TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona has reached contract agreements with five free agents, including quarterback Drew Stanton, who follows new Cardinals coach Bruce Arians to the desert.
The Cardinals also released starting free safety Kerry Rhodes, a move that cleared $6 million in salary cap space.
The other additions are running back Rashard Mendenhall, cornerback Jerraud Powers, safety Yeremiah Bell and linebacker/special teams ace Lorenzo Alexander. Stanton backed up Andrew Luck last season in Indianapolis, where Arians served first as offensive coordinator, then as interim head coach.
Stanton agreed to a three-year, $8.2 million contract, plus incentives, with $3 million guaranteed. Mendenhall agreed to a one-year, $2.5 million deal. Powers’ and Alexander’s contracts are for three years, Bell’s is for one year.
Stanton said he was told only that he would be competing for the starting job at a position that was a main reason Arizona had the worst offense in the NFL last season.
“They need to find answers at this position,” Stanton said. “I want to be that answer. I’m going to do everything in my power to be that answer and I know given that opportunity I feel like I can.”
He said he knew that when Arians left Indianapolis for Arizona, the Cardinals would be a good destination in his bid to become a starting quarterback.
“His offense is quarterback friendly. It makes sense,” Stanton said. “You can break it down. It allows you to play to your strengths, and a lot of what this offense is predicated on is I feel what my strengths are.”
Arians called it “a great opportunity for Drew.”
“He really impressed me during the year we spent together in Indy,” the coach said in the news release announcing the five contract deals. “Physically he has everything you want in a quarterback — big with a strong arm, can get it up the field and make all the throws. He’s just as impressive mentally and understands the position. I’m excited to get him here and compete.”
The 6-foot-3, 243-pound quarterback played for five seasons with Detroit, appearing in 12 games with four starts. He completed 104 of 187 passes for 1,158 yards and five touchdowns with nine interceptions but has not played in a game the past two seasons.
The addition could mean Kevin Kolb’s days are numbered with Arizona. Kolb is due a $2 million signing bonus this week and would earn $9 million this coming season unless his contract is restructured or, perhaps more likely, he is released. The Cardinals, whose offense ranked dead last in the NFL last season, already have tendered an offer to quarterback Brian Hoyer. Stanton and Hoyer were teammates at Michigan State.
Mendenhall fills a need for the Cardinals, who released running back Beanie Wells on Monday.
Mendenhall called it “a fresh and new start.”
He spent four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where his offensive coordinator for much of that time was Arians.
Mendenhall had a difficult 2012 season after tearing an ACL in 2011. Last year, he rushed for just 182 yards in 52 carries. Mendenhall rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
“Obviously, I know Rashard well from our time in Pittsburgh and I hold him in very, very high regard,” Arians said. “As a running back, he’s the total package. He’s a big, strong, every-down back with speed who can catch the ball. I’ve said before, he’s a big man with little feet, meaning he can run like he’s 180 (pounds) but also can pound the ball like he’s 230.”
Mendenhall was suspended for a game by the Steelers last season after failing to show up for the preceding contest because he knew he was going to be inactive. He also gained attention when he tweeted criticism of people celebrating the death of Osama bin Laden, writing “What kind of person celebrates death? It’s amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We’ve only heard one side…”
Mendenhall went on to another big season before his torn ACL ended it. He was asked about his past missteps in his brief session with the Arizona media.
“As easily as you can look at those things, if you look at who I am, who my teammates view me as, to my blog on the Huffington Post, a lot of things that encompass me, you can see who I really am,” he said, “And I’m not ashamed of who I am.”
Powers, who moves into the cornerback spot vacated by the release of William Gay, also comes from Indianapolis, where he spent four seasons, starting all 42 regular season games in which he played. He has six career interceptions. Although injuries cut short his last three seasons, he didn’t feel it was a pattern that should concern the Cardinals.
Alexander, who comes from the Washington Redskins, is considered a top special teams player as well as a backup linebacker. He made the Pro Bowl at special teams last season. The personable linebacker was the Redskins’ Walter Payton Man of the Year for community service.
Bell, who could take Rhodes’ spot in a defense that was among the best in the NFL last season, started all 16 games for the New York Jets last season. He was third on the team with 103 tackles, 83 solo. He had three fumble recoveries, one sack and four passes defensed. It was the first time the five-year starter did not lead his team in tackles.
Rhodes is coming off a strong year with Arizona, when he started 15 games, had four interceptions and forced two fumbles.