FLAGSTAFF, ARIZ. (AP) - The off-field frenzy has not let up for the Arizona Cardinals.
The team, revamping its roster in a bid to return to the top in the NFC West after a 5-11 season a year ago, started Sunday by signing two-time All-Pro tight end Todd Heap and wrapped up the afternoon by trading running back Tim Hightower to the Washington Redskins for 14-year NFL defensive lineman Vonnie Holliday and an undisclosed draft pick.
The team also re-signed free agent guard Deuce Lutui after he failed a physical with the Cincinnati Bengals for being overweight.
At sunset, the Cardinals welcomed first-round draft pick Patrick Peterson at a training camp news conference. The LSU cornerback, who reached a contract deal on Saturday, is set to practice on Monday.
The Cardinals historically have not emphasized the tight end position, but that has not been the case this year. Early in the free agency bustle, Arizona signed tight end Jeff King to a three-year deal. King, known more for his blocking, played all five of his NFL seasons with Carolina, and started all 16 games a year ago.
In addition, the Cardinals drafted tight end Jeff Housler out of Florida Atlantic in the third round.
The question will be how much Heap has left in him, but if the end of last season is any indication, the answer would be quite a bit.
Heap is the Ravens’ career leader in receiving touchdowns and is second in receptions and receiving yards. Last season, Heap had 40 catches for 599 yards and five touchdowns. He caught a franchise postseason record 10 passes for 108 yards against Kansas City.
Heap’s 467 career receptions rank fifth among tight ends and his 41 touchdown catches are fourth among those to play the position.
“I’m just really excited about how he fits in and what we’re going to be able to do with him,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “You know a large part of this next couple of weeks is seeing what his strengths are in our offense, but when you just think about some of our receivers and combining Todd Heap with them and trying to create some mismatch, you get pretty excited about that.”
The hard-running Hightower had played all three of his seasons with Arizona after making the team as a fifth-round pick out of Richmond.
The 6-foot-4, 338-pound Lutui signed a one-year deal with Arizona after his free agent contract with Cincinnati fell apart. Weight is not an uncommon problem for Lutui, who had to earn his job back after coming in out of a shape after an ill-advised holdout a year ago.
Since the Cardinals already had signed his potential replacement in free agent Floyd Womack, who played all 16 games for Cleveland last season, Whisenhunt made it clear there is not much room for error for Lutui.