Identifying the worst acquisitions for the Arizona Cardinals this offseason is more about their effect on this season and beyond rather than their individual talent level. The three worst free agents the Arizona Cardinals have signed this offseason are Rashard Mendenhall, Jerraud Powers, and Jasper Brinkley. Not because they are bad football players, but because their addition to the Cardinals may not be good for the growth of other players.
Mendenhall signed a one-year deal for 3.5 million dollars, and comes to the Cardinals off an injury riddled year and a half with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He is familiar with coach Bruce Arians and his offense as they were in Pittsburgh together as recently as 2011. So familiar, that Arians has recently announced Mendenhall is the starter going into training camp. While the addition of Mendenhall adds depth to the running back position, it may stunt the growth of the Cardinals young running backs: Ryan Williams, Stepfan Taylor, and Andre Ellington.
Another player who is familiar with coach Arians is former Indianapolis Colt cornerback Jerraud Powers. Signing a three-year 10.5 million dollar deal may mean the Cardinals are more invested in Powers and may give him every chance to earn a starting job opposite Patrick Peterson. However, the Cardinals have an abundance of depth at cornerback going into this season. The Cardinals added Powers and Antoine Cason as free agents, traded with the Kansas City Chiefs for Javier Arenas, and they drafted Tyrann Mathieu who will be moving to safety, but will play some cornerback on passing downs. If Jamell Fleming progresses like they hope, Powers may only be here a year.
The addition of Jasper Brinkley was to replace Paris Lennon at inside linebacker next to Darryl Washington. Since signing Brinkleys’ two-year 3.5 million dollar deal, Darryl Washington has been suspended for the first four games due to violating the NFL drug policy, inside linebacker Kevin Minter was drafted in the second round, and pro bowl linebacker Karlos Dansby was added as insurance if Washington’s suspension is extended. If Washington stays on the field, the addition of Brinkley will cut into Minter’s playing time and may stunt his growth
The Cardinals aren’t expected to make the playoffs in Arians first year in a tough NFC West so getting the younger players as many reps as possible will be key in their growth and development. The hope is that these signings will provide veteran leadership and stability, but the fear is these players will want to showcase themselves, and the younger players will find it harder to find the field. In that scenario these handful of singings will end up costing the Cardinals in the long term.