The first in a series of items analyzing one player per NFC West team without a contract for 2011.
NFL seasons: four
Situation: Breaston's status for free agency remains undetermined pending a labor resolution. He could become an unrestricted free agent. The Cardinals tendered Breaston at the first-round level in case he becomes only a restricted free agent. As such, Arizona could match any offer for Breaston or receive a first-round draft choice as compensation for letting him go.
Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc.: He went to high school here (in Pennsylvania) and we recruited him to Pitt when I was there. He was nearly a Pitt Panther. We were shocked when he went to Michigan. He and Larry Fitzgerald would have been our starting wideouts. I spent a lot of time with Stevie and have paid extra attention to him since then. He was a great player and a great guy. Watching high school players, I would say nobody was more clutch than him. As a pro, he is a jack-of-all trades, but a master of none. He is fast and you can give it to him on reverses, but he is not a crazy burner like Mike Wallace. And if his knees are an issue, that worries me. He plays tough, but he is skinny. He is an average route runner. I almost feel like he has ascended to the point where he is going to be as a player. As much as I like him and think he could help teams, I think he is a third wideout. The Cardinals have put an emphasis on the running back position. The Rob Housler pick (at tight end) was very telling. They will want to use the tight end more. Between Andre Roberts and Early Doucet, they might have something opposite Fitzgerald. If Breaston gets a big offer from someone else, maybe they could let him go. If I were Arizona, I would rather use equal money on an offensive lineman or an outside linebacker.
My thoughts: It's tough to fault Breaston for leveling off when the quarterback situation in Arizona has changed so dramatically for the worse. Breaston averaged a career-high 15.3 yards per reception last season. The heads-up play he made against St. Louis in the opener -- chasing down Clifton Ryan to force a touchdown-saving fumble -- affirmed Breaston's status as the type of player Arizona should want to build around. Breaston came up through the ranks on special teams and still plays with a certain recklessness that makes his long-term durability a question. The points Williamson makes are strong. Roberts in particular came on strong late last season. Keeping Breaston for a reasonable price seems like the way to go, particularly with Fitzgerald nearing the end of his contract.