It sounds strange to refer to Adrian Wilson as a former Cardinals safety, but after 12 seasons, he's just that. The team and Wilson parted ways last Friday and now, like many great Cardinals before him, he'll finish his career in another uniform.
Wilson's résumé is impressive, but it got me to thinking. Now that the Cardinals have been in the Valley for over a quarter-century, where does he rank on the list of the greats?
I present to you my top five Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals...
5. Larry Centers, FB, 1990-98
There wasn't a lot of fanfare when Centers was picked in the fifth round of the 1990 NFL Draft out of Stephen F. Austin. Really, why should there have been? This was pre-internet, so nobody really knew who Centers (or Stephen F. Austin, for that matter) was.
As a rookie, Centers was used solely as a special teams player, but he became a very important part of the offense -- it just wasn't in the running game. Centers never had more than 425 yards rushing in a season, but he was one of the best receiving threats out of the backfield in NFL history. Centers caught 535 passes in a Cardinal uniform, the third-most in team history. He's also one of only three players to have 100 or more catches in a season for the Redbirds.
And, who can his hurdle over Dallas cornerback Larry Brown on Christmas night 1995?
We all now know who Larry Centers is. Stephen F. Austin, in case you were wondering, is known as the "Father of Texas."
4. Kurt Warner, QB, 2005-09
When the Cardinals signed Warner to a one-year deal in 2005, the general feeling was that this was another example of a player coming to the desert to retire. After all, Warner had the second year of his contract voided by the New York Giants after a very public benching that paved the way for Eli Manning to take over as their quarterback. Most felt Warner's best days were a distant memory.
After two seasons as a spot starter, head coach Ken Whisenhunt gave Warner the reins for the 2008 season (partly because of Matt Leinart's horrible play in preseason), and the rest is history. The former Arena Football League star threw for 4,583 yards and a franchise-record 30 touchdowns in leading the Cardinals to an improbably NFC Championship and a trip to Super Bowl XLIII.
Since Warner announced his retirement following the 2009 season, the Cardinals have been unable to find a replacement at quarterback. Three seasons! That shows just how great Warner was for Arizona.
3. Adrian Wilson, S, 2001-12
There's never been a more intimidating member of the Arizona Cardinals. Ever. Wilson rose above the national stigma that had surrounded the Cardinals for years enough for the casual national fan to say "yeah, he's a bad ass."
Wilson went to five Pro Bowls in a Cardinals uniform, is one of only six players in league history with more than 25 sacks and 25 interceptions, and is the only man in league history to have two or more touchdowns of 99 or more yards without the benefit of a kick return.
And who can forget 2011, when Wilson played the entire season with a torn biceps and made the Pro Bowl.
Adrian Wilson may have moved on from the desert, but he will be sorely missed.
2. Aeneas Williams, CB, 1991-2000
The bottom line is this: if Aeneas Williams played on better teams, he'd already be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. As it was, Williams played on only one winning team in his decade in Arizona, but still managed to get six Pro Bowl invites while picking off 46 passes (2nd-most in team history) and scoring nine defensive touchdowns.
Deion Sanders, with all of his flashiness, got the praise as the game's best corner in the 90s, but Williams put up nearly identical numbers. And unlike "Prime Time", he could tackle (just ask Steve Young).
Williams finished his career in St Louis, where he got to play in a Super Bowl for the Rams, but his best years were in Cardinal red.
Man, Adrian Wilson...Aeneas Williams...are there any draftable defensive backs with the intials 'A.W.' this season? The Cards should look into that.
1. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, 2004-present
Consider this: Outside of 2008-09, when Kurt Warner was the unquestioned starting quarterback of the Arizona Cardinals, Larry Fitzgerald has had a litany of suspects throwing the ball to him. In fact, he's caught touchdown passes from 11 different players in his career.
And that's the proof of how good Fitzgerald is -- it doesn't matter who the quarterback is (except 2012 -- Jerry Rice would have struggled here last year, too).
Fitzgerald is already the franchise's all-time leading receiver, and he's not done yet. Hell, he's still not even 30 years old! Think of it this way: if Fitz catches as many balls as Rice did after his 20th birthday, he'll finish with 1,854 career receptions which would shatter Rice's career record of 1,549. Granted, Rice played until he was 42 years old, but that illustrates just how great Fitzgerald has been during his career.
And the best part is, unlike anyone else on this list, Fitz still has a chance to play his entire career in a Cardinals uniform.
Honorable mention: WR Anquan Boldin, DT Darnell Dockett, WR Roy Green, LB Eric Hill, LB Ronald McKinnon, QB Jake Plummer, DE Simeon Rice, T, Luis Sharpe, DT Eric Swann