Arizona Cardinals evaluating 2017’s unheralded free agents


The Arizona Cardinals’ 2017 list of unrestricted free agents is extensive but not all of them are of the top-tier variety

A huge victory last Sunday by the Arizona Cardinals kept alive their playoff hopes. But even with the season ongoing, you can be sure an evaluation process is in effect. The job of an NFL front office never ends, there is constant planning and shaping of the roster.

Much work lies ahead for general manager Steve Keim and company this upcoming offseason. Not all of the names on the free agent list are first-tier players. The lesser-valued Cardinals also need to be looked at.

Running back Chris Johnson was placed on injured reserve early on with a groin injury. The full workload of their young stud, David Johnson, probably means Chris may be elsewhere next year. He’s 31 now, so if he did return it would most likely be on another one-year deal.

Two other running backs are also unrestricted free agents. Andre Ellington has done little this season, but could return as a backup if a better opportunity doesn’t present itself. Stepfan Taylor has been relegated to special teams duty only, so he may seek a bigger role somewhere else.

Cornerback Mike Jenkins was having a nice camp before tearing his ACL in a preseason game. However, he’ll be 32 next year and coming off of the injury. He may be signed to a one-year deal with hopes that there’s something left in the tank.

Two other cornerbacks, Marcus Cooper and Tharold Simon, will also be unrestricted. Cooper started off hot, but his play has trailed off. Simon has size and potential, so he may be worth holding onto.

Outside linebacker Alex Okafor is now a backup due to the acquisition of Chandler Jones. He hasn’t done a whole lot this season, but in all fairness is playing with a torn bicep. His return could depend on what happens with Jones, who’s also a free agent.

Guard Earl Watford replaced the injured Evan Mathis as a starter, but has since lost that job to John Wetzel. He could be brought back strictly for depth. Center A.Q. Shipley may relinquish his starting job to Evan Boehm next season, but could also return as a backup.

As you can see, management has their work cut out for them. There are still three games remaining, nearly a whole quarter of a season left for more evaluating. Plenty of time for impressions, good or bad, to be made.