The news today that Arizona Cardinals OG Alan Faneca retired comes as a slight surprise. Once among the best interior linemen to play the game, Faneca just wasn't the same guard for his one season with the Cardinals. The St. Louis Rams defensive line manhandled the Cardinals o-line last year in their week 13 win, to the tune of 4 sacks, 2 from DT Fred Robbins on the inside. But there's another connection for the Rams and Faneca.
Faneca was part of the great offensive guard shopping spree of 2008. That was the year that the Rams signed Jacob Bell. The New York Jets landed the big fish in the OG market that year, signing Faneca to a 4-year deal worth $32 million, $23 million guaranteed. It paid off for a while too; they had one of the best rushing attacks in the league that year. Faneca's play declined after that though. The Jets were still paying him $5 million to play for the Cardinals last year.
The Rams grabbed the second place prize in the great guard shopping spree of '08. Jacob Bell was just 27 at the time; Faneca was 30. Bell signed a 6-year, $36 million contract with $13 million guaranteed. Naturally, if the Rams keep Bell through the life of his contract, they'll have paid more, but they'll also have gotten more service out of him. Bell's debut season in St. Louis did not compare with Faneca's in New York. Bell dealt with injuries and played south of 300 lbs all season. With the help of a personal chef, he was back up to snuff in 2009, and a solid blocker, alebit one that missed three games. Last year, Bell was the Rams best offensive lineman, and perhaps their best front five player over the course of the entire season.
Bell turned 30 in March, by no means over-the-hill for an offensive lineman. It stands to reason that Bell will be around for a couple more years at least, and if he can stay healthy, maybe through end of his contract, which expires in 2014, when he'll be 34.
Arizona likely had plans to move on from Faneca, who was a free agent this year anyway. However, it's another reminder that there's another team out there in the market for an offensive guard besides the Rams.