For months, it looked as though Arizona Cardinals general manager Monti Ossenfort was going to roll with the players his football team had, despite shortages at a few key positions. The Cards did not have a pure center until Pat Elflein signed, they didn’t have a clear-cut RB2 until they scooped up Marlon Mack, and their tight end room looked thin until Geoff Swaim.
Ossenfort could have addressed these positions either in free agency back in March or during the summer. But free agency and even offseason minicamps came and went, and still the Cardinals looked like a team full of cast-offs, rookies, and leftovers from the Steve Keim regime.
So why did Ossenfort wait so long to sign a trio of players who could earn significant playing time on the team? When you break things down, it was actually a stroke of genius on the general manager’s part.
Why Arizona Cardinals general manager waited to sign free agents
1 - Finances
The Arizona Cardinals have a young team full of players on shorter, less-than-lucrative contracts except for a few key players. But with all that youth comes talent and potential building blocks for 2023 and into the near future.
Had Ossenfort not waited so long, chances are he would have added similar players at higher salaries, which could have cut into potential extensions for players like Isaiah Simmons. The plan is to keep the current talent long-term, and it will be easier now that Ossenfort has the cap space to back it up by waiting to sign bargain free agents.
2 - Value
Playing off of the “bargain free agent” quip in the first point, Ossenfort also knew that if he waited until camp to sign free agents, he could also get them for smaller deals. Take Pat Elflein, for example. Per Spotrac, Elflein is set to earn $1.1 million with the Cards this season.
But when you look at his earnings with the Carolina Panthers in 2021, that number sat at $2.1 million. He also had a restructure bonus last season that gave him an additional $4.865 million. The same goes for Geoff Swaim, signed for $1.7 million, a far cry from what he was earning with the Tennessee Titans.
3 - Addressing Actual Need
Ossenfort could have made some acquisitions earlier in the year, but if a specific position turned out not to be of an actual need, then he’s throwing money away. It seems like he wanted a better idea of where he needed to keep spending money and reinforce the exact position groups with rentals.
Center was a clear need, as was running back, and now, with Zach Ertz on the PUP list, tight end. Therefore, it made sense for Ossenfort to wait and gain a better idea of which positions needed to be addressed.
(Salary information provided by Spotrac)