What Can the Arizona Cardinals Expect from John Abraham?

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystJuly 25, 2013

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 20:  Defensive end John Abraham #55 of the Atlanta Falcons is introduced before the Falcons take on the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game at the Georgia Dome on January 20, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

2012 was a disastrous season for the Arizona Cardinals, but the team's defense actually played fairly well, with a pass rush that ranked 11th in the NFL in sacks.

Still, the Cardinals sought to bolster that pass rush with a veteran addition, one that is curious enough to ask whether we might be seeing some different looks from the defense in 2013.

On Thursday, the Cardinals agreed to terms with John Abraham on a two-year deal, according to Marc Sessler of NFL.com. The 35-year-old had 10 sacks for the Atlanta Falcons last year and visited with several teams since being let go by the Falcons. But he kept leaving town without a deal until arriving in the desert.

On one hand, it's not hard to see why the Cardinals would be interested in him. Even after hitting the age of 30, Abraham continued to be a more than an effective pass-rusher, averaging double-digit sacks over the past five years.

However, he registered those sacks the same way that he has the majority of his 122 (tops among active players) over his career...as a 4-3 defensive end.

At first glance, the 6'4", 263-pound Abraham would seem to slot in as an outside linebacker in Arizona, which is an interesting transition for a player in the twilight of his career. That isn't to say that he can't make the switch, but it's a big change—unless the Cardinals minimize it by featuring more four-man looks, especially in pass-rushing situations.

The team could, in theory, run some 4-3 looks, with either Calais Campbell or Darnell Dockett kicking inside to tackle. That would not only allow Abraham to get after the quarterback as he is accustomed to, but it could help cushion the blow of linebacker Daryl Washington's four-game suspension.

The team could also run a 3-4 "under" front that would cheat Abraham up near the line of scrimmage. The difference between a 3-4 "under" alignment and the 4-3 "under" is mostly semantics, and there would be little difference between this new role and his old one.

You can rest assured that the Cardinals have something in mind for Abraham. This wasn't an expensive signing, but it wasn't cheap either (reportedly worth up to $6 million, according to Fox Sports Arizona), and he didn't sign to sit.

All in all, it's a solid deal for the Cardinals. They needed pass-rush help, which can be difficult to come by without paying through the nose. In John Abraham, they appear to have gotten it.

The question now becomes how best to take advantage of it.