Manning; but that doesn’t mean they’re stuck between a rock and a Peyton Place. They won’t know how much they’ve improved until after next season, but they know right now that they haven’t regressed.

Even if their fans can’t help but digress over the fact that No. 18 would rather play in the cold mountains rather than the desert sun.