Typically, teams try to improve through free agency. They are not always successful at it. Pro Football Focus put together a free agent downgrade post in which a few Cardinals and former Cardinals are involved. It deals with when the free agent replacement is not at the same level at the guy he replaces.
Hit the jump for who are the Cardinals and former Cardinals involved.
The first deals with Richard Marshall being a downgrade from Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. While it is easy to say it is a downgrade, it is wrong to really think that Marshall was meant to be DRC. Sure, he may have been targeted for starting this year, but trading DRC was every bit about being fine with the guys that were already there, like Patrick Peterson (ok, the hope that PP would be what he could be), Greg Toler and A.J. Jefferson, who happens to be the first-team corner right now.
The two other Cardinals downgrades were actually former Cardinals leaving elsewhere.
The first is Gabe Watson going to the New York Giants to replace Barry Cofield. That makes sense. Watson was not even starting with the Cardinals at the end of 2010. He is a solid football player, but is not top notch.
The other situation was Tim Hightower replacing Clinton Portis. Technically, Hightower was a trade, but he was not technically a free agent pickup. He was acquired via trade. Even while older, Portis is definitely better than Hightower. In fact, Portis was one of the best in pass protection at his position.
Hightower had the reputation for it, but struggled in 2010, as did almost everyone on the Cardinals. However, Mike Shanahan has already described him as a third down back.
Are these players actual downgrades? We will see soon, as football games begin.