Free agency’s impact on the 2017 Arizona Cardinals
Fresh off of a terribly disappointing season, a look at how the Arizona Cardinals fared during the 2017 free agency period
It was back in February that general manager Steve Keim promised fans an “aggressive” offseason for the Arizona Cardinals. Four months later, the club’s work during the free agency period could be classified as mediocre, at best. In fact, with training camp roughly a month away, several holes in the roster remain.
It can be argued that the squad really hasn’t been upgraded at all. The best free agent addition, from this viewpoint at least, appears to be a kicker (yes, a kicker!). Veteran Phil Dawson is certainly a fine one, a significant step-up from the shaky, departed Chandler Catanzaro.
It wasn’t a big surprise when management allowed inside linebacker Kevin Minter to walk out the door. However, he was replaced with a 35-year old, third-time Cardinal Karlos Dansby. “Los” has been playing better than his age, but time clearly isn’t on his side.
The Cards’ linebacking unit took another hit when the squad’s other starter on the inside, Deone Bucannon, underwent ankle surgery. Because of this, it’s possible that “Buc” could be placed on the PUP list (meaning he would miss at least six games). Arizona did take a linebacker with this year’s first-round draft pick, 13th-overall selection Haason Reddick.
Heading into the offseason, the word was out that the Cardinals would lose either Chandler Jones or Calais Campbell due to salary cap restraints. Jones was ultimately the choice. The star outside linebacker received an $82 million contract, while Campbell is now a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
As far as replacing Campbell, the free agent defensive line crop was nothing to write home about. Last year’s first-round draft pick, Robert Nkemdiche, will be under pressure to produce this season. Frostee Rucker was re-signed, but he may be on the decline after a down year in 2016.
The Cards’ depth at the safety position also took a hit during the Spring. Gone are both Tony Jefferson and D.J.Swearinger. 32-year old Antoine Bethea has arrived to provide help but, like Dansby, is aging. The position was padded during April’s draft when the dynamic Budda Baker was selected in the second round.
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In what can be described as a head-scratching move, Arizona inked quarterback Blaine Gabbert. The 10th-overall pick of the 2011 Draft, the veteran was apparently brought in to be Carson Palmer’s heir-apparent. The position was ignored during this year’s draft, and the Cardinals are not in need of a backup with Drew Stanton still hanging around.
Keim rewarded tight end Jermaine Gresham for his passionate play on the field, and his loyalty at the bargaining table. A bigger splash could’ve been made with a Martellus Bennett, but Arizona chose to stay with Gresham. The 29-year old rejected better offers last offseason to stay in the Valley, and his gamble paid off; he received a four-year, $28 million deal with the Cards.
There were no big-name, offensive line signings this offseason like there were in previous years (Jared Veldheer, Mike Iupati, Evan Mathis). Without a lot of better options at the center position available in free agency, A.Q. Shipley was brought back to the nest. There was one outside offensive lineman brought in; journeyman Tony Bergstrom was signed to provide depth.
Running back Andre Ellington was re-signed and subsequently made a wide receiver. That position-switch left the Cardinals devoid of a backup, veteran runner (Chris Johnson, anyone?). Ellington has since been returned to the running back room, so now Johnson may not be needed.
Underachieving, former first-round draft pick Jarvis Jones was signed to back up starting outside linebackers Chandler Jones and Markus Golden. He replaces Alex Okafor, who’s now with the New Orleans Saints. Whether Arizona has upgraded here or not is anybody’s guess.
There’s still time for Keim to bolster the roster. Players remain available who could still be of some help to Arizona. But as it stands now, “aggressive” should not be the word used to describe the Cards’ 2017 offseason.