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Arizona Cardinals offseason: Looking at the special teams unit

The positional series comes to a close.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Today will end our positional review series. We have gone through every position group and now we are at special teams, a unit that was both good and disappointing. Let's look.

The roster:

P Drew Butler, signed through 2015
K Chandler Catanzaro, signed through 2016
KR/PR Ted Ginn, signed through 2016
LS Mike Leach, will be unrestricted free agent
P Dave Zastudil, signed through 2015

Other key contributors:

LB Lorenzo Alexander
CB Justin Bethel
WR Jaron Brown
RB Robert Hughes
RB Stepfan Taylor

Looking back at 2014:

This was a mixed bag. The kicking game was good. Catanzaro, signed as an undrafted rookie, beat out veteran Jay Feely and hit his first 17 field goals. He finished the year 27/29 on field goals. He got good depth on kickoffs as well. It could be argued he had the biggest rookie impact on the team last year.

The punting game was inconsistent. Dave Zastudil was lost for the season to a hamstring issue that lingered early on in the season. He punted only one game and re-aggravated it. Dew Butler was signed and led the league in punts downed inside the 20, but he had a couple of punts blocked and his average was only 42.1, which is nothing special. He had a stretch where he punted the ball very well, but when he punted in the Cardinals only playoff game, he was awful.

The return game was very disappointing. Ted Ginn was signed to fix the return game. He didn't. He did have one punt returned for a touchdown, which all but won the game for Arizona against the Giants, but he was not good after that. Arizona was last in kickoff return average and average starting position.

On the other hand, Justin Bethel made the Pro Bowl for the second straight year and continued to show how special he is in punt coverage and on the field goal team. His presence gets into opposing kickers' heads.

The man who just does his job really well with little fanfare was Leach. He has been the Cardinals long snapper for six seasons. He is now 38 years old and is flawless at his job. He also makes special teams plays down the field after punts, as well.

Looking ahead to 2015

Arizona gets Zastudil back for one more year. He is one of the game's best, but he is 36 years old and is coming off a year with a nagging hamstring injury. Yes, he got a lot of rest, but he is at the age where this can be something that returns. Butler is under contract, so it wouldn't surprise me to see him in camp as competition.

Leach is a free agent. The question is whether Arizona will sign him again (he made around $1 million a year for the last three seasons) or move on to a younger, less expensive player. At age 38, will he come back? Reserve linebacker Glenn Carson was the team's second long snapper in the offseason, so they have a guy on the roster who can do it.

Arizona appears to have found a gem in Catanzaro. He is young, accurate and has a big leg. Unless he gets hurt or suddenly begins to struggle, which does happen with kickers, the position is not a concern for 2015.

As for the return game, it is back to the drawing board. I don't think there is any scenario in which Ted Ginn returns. He counts $4.5 million against the salary cap in 2015. Most believe he will be one of the first salary dumps made by Arizona.

Free agency:

Obviously, Leach is a guy who could return.

There isn't a need to look for a kicker or a punter, but a returner would be nice.

Javier Arenas, who was the team's kick returner in 2013, will be a free agent. That's funny, I know.

Jordan Todman and Christian Polk are both restricted free agents. Leon Washington is going to be unrestricted. he could be a nice guy to have and also would add a veteran presence to the running back room.

The team looked at Josh Cribbs before. He will hit the market again.

NFL Draft:

There will be roughly a million guys who can return kick or punts. Any guy the Cardinals draft as a returner also have potential elsewhere.