GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- In the salary cap dominated world of the NFL, experienced players often have a tougher-than-expected time finding a job.
Outside linebacker John Abraham and offensive tackle Eric Winston found that out this year. So with training camps opening around the league, Abraham and Winston looked around and decided to accept offers from the Arizona Cardinals, certainly at less money than they had anticipated earning. Abraham got a two-year contract, Winston a one-year-deal.
Abraham, a 13-year NFL veteran whose 122 sacks are most among active players, commended the Cardinals for, as he put it, "getting me for cheap."
Winston, a starter for every game in his seven NFL seasons, said that "obviously things didn't fall the way I would like them to fall but that's the way it goes."
"Life goes on and it's time to play football," he said in the Arizona locker room on Friday, the first day of workouts for the Cardinals.
With the two latest additions, 49 of the 88 players on the Cardinals roster are new to the team this year, a massive personnel overhaul under the direction of new general manager Steve Keim. That number includes first-round draft pick Jonathan Cooper, the player penciled in at starting left guard but a no-show in camp because he has not reached a contract agreement.
Quarterback Carson Palmer said he was stunned when the team picked up players of the caliber of Abraham and Winston just as camp began.
"You get 10, 15, 20 percent better when you add two players like that," Palmer said. "It's not like we're getting them going into the third preseason game or they're getting into shape. They're here the first day of camp. I was looking at Pro Football Talk and I was like 'Really? Is this going to happen?' I saw 'Eric Winston talking to the Cardinals' or whatever it was and I thought, 'Maybe. I'm sure he's got a ton of teams after him.' Then I hear that we got him. Then I hear a couple of hours later that we pick up Abraham.
"Shocked, excited, happy. That's when you know your organization is trying to win football games now -- today."
New coach Bruce Arians said he's "extremely excited to bolster our roster with proven players."
Asked when he planned to use Abraham against an opponent, Arians said, "the first time I think they're going to pass."
Expect Abraham to share time with another experienced newcomer, Lorenzo Alexander, at outside linebacker. While Arians said Abraham can be an every-down player, it's no secret after all these years what the 35-year-old player does best. He led Atlanta with 10 sacks last season.
"So we've got two quality veterans" at the position, Arians said. "What it's really done is bolster our nickel package. When we want to get after the quarterback, we've got four to five capable pass rushers -- now one with an elite resume. We don't have to wonder what we have. We know what we have."
With the addition of Abraham, the team released O'Brien Schofield, who started nine games at outside linebacker last season before being sidelined with an ankle injury.
Abraham said that the 3-4 scheme the Cardinals use is "pretty much the same defense" as the one the Falcons had last season, so the transition won't be difficult.
"I think as a player you always want to be an every down guy, but also I came here knowing that they're going to want a pass rusher," he said. "I know that's where my most production is. So I'm not really worried about where they put me or what they want me to do. I'm just going to do it."
Winston will compete with second-year pro Bobby Massie, who improved greatly over the last half-season as a rookie a year ago, for the right tackle job, with Levi Brown and Nate Potter at left tackle.
"I feel very comfortable right now we're going to come out with a really good right tackle and a really good backup because they're going to go after each other just like the other spots in the line," Arians said. "It allows us to leave Nate at the left side with Levi and have a nice battle over there. Everywhere along that line right now we've got really good competition. In due time we'll settle down to who the five are. We have plenty of time for chemistry."
Although he's always been a starter, Winston said he has no problem having to earn the job.
"You compete every year you're in the league," he said. "Those guys that don't think they're competing every year, they're usually out of it pretty fast. I've been lucky enough to be a starter for a long time, played a lot of consecutive games, but every year I've come into camp trying to win a spot and this year won't be any different."
Massie said he welcomes the competition.
"I'm not worried about it," he said. "We have an issue with depth at tackle and we needed a guy to come in. He's a good player, he's a veteran. That's what it's all about, competing for your job. They're not going to just give it to me. I'm going to have to work for it. I'm happy to do it."
The Cardinals gambled, and lost, when they drafted concussion-prone Texas A&M wide receiver Ryan Swope in the sixth round this year. Swope sustained a concussion during an offseason workout and on Thursday announced his retirement from the game "for now." He said he is returning to college to pursue his degree.
"Those things happen all the time," Arians said. "Guys have gotten injured. You just treat it as an injury. I feel bad for him because he's a great young man and I knew how much it meant to him. You could tell it was eating him up as he was here and not being able to participate. I just wish him the best. I went through this with Austin Collie last year. There's a time to stop."
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