Cardinals trade for Zellner, Hambrick

Originally Published: August 31, 2004
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Demonstrating again that first-year coach Dennis Green will use every means at his disposal to bolster a shaky roster, the Arizona Cardinals on Tuesday acquired veteran tailback Troy Hambrick and defensive end Peppi Zellner in a trade with the Oakland Raiders.

In exchange for the two players, each of whom figures to upgrade problem areas, the Cardinals surrendered a low-round draft choice. Had the Cardinals not made the deal, it is likely both Hambrick and Zellner would have been released, but Arizona was willing to part with a draft choice to acquire the pair outright.

The Cardinals also were awarded rookie offensive tackle Alan Reuber, released by the Minnesota Vikings on Monday, on a waiver claim. The former Texas A&M standout, signed by the Vikings as an undrafted free agent this spring, is the 11th player added to the Arizona roster via waivers in the past 2 weeks as Green continues to shake up his team with newcomers.

There is no small irony in landing Hambrick, who in 2003 supplanted Emmitt Smith as the starting tailback for the Dallas Cowboys, and now finds himself the backup again to the league's career rushing leader. The Cardinals have been seeking a backup for Smith since former starter Marcel Shipp, the club's leading rusher each of the past two seasons, sustained a season-ending leg injury.

Hambrick, 27, was released by Dallas this spring after the Cowboys chose tailback Julius Jones in the second round of the draft. Hambrick signed with Oakland a day later, was buried on the Oakland depth chart in camp, and reportedly walked out of camp on Monday. Had he been released, several teams likely would have bid for Hambrick's services.

As a starter in all 16 games for the Cowboys in 2003, Hambrick rushed for 972 yards and five touchdowns on 275 carries. In four seasons, he has appeared in 51 games and started 27, and has 473 carries for 1,896 yards and eight touchdowns.

Zellner, 29, should add depth to a defensive end position that has been ravaged by injuries in training camp. Among other moves Tuesday, the Cardinals placed projected starting end Fred Wakefield on season-ending injured reserve with a broken foot.

Zellner, a five-year veteran, like Hambrick, began his career with the Cowboys. He was a fourth-round choice in 1999, and after four seasons in Dallas, signed last year with Washington as an unrestricted free agent. The former Fort Valley State star played in all 16 games for the Redskins in 2003, and had 14 tackles and one sack.

In 73 career appearances, Zellner, who can also move inside and play tackle in third-down situations, has 108 tackles, seven sacks and eight pass deflections.

The Cardinals will assume the one-year contracts, each for a base salary of $535,000, that Hambrick and Zellner had signed with the Raiders.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.