Cardinals must ace the 2022 draft after doing little in free agency

(Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) George Karlaftis
(Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) George Karlaftis /

An underwhelming approach to free agency will force the Arizona Cardinals to land flat-out studs during the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft.

It’s been a disappointing offseason thus far for fans of the Arizona Cardinals.

Just last season, the Cards spent several weeks at the top of the NFL’s power rankings. Things began to go awry, however, and the 2021 campaign ultimately ended in disaster. Following last year’s disheartening finish, those who follow the Cardinals were fully expecting the team’s front office to acquire a couple of difference-making free agents this spring.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. Sure, Arizona general manager Steve Keim deserves a pat on the back for retaining tight end Zach Ertz and running back James Conner. Even so, the Redbirds are going to need much more than just those two to get over the top this coming fall.

The Cardinals hierarchy did add a couple of significant outsiders to the mix. Starting right guard Will Hernandez was a fine addition, and cornerback Jeff Gladney could turn out to be a bargain. But are these the type of acquisitions that a franchise with Super Bowl aspirations would make?

It’s hard to keep using a lack of salary-cap space as an excuse for the Cards. The Los Angeles Rams, the organization’s top rival, also have a limited amount of cap room. Nevertheless, Rams GM Les Snead found a way to ink top-tier linebacker Bobby Wagner to a $50 million contract just this past week.

In case Keim and company haven’t noticed, Arizona will have to go up against a brutal schedule in 2022. Besides facing the Super Bowl-champion Rams the usual two times, head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s squad will take on a vastly-improved AFC West division as well.

Arizona Cardinals will have several directions to go with their first-round pick

Jones isn’t the only member of the Cardinals roster that left town this spring. The loss of Christian Kirk, and potentially A.J. Green, has left the team devoid of a number-two wide receiver. Some possibilities in the opening round include Ohio State’s Chris Olave, Arkansas’ Treylon Burks, and Alabama’s Jameson Williams.

Arizona could also elect to address the edge-rusher position in the first round, now that Jones has flown the coop. Purdue’s George Karlaftis can fill that role and may still be there at No. 23 overall.

The Cards’ next selection will come in the second round, the 55th-overall pick. Washington cornerback Kyler Gordon would be a solid option in the second round. Another possibility at the spot could be Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker III, a running back who’d be a superb replacement for the departed Chase Edmonds.

When the third round of the 2022 draft rolls around, the Cardinals will have the 87th-overall selection to work with. Some prospects who would make sense at that point include Oklahoma edge-rusher Nik Bonitto, Penn State cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields, and Clemson wide receiver Justyn Ross.

Expecting Keim to come out of this month’s draft with at least three viable contributors could be nothing more than a pipedream. But if he can’t, Arizona can probably kiss a second-consecutive trip to the playoffs goodbye.

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