The initial wave of the NFL free agency period has come and gone. The windowed period gives unrestricted and unsigned players an opportunity to explore the league, seek out a better fit on a different team, and (especially for younger players) the chance to sign a more meaningful and more lucrative contract. For the teams across the league, it gives them a chance to fill open-roster positions with hopefully, better-fitted players. So how much did the Arizona Cardinals gain in their involvement with free-agency? The better question is, how much did they lose?
“It’s the losses not the additions,” said ESPN Insider John Clayton, last on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “You still wonder about bringing in older players. It’s great for leadership, but it’s also one with older players, are they going to make you better? Are they going to be athletic enough?”
Arizona Cardinals Off-Season Report
Going old was a very bold decision for the Cardinals juggling players in and out of the free agency pool. In the process, the team has lost some young and very promising talent. What the Cardinals have gotten in return, to a lot of sports analysts, doesn’t really add up.
“I think it’s kind of clear that Arizona is potentially in a free-fall this coming season,” stated an executive from another team. “They could be in that ‘Oh my God all of a sudden we have to rebuild for the future, we are not really even that competitive right now.’”
The offense for the Cardinals is still competitive and fortunately still intact. About the only thing that has changed on offense is that the players are getting healthier. With quarterback Carson Palmer at the helm and a generous supply of quality receivers, including future Hall Of Famer Larry Fitzgerald and star running back David Johnson, the team will be able to produce a high-level of points per game. A high-scoring, offensive attack is a trademark of the Coach Bruce Arians program.
The majority of the changes for the Cardinals have been made on the defensive side of the ball. It is these alterations that have caused the greatest story line so far this off-season. Many fans are wondering if the team has already gone into the inevitable and very lengthy process of “rebuilding”, especially after such efforts were taken (getting Palmer and Fitzgerald to return) to give it one more shot at a Super Bowl run. Last season the team fell well short of expectations. Next season is supposed to be the season of redemption. Instead of going forward in their progress this off-season, it appears the Cardinals have taken a few steps back.
Here’s The Scoop
Through free agency, the Cardinals have lost five starting players on defense. The players named are defensive tackle Calais Campbell (signed a four year, $60 million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars), cornerback Marcus Cooper (signed with the Chicago Bears for a three year, $16 million contract), linebacker Kevin Minter (signed for one year and $4.25 million with the Cincinnati Bengals), and safeties D.J. Swearinger (signed with the Washington Redskins for three years and $13.5 million), and Tony Jefferson (signed with the Baltimore Ravens, for four years and a whopping $34 million). The Cardinals have also lost defensive end Alex Okafor to the New Orleans Saints for a one year and $2 million contract.
Seemingly, the Cardinals had no interest in keeping these players for any amount, or in the least, as very little as possible. Maybe the idea was to create more salary cap space to utilize on strengthening the team, but nonetheless, now these players are no longer around. Reportedly, at least one player (Tony Jefferson) has even expressed discontent toward the Cardinals front office and their dealing process.
“They low-balled me,” said Jefferson to MMQB’s Andy Benoit. “The very first offer, which was disrespectful, was three (years) for $12 (million), with $6 million guaranteed. We didn’t even reply to that.”
Granted, there is no way the Cardinals could’ve been able to match the salaries the released players were set to make. Because these players decided to be released, the Cardinals have been able to free up a little cap space. General manager Steve Keim has shown a tremendous ability in finding quality players at a bargain price. This being said, let’s take a look at what the Cardinals have taken care of already.
New Additions To The Team
Set on taking the older, more experienced route, the Cardinals have brought in veteran kicker Phil Dawson to replace Chandler Catanzaro. Now 42, Dawson has been a reliable kicker for the San Francisco 49ers for a lot of years. Because of the disappointments from special teams last season, the Cardinals could not begin next season without some kind of changes being made. Dawson will be a good fit to the team.
Safety Antoine Bethea was signed by the Cardinals to replace Jefferson. Also from the 49ers, Bethea has shown consistency in the backfield for the past 11 seasons. Now at 32 years of age, he should still have a couple of years left in the tank. Bethea is known for his hard-hitting and for swarming the football. These fundamentals are also trademarks of a Bruce Arians-led program.
Two linebackers were signed by the Cardinals so far in the off-season. First up, from the Pittsburgh Steelers, is former first-rounder Jarvis Jones. Why the Steelers decided to part ways with this 27-year-old powerhouse is extraneous at this point, but at a bargain price ($2.25 million for one year), the Cardinals will take him. Jones has recorded six sacks in his five years with the Steelers. If everything works out next season, as it should, the Cardinals will have the option of resigning Jones in the future.
The second linebacker signed by the team is actually an old teammate from days past. Now on his third stint with the Cardinals, the team as well as the fans are more than grateful to have Karlos Dansby returning home where he belongs. Dansby was drafted by the Cardinals in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Dansby resigned with the team for one year and a cool $2 million.
Is There A Draft In Here?
The off-season report couldn’t be finished without mention of the draft. The official 2017 NFL Draft is only a month away. What the Cardinals do in the draft could determine, not only how well they will perform in this upcoming season, but even the future of the organization.
What the Cardinals need most is truly up for debate. Most sports analysts are predicting the team will take a quarterback in the very first round. Reportedly, the Cardinals have their eyes on at least three prospective quarterbacks already: Mitch Trubisky (North Carolina Tar Heels), Nathan Peterman (Pittsburgh Panthers), and Patrick Mahomes (Texas Tech).