Unlike last year, the Arizona Cardinals’ 2018 free agent list is devoid of players that the club is desperate to have back
Around this time, a year ago, the Arizona Cardinals were in a pickle. General manager Steve Keim and his cohorts were busy crunching salary-cap numbers. It was basically a case of so many free agents, so little cash for the club.
The Cards don’t have as many worries this time around. Sure, there are players without contracts that they’d like to have back. 2017’s group, however, included members (Chandler Jones, Calais Campbell and Tony Jefferson among others) that were considered more vital to the squad than any in the current class.
John Brown may be the most-interesting of the 2018 free agents. Two years ago, re-signing “Smokey” would’ve been a no-brainer. But a mysterious sickle-cell condition, nagging injuries and two subpar campaigns have made the 5’11”, 179 pounder expendable.
Tramon Williams did a nice job as the Cardinals’ number-two cornerback in ’17. The long-time Green Bay Packer will turn 35 next month, so the veteran’s return is not a given. The cover guy Williams replaced, Justin Bethel is also eligible for free agency and probably won’t be asked to come back.
A couple of free agent guards are most likely headed in different directions. Alex Boone, a 13-game starter last year, will possibly be asked to re-sign. Earl Watford, brought back as an emergency fill-in last October, will likely move on again.
The presence of Deone Bucannon and the drafting of Haason Reddick will spell the end of linebacker Karlos Dansby’s third stint with Arizona. Josh Bynes’ impressive showing last season may entice Keim to offer him a deal as a backup ‘backer. Another linebacker, Kareem Martin, will also be up for bids next month.
The emergence of safety Budda Baker could mean that the good-when-healthy Tyvon Branch will not be offered a new deal. Frostee Rucker, while still a valuable locker room piece, may also need to seek employment elsewhere. The defensive end performed adequately in ’17, but at 34 years old may not be up to learning a new defensive scheme.
Jaron Brown is an adequate but not special wideout who the Cards could probably take or leave at this point. Tight end Troy Niklas may have worn out his welcome in the desert after years of inopportune injuries and mediocre play. Running back Kerwynn Williams has been there for the franchise when called upon, and could be offered a contract to back up starter David Johnson.
There doesn’t appear to be much reason to bring back Drew Stanton, Blaine Gabbert or Matt Barkley at this point. Especially Stanton, now that ex-coach Bruce Arians has retired. Expect all three of the quarterbacks to be somewhere else in 2018.
Aaron Brewer may be brought back to resume the long-snapping role he lost to injury last year. Brittan Golden has been a decent special teams contributor, but never had a gigantic impact as a pass-catcher. Offensive tackle Khalif Barnes had a cup of coffee with the Cardinals when he was brought aboard late in ’17, but that’s probably the extent of the union.
So there you have it. There’s certainly some useful free agents mentioned in this article. It’ll be up to Arizona’s management team to decide who will and won’t be a part of their plans going forward.