After the draft, I ranked the top-18 remaining free agents and John Abraham (#1) and Eric Winston (#3) were both very high on that list. The Cardinals snatched them up in one day and they both will help two very weak points on the Cardinals’ team, their pass rush and their offensive line. However, both of them are kind of odd fits. Abraham will have to move to outside linebacker in the Cardinals’ 3-4 for the first time in his career and the 6-4 269 pounder seems like an odd fit for the position, especially going into his age 35 season.
He’ll get opportunities to rush the passer from the defensive end position in sub packages though and he is still easily the best pass rusher on a team that was led in sacks last season by a middle linebacker who has since been suspended. After middle linebacker Daryl Washington and interior defensive lineman Calais Campbell, no player on their team had more than 4 sacks last season. Before Abraham, their rush linebacker stable consisted of Sam Acho, one of the worst pass rushers in the league last season, Lorenzo Alexander, a 30-year-old career backup, 4th round rookie Alex Okafor, and the injury prone O’Brien Schofield, a mediocre player who has since been waived upon the addition of Abraham.
Abraham is no longer capable of playing a full set of snaps because of his declining durability and mediocre run stopping skills. In an effort to keep him fresh, the Falcons played him on fewer than 70% of their snaps last season and his next team may have to go even lower than that as he ages. However, he can still have a major impact for a team, provided his skills haven’t fallen off a cliff in his age 35 off-season. Despite his limited snaps last year, he was still one of the league’s most productive pass rushers, totaling 10 sacks, 8 hits, and 36 hurries on 436 pass rush snaps, a 12.4% pass rush rate. He graded out as ProFootballFocus’ #5 end both overall and rushing the passer and he ranked 6th in pass rush efficiency.
Winston, meanwhile, is purely a right tackle, which is one of the only spots on their offensive line where they don’t have a real problem. Bobby Massie played great in the 2nd half of last season, allowing no sacks, 4 hits, and 7 hurries after allowing 13 sacks, 2 hits, and 35 hurries in the first 8 games of the season. The light really seemed to turn on for the 4th round rookie. Now he’ll have to move to right guard, where he has no experience. Winston, however, has graded out as ProFootballFocus’ 5th and 9th rated right tackle in the NFL in 2011 and 2012 respectively, doing so in two different schemes. Winston and Abraham came cheap (Abraham got 6 million over 2 years and Winston’s terms haven’t been disclosed) and while they’re odd fits, they’ll help this football team at a reasonable price.