The Cardinals have added a lot of pieces to remain competitive going into 2013. Some of the players signed one-year contracts to prove their worth and will either be extended by the Cardinals or move on to another team next year. With this in mind, here are a couple of positions the Cardinals can upgrade through free agency and the draft in 2014.
It is a pipe dream to think the Atlanta Falcons will let Matt Ryan walk away as a free agent after this year. Jay Cutler will most likely stay with the Chicago Bears as well even though there haven’t been any talks of extending his contract to this point. However, there is a chance that a 25 year old former first round pick may be available in Josh Freeman. The Buccaneers have made it clear they expect Freeman to take the next step in his progression this year, and they drafted his successor in Mike Glennon just in case he doesn’t. Being talented and just 26 next year, Freeman could only need a fresh start and coach Arians may be the right person to give him that opportunity if Palmer doesn’t work out like they hope.
Teddy Bridgewater is the best quarterback prospect in the 2014 NFL draft, and would be a huge pick up for the Cardinals. He could sit his first year and learn from Carson Palmer, giving the Cardinals their quarterback of the future going into 2015.
Brian Orakpo would be a huge addition for the Cardinals if the Washington Redskins don’t re-sign him for 2014 and beyond. Orakpo is a 27 year old, pro bowl linebacker that can rush the passer. John Abraham is just a stop gap for this year and the addition of Orakpo would give the Cardinals an elite pass rusher for the next five years
In the 2014 NFL draft, the best options are: Anthony Barr from UCLA, Kyle Van Noy from BYU, and Adrian Hubbard from Alabama. All are great at getting to the passer and will be available in the first round for the Cardinals if they choose to go this route.
Another Redskin, Fred Davis, would provide another weapon opposite Rob Housler at tight end. Davis is only 27 years old and is a solid all-around tight end. He has had a problem staying healthy lately so the Redskins may chose to go in a different direction next year and the Cardinals may be able to offer him an opportunity.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins from the University of Washington is one of the better pass-catching tight ends in college football. The Cardinals may not want to select a tight end very high in the draft as tight end is a position that can be filled later in the draft
Rashard Mendenhall may only be with the Cardinals for this year, and Ryan Williams may not even be on the team when the season starts. Darren McFadden would be the best free agent running back next year. McFadden is very injury prone and with the abundance of talented running backs in next year’s draft, the Cardinals may choose to pass on McFadden.
T.J. Yeldon from Alabama is the jewel of the running backs that will be available in next year’s draft. Yeldon will be a high first-round pick, so if the Cardinals want him they will have to get him early. Lache Seastrunk from Baylor and Ka’Deem Carey from Arizona or two others to keep in mind come draft day.
Levi Brown has been a decent option at left tackle for the Cardinals, but a former first round pick should be better than decent. This could be Browns last year with the Cardinals as they will be in a position to upgrade via free agency or the draft next year. Eugene Monroe and Brandon Albert are the best available tackles that are set to become free agents, but their asking price may too high for the Cardinals. This would actually be okay because of the talent that will be available in the draft
Jake Matthews from Texas A&M, Cyrus Kouandjio from Alabama, and Taylor Lewan from Michigan, are all projected to go in the first fifteen picks of the first round in next year’s draft. The Cardinals would be happy if any one of these tackles were available when they selected. The question would be whose blind side would they protecting for the next five years.