Cardinals’ free agent signings grades part 2


The Cardinals went into free agency on a mission. Over the first couple of days, they have finalized six deals with six fee agents. Here’s the second part of the Cardinals’ free agent signings grades.

The Cards weren’t coming into free agency with dreams of grabbing a superstar for $14 million a year. They have a nucleus they like. For Arizona, free agency was about adding depth at needed positions and redoubling their committment to decisive but minor improvements to help reach their goal of a championship.

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Many of the new Cardinals won’t be starting or become household names to the Cardinals’ fan base, but most of them were really solid deals. Steve Keim once again proved that he’s good at his job. One of the smaller deals he made may turn out to be the better ones.

G/C A.Q. Shipley: 2 years/$1.6 million (estimated)

Jan 11, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Indianapolis Colts center A.Q. Shipley (63) in the 2014 AFC Divisional playoff football game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals’ offensive line was a far better part of the team than it had been in recent years. Despite this fact, Keim decided he wanted even more improvement, particularly in the interior. Shipley is a low-cost, little-risk addition to the line.

He may well be the starter despite making a minimum salary. The team released starter Lyle Sendlein to save about $3 million in cap space, and have only second-year undrafted player Anthony Steen, and guard/center Ted Larsen as competition for the starting center spots. Of course, the Cardinals can choose to add one in the draft, or otherwise acquire a new starter,

The case can be made that Shipley deserves the job. He earned net positive grades in both pass and run blocking according to Pro Football Focus. He did this despite being bounced in and out of the starting lineup and between the center and guard spots while with the Indianapolis Colts. At present, he’s the best option on the team.

The Cardinals grabbed a potentially starting center for a very, very low price. Shipley can be an asset in protection and can move between spots depending on what the Cards decide to do going forward. There’s not much to complain about there.

Grade: A-

DT Corey Peters: 3 years/$10.5 million

Dec 21, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) is sacked by Atlanta Falcons defensive tackles Corey Peters (91) and Tyson Jackson (99) during the third quarter at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

If there’s one free agency contract I am a little less all-in on, it would be this one. Peters tore his Achilles in 2013, and in 15 games last season with the Atlanta Falcons, notched only 26 tackles. That’s a fair sum of money for a player who has had two years of struggle.

It is definitely not all bad though. PFF graded Peters positively in run defense and pass coverage. At 26 years old, it is also much more likely that he can shake off injury history than it would be for older players. The simple fact that Arizona now has someone decent to replace Dan Williams is important.

I guess some other teams in the NFL saw something I did not. Peters stated that he had more lucrative offers, but felt Arizona was t best fit and was building something special. The teams around the league, including the Cards. seem to think he’s fine and can be an effective player.

Stats don’t reflect a nose tackle’s contributions too well, so it is possible, even likely, that I’m undervaluing this deal.  Relatively speaking, this move was more risky than the others, but the payoff of Peters becoming an important part of the team’s defense is significant. Still, if I had to pick a worst move, it would be this one.

The impressive part is that it is still a good decision.

Grade: B-

LB Sean Weatherspoon: 1 year/$3.9 million 

Dec 1, 2013; Toronto, ON, Canada; Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (56) hits Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel (3) after he throws the ball during the first half at the Rogers Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Once again, Steve Keim reels in a potentially effective  player coming off injury on a short-term deal. Weatherspoon, another former Falcon, tore his Achilles last season, and while being in the NFL for 80 total games, he has only played 47 of them.

The difference between this and, say, the Peters deal is on length. If Weatherspoon can’t recover from injury struggles, he won’t be on the books for long. The shortness of the deal somewhat justifies the risk-reward play of bringing Weatherspoon to Arizona.

If he can be healthy, he could be a very effective and versatile asset for the team. The Cardinals can plug him into any spot among the linebackers and he can blitz, cover, and defend the run. At a position that the Cardinals need proven effective players and depth, Weatherspoon could serve in either role. A tandem of him and Daryl Washington could prove to be a strong defensive core.

The deal is pretty solid, if not just a bit pricey. It’s also a bit ironic that the Cards, whose linebacking core was destroyed by injury last season and in 2013, signed an injury prone linebacker. Still, the potential benefits that Weatherspoon can provide make a short-term look at what can offer totally worthwhile.

Grade: B+