The Arizona Cardinals ended their season winning seven of their last nine games and even held an outside chance at making the playoffs before losing to the Cincinnati Bengals in week 16. Much of their newfound success came from the team's ability to finally start building chemistry with each other.
Unfortunately, as with every season, not all the players that played a role on the team will come back. Some will walk away as free agents. After the jump, let's look at who some of these players are and the potential impact of these key cogs no longer being in Arizona.
First, let's look at the unrestricted free agents (UFAs). Keep in mind that since they are unrestricted, these players are free to sign with any team and won't remain in Arizona unless they come to terms on a contract extension or are franchise tagged, forcing them to stay at least one more year.
WR Early Doucet
DE/DT Vonnie Holliday
OLB Clark Haggans
OLB Joey Porter
LS Mike Leach
As you can see, there are some pretty key names apart of that list. Wide receiver Early Doucet became a key target for the quarterbacks this season and may garner some interest from other teams if he isn't signed before the free agent period. When looking at the offensive line, we see Brandon Keith, who was the starting right tackle for the team in 2010 and 2011. He often struggled at the position, but some of that could be attributed to his youth. Will the Cardinals keep taking their chances with the oft injured tackle?
The biggest name on the list is DE Calais Campbell. Don't worry though folks, this guy is here to stay. While I have full confidence that Campbell will come to a new agreement with the team, the franchise tag always remains a possibility. If the tag is applied, Campbell will be paid among the top five defensive ends in the league and will be forced to stay one more season.
Rashad Johnson, Richard Marshall, Clark Haggans and Jay Feely are all players I would expect to re-sign as well.
Now let's look at the restricted free agents (RFAs) and exclusive rights (ER) players. If the player is restricted, that means that the Cardinals can tender that person a contract, which gives them the right to first refusal of an offer from any other team. If they are an ER player, they can also be tendered, but these players are forced to accept the tender offer and are unable to move to any other team if tendered.
(ER) QB Richard Bartel
(ER) QB Max Hall
(RFA) RB LaRod Stephens-Howling
(ER) RB Alfonso Smith
(ER) WR Stephen Williams
(ER) DE Ronald Talley
(RFA) LB Reggie Walker
(ER) LB Brandon Williams
(ER) CB A.J. Jefferson
(RFA) CB Greg Toler
The Cards will look to bring most of these players back. Some of them will be given a shot to earn a job at training camp and some will be let go altogether. The guys that Arizona will definitely look to retain are LaRod Stephens-Howling, A.J. Jefferson and Greg Toler. Howling is the team's kick returner and a great shifty running back that can add that Darren Sproles effect to your roster. Both Jefferson and Toler will look to earn a starting CB position in training camp across from the new young star, Patrick Peterson.
What do you think, Cardinals fans? Which of these players must the Cardinals look to retain? Which ones do you feel have seen the end of their time in Cardinal Red? Let us know in the comments section below.