The defensive backfield of the Arizona Cardinals is a puzzle that will need to be solved by the club’s front office in 2020
Any way you slice it, the 2019 campaign was plain awful for the Arizona Cardinals secondary. An unexpected suspension, a crippling injury and some uninspiring play had a debilitating effect on the back end of the defense. Unfortunately, the circumstances surrounding last season have created question marks that have followed that group into the 2020 offseason.
One of next fall’s biggest unknowns is eight-time Pro Bowler Patrick Peterson. The six-game penalty that was levied against the 29-year old for his use of PEDs basically derailed Peterson’s ninth year in the NFL. For the first time in his career, Peterson displayed some chinks in what was once considered to be impenetrable armor.
Despite the fact that Peterson appeared to be back in top form by the end of ’19, the Cards front office has a decision to make about their star cover guy. The fifth-overall selection of the 2011 draft will count more than $13 million against the salary cap this season. Is Peterson still worth that kind of money in what will be the last year of a contract he signed back in 2014?
Another dilemma involving Arizona’s defensive backfield concerns corner Robert Alford, who was inked to a three-year deal in February of ’19. The 31-year old has yet to play a down for the squad after suffering a leg injury last summer. Alford carries a somewhat manageable $6 million salary-cap hit into the 2020 campaign, so the Cardinals will be looking for some payback on their investment in the veteran.
Rookie Byron Murphy was thrown to the wolves this past fall out of pure necessity, and the jury is still out on the youngster. The 33rd-overall choice in the draft showed potential, but the 22-year old was also beaten like a drum far too often. Murphy will need to perform at a higher level to earn a regular role with the Cards going forward.
Pro Bowler Budda Baker has one of the safety spots locked down, but the slot next to him still needs to be settled. Rookie Jalen Thompson did an adequate job as a replacement for D.J. Swearinger, who was released after just four games. Even so, Arizona would be smart to explore all options when it comes to finding a safety to play next to Baker in ’20.
It’s quite obvious that general manager Steve Keim and company have some issues with the secondary that need to be addressed. The free agent signing period and a brand new NFL Draft are just around the corner. The actions of the Cardinals front office over the next few months will be an indication of how they feel about their defensive back candidates.