If I Were GM: Arizona Cardinals Part 2

So this section is going explain what the needs of the Cardinals are and what their cap situation is. What free agents too target and what players need to be resigned.

One other note. I forgot to mention one more concern I had with the Steve Wilks hire. It is more likely than not that the team will be switching to a 4-3 defense. This team is not really built for the change. When you look at their cornerstone piece on the front seven, Chandler Jones, he is a guy who doesn’t put his hands on the ground.  Well see though, there are some young pieces on the front seven who could be able to adapt. I think that it will be interesting to what they do with Hassan Reddick in a 4-3. I think he could fit in a Will LB role.

Team Needs:

  1. QB: Obviously, no QBs on the roster. Carson Palmer retired. To say its a dire statement is an understatement.
  2. WR: Even if Larry Fitzgerald doesn’t retire this is a huge position of need. They need to think about finding a new number 1 for when Fitzgerald retires plus they need to improve the outside WR situation.
  3. OL: The line as a whole could be upgraded. The injuries piled up and the team has older veterans still on large contracts. Major changes are coming to the o-line.
  4. CB: Tramon Williams emerged in the second half as a nice pairing opposite Patrick Peterson. He is a free agent. Justin Bethel too.
  5. LB: Karlos Dansby is a free agent. Another run down linebacker could be added.
  6. TE Depth: Overpaying for Jermaine Gresham was not the best idea. Ricky Seal-Jones could be a nice pass catching option. But they could use a blocking TE.
  7. DL Depth: The DL still hasn’t replaced Calais Campbell and they have nice depth but switching to a 4-3 could require another player specifically in the 5 tech.

Cap Situation and Cap Casualties

Right now given Palmer’s retirement and with a projected cap of around $178,000,000 there should be around $23,000,000.

In order to deal with all of the needs including the quarterback some space is going to be cleared. This is not a lot of cap considering they need a QB. Look at what Jimmy G just received from San Francisco $137.5 mil over 5 years. The Niners just set the bar for Kirk Cousins. The Cardinals are going to have to be able to field a team next year and given the number of holes if they have to gut the team to sign Cousins there is going to be nothing left. There are going to have to be cuts just to get a team on the field. Whats better winning 6-8 games with a bridge QB and a young QB or winning 6-8 games with Kirk Cousins with no money or talent around him. You saw it in Washington. Cousins is a good QB but he isn’t good enough to carry a game by himself. Same goes for Nick Foles. There has been a lot of speculation of whether or not the Cardinals should pursue him. The Eagles are going to have to be given an offer they can’t refuse because of the security he gives them in case Carson Wentz isn’t fully healthy. Not only is the draft capital going to cost a lot, but if he is great you need to resign him. He is not a bridge QB; he still is young enough to build a franchise around, which leads us back to, Jimmy G just got 137.5 million over 5 years. If he stinks, more than likely you didn’t draft a young QB, then we are back to square one and the team is going to need a QB.

That’s my rant for today lets look at few guys I would cut from the roster.

  1. Adrian Peterson RB: This one is obvious. David Johnson is coming back and A.P. isn’t going to want to be a backup. Cap Savings: 2.88 million
  2. Josh Mauro DT: Even though I said they could use some depth on the d-line, the production isn’t worth the cap hit. There are other players who could be found for cheap on the open market. Cap Savings: 2.8 million
  3. Jared Veldheer OT: Moved to RT this season but moved back to LT when D.J. Humphries got hurt. He missed the last 3 weeks to injury as well. Owed over 10 million next season and after coming off of one of his worst season yet it seems like its time to move on. Cap Savings: 6.9 million
  4. Mike Iupati OG: Another lineman with a big cap number. Missed most of the season. The line in general is going to need to be completely made over. Cap Savings: 6.3 Million

I want to quickly talk about Tyrann Mathieu really quickly. I thinking keeping him on the roster is the better decision and I know there is a lot of speculation of whether the team will cut him. Certainly I would ask for a pay cut, but I would not get rid of him if he refuses. You could trade him but not many teams are going to be willing to give up picks for someone with the contract that he has. We are also have this discussion because for some reason, the front office thought it was a good idea to make his 2019 salary guaranteed at the start of the 2018 league year. That is just plain silly. He is too versatile and important to your defense to get rid of him. Plus the Cardinals already need a number 2 corner. The team has so many pressing needs lets not make the secondary an even bigger one.

About 42 million in cap space.

Free Agency:

First lets look at the Cardinals free agents for this year and who I would resign.

PLAYER (28) POS. STATUS Resign Yes or No
Justin Bethel CB UFA No
Tyvon Branch SS UFA No
Drew Stanton QB UFA No
Karlos Dansby ILB UFA No
Tramon Williams CB UFA Yes
Jaron Brown WR UFA No
Frostee Rucker DT UFA No
Troy Niklas TE UFA No
Khalif Barnes LT UFA No
Alex Boone G UFA Yes
Blaine Gabbert QB UFA No
Josh Bynes OLB UFA Yes
Earl Watford RT UFA No
Matt Barkley QB UFA No
Aaron Brewer LS UFA No
Kareem Martin OLB UFA No
John Brown WR UFA Yes
Brittan Golden WR UFA No
Kerwynn Williams RB UFA No
John Wetzel RT ERFA Yes
Olsen Pierre DT ERFA Yes
Vinston Painter RT ERFA No
Xavier Williams DT RFA Yes
Ifeanyi Momah TE ERFA No
C.J. Goodwin S ERFA No
Elijhaa Penny RB ERFA Yes
Daniel Munyer C ERFA No

Olsen Pierre and Xavier Williams: are the two more key guys that I would target. I think they are nice pieces that will contribute on the defensive line. I think they will be cheap to bring back. Pierre is a exclusive rights free agent so he will be back. Williams is a restricted free agent and I would give him a tender and try to sign him to a long term deal. I think he can be the anchor for the defense in the future. Pierre is cheap; Williams on a long term deal might fetch 3-4 million per year. The kid is worth it and wouldn’t be surprised if it is more.

I say bring back John Brown. I’m not a fan of his; he definitely was the product of good QB play (2015 Carson Palmer). That being said he brings good speed and can stretch the field. Still will need to either a free agent or draft a WR or two. If he costs more than 4 million a year though I’m out.

Tramon Williams: He established himself last year and I want that to continue. Even at 34 he proves to be very useful. Try to keep his deal at just a one year deal for around 3-4 million.

Alex Boone: even though he was hurt for part of the year and probably had the worst season of his career; Iupati has been cut and a veteran could be needed. Getting a full training camp with the team will help too. Another 1 year 1- 1.5 million dollar deal should bring him back.

Josh Bynes: Adds LB depth. Could compete for a starting job.

Elijhaa Penny and Ronald Zamort: Add depth to their respective positions.

 

Lets look at players to add from other teams:

Player Pos. 2017 Team
Sam Bradford QB Vikings
Virgil Green TE Broncos
Brock Osweiler QB Broncos

Its very short and sweet. A couple of QBs and a blocking TE. Bradford is the perfect bridge even though he scares the crap out of me because of the injury history. You can easily sign him in my opinion to a cap friendly deal that is incentive laden something in the range of 10-12 in base with incentives to push it to 15-17 million. That’s almost half of Kurt Cousins. It can be for one year too with an option for a second year. Osweiler can come in as a backup plan in case Bradford falls apart. He is a terrible QB but is familiar with Mike Mccoy and could be brought in on the veteran’s minimum. Vigil Green is a good blocking TE that adds value to the team.  A two year deal in the 2-2.5 mil per year kind of range sounds reasonable.

Plenty of cap space was created and a team is beginning to take shape with all the moves going into the draft the team will have about 6-8 million in cap space. I spent more than I wanted too and may have to re-evaluate John Brown some more. Its hard to predict what players will get in the open market given how much the cap changes on a year basis and some players getting ridiculously overpaid.

Up Next The Final Part

Arizona Cardinals Draft and What a 53 Man Roster Might Look Like

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If I Were GM: Arizona Cardinals Part 1

State of the Franchise 

I decided to go in alphabetical order and I’m already regretting this because the Arizona Cardinals might be my longest post.

Oh boy, where to begin with this team. There are usually one or two key factors or decisions that need to be made which determine which direction a franchise is heading. There’s at least five or six that I can think of off the top of my head.

Coaching Changes:

First I guess is new coach Steve Wilks who was defensive coordinator for one year with the Panthers. He replaced Sean McDermott who left to be Buffalo’s head coach. Overall, I think this is a positive hire. Teams are becoming less hesitant to hire inexperienced coaches which is a change for the better in the NFL. His one year a DC saw an improvement to the Panther’s D. They improved from twenty-sixth in scoring d to eleventh, and twenty-first in yards allowed to seventh. Reports also say he is an excellent interviewer and has impressed many front offices.

The problem is that, when you hire a defensive guy the offensive coordinator has to be a solid hire. I don’t think Mike McCoy is the answer. On one hand he made Tim Tebow look like a NFL QB, but this past year was pretty disastrous. With a team that is going to have to maybe go with a rookie QB I don’t trust McCoy or newly hired QB Coach Byron Leftwich to be able to develop him.

If I were GM, I would have more than likely tried to hire Pat Shurmur just because I think he has a better grasp of developing a system to fit a QB’s plus he’s gone on record that he would be interested in bringing in Case Keenum to wherever he went. Don’t get me wrong Steve Wilks is a good hire; he fits the strength of the team. I just wish they hired a different OC, such as John Defilippo, who i I think is the next rising star and will be a head coach in the near future.

QB:

Well transitioning a franchise with a new coach is one thing but transitioning a franchise with a new coach and no QB on the roster is hard mode.  Carson Palmer retired and Blaine Gabbert and Drew Stanton are free agents. The latter two are, well…. uh…., not very good so this team is going to be looking at a new signal caller. This has been frustrating I can imagine for Cardinal fans since they have been kicking the can down the road. This is pretty much a make or break year for the state of the franchise based on how they decide to manage the QB position.

I’ll go into details later, but what I believe is best for this franchise is to tow a fine line between keeping the status quo, by trying to field a competitive team, and building for the future. A bridge QB and a future signal caller is in my opinion the best way no handle the roster, not Kirk Cousins (because of lack of cap space) and not Nick Foles (too many question marks and not worth the draft capital that would need to be traded).

Other Issues:

Injuries: David Johnson, basically the whole offensive line missed major time. Hopefully Johnson can come back, the o-line really struggled this year. Significant changes may need to happen and for most teams it would be a number one priority but given all of the problems its like number 3 or 4.

Larry Fitzgerald: Panic may ensue if Larry Fitzgerald retires. It has been reported that he will make his decision in a week or two. He wants a good QB not some rookie throwing him the ball. All the more reason to bring a bridge on to keep him happy to play one more season. He can be a bridge for a young WR that the team can take in the draft. If he retires there are only two receivers on the roster. Chad Williams (2017 3rd round pick), who had 3 catches in his rookie year and J.J. Nelson.

Aging Defense and Free Agents: The defense is getting older and older and the team has many potential free agents on the defensive side of the ball. In order for this defense to remain strong they are going to have to retain some of these guys.

Summary:

Overall its safe to say things do not look good for the Cardinals. The front office and coaching staff have an uphill battle, but there are things that can be done to get this team back in the playoffs. If there something positive to take away its this:

Carson Palmer went down in week 7 in London. The team got shutout by the Rams then went on the bye. Between using Stanton and Gabbert, this team managed to go 5-4 the rest of the way. This is their combined stats on the season:

Compeltions Attempts Comp % Passing Yards TD INT
174 330 52.7% 1980 12 11

If you project that over 16 games this is what you get:

Completions Attempts Comp % Passing Yards TD INT
278 528 52.7% 3168 19.2 17.6

That completion percentage was lower than DeShone Kizer and CJ Beathard for reference. 53.6% and 54.9% respectively. I tried to find some players seasons to compare to but it is proving difficult. For reference though the top numbers are 2016 Brock Osweiler and below those are 2013 Geno Smith, his rookie year:

Compeltions Attempts Comp % Passing Yards TD INT
301 510 59.0% 2957 15 16
247 443 55.8% 3046 12 21

Basically what I am trying to say is that 5-4 with bad QB play leaves a team with some hope. This is not an endorsement for Kirk Cousins. I still think he is not the solution to the franchise. Ill go into more depth into the next part, which leads me to…

UP NEXT:

Part Two: Team Needs and Free Agency, Rebuilding the Roster