Going into the 2016 season, the Arizona Cardinals had one of the top receiving corps in the NFL. By the end of the season, the Cardinals had more questions than answers at the position. Going into the offseason, Arizona will have to address the position in either the draft of through free agency.
Future of the Arizona Cardinals Wide Receiver Position
The Cardinals problem at the position started early in the year when Michael Floyd, their number two receiver, couldn’t catch on third down. Now at the end of the season, the handful of dropped passes are the least of Floyd’s issues. Floyd’s well-documented dismissal from the team is not the end of the story. There is still a chance that he ends up serving jail time for his extreme DUI.
The Cardinals speedy third receiver John Brown was diagnosed with sickle cell trait earlier this year. He tried many different treatments but was not able to effectively treat the symptoms which limited his productivity. Last season, Brown was able to catch 65 passes and reach the 1,000-yard mark and this season only had 39 catches and 517 yards. He is said to have talked to cornerback Ike Taylor whom also suffered from sickle cell trait and was able to manage the symptoms successfully.
If the first two issues with the second and third receivers were not enough, they were hit with injuries as well. The Cardinals fourth receiver Jaron Brown was sent to injured reserve with a knee injury. Brown never put up great numbers while being so far down on the depth chart, but he was one of the few players that looked to be in sync with Carson Palmer early in the season.
With these three guys all having issues throughout the year, the passing attack was not nearly as potent as expected. If it were not for Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson doing extraordinary things this year, the 7-8-1 season could have been much worse.
Trying to figure out what Arizona is going to do is a guess at best. Until Fitzgerald’s retirement decision is made, the Cardinals won’t know how bad a situation they are in. Fitzgerald is one of the best receivers ever to play the game, and the move to the slot extended his career. He led the league in receptions last year, and it is clear that he can still be very productive for the team. Coaches, teammates, and fans all want to see Larry back for at least one more season.
If Fitzgerald does come back the Cardinals are still in a good, but not a great spot. They will have J.J. Nelson, John Brown, and Jaron Brown all back. Allow the Cardinals to wait until the mid to late rounds to find a receiver like they did with all three of those guys previously mentioned.
In free agency, there are a handful of names that are intriguing. The top three wideouts currently set to hit the market are Alshon Jeffery, Marvin Jones, and Travis Benjamin. One other guy that will not be as highly coveted is Mike Wallace. Wallace is a one-dimensional receiver and has had a lack of production recently, but he was fantastic with Bruce Arians in Pittsburgh. It will be interesting to see if Arizona takes a look at the aging speedster.
In the draft, the two high-end receivers Corey Davis and Mike Williams would be very exciting additions to the team, but their draft stock might be a little too high for the Cardinals liking. A player like Courtland Sutton out of SMU is intriguing in the second round.
The potential of this position group revolves around one player, Larry Fitzgerald. The organization is waiting for his decision just like everyone else. The short term future of this organization is in Larry’s hands.