Last night was one of the most heartbreaking losses in Bruce Arians tender. Not simply because of the blowout, but how the team got blown out. You can pinpoint a few plays which broke the teams back, and kept Carolina in the lead. But that's all in the past. Bruce Arians and Steve Keim are looking towards the future, and it's time to do the same as fans.
All season long it was noted by many Analysts that this team had no weakness. It may have been true early on, but as the season progressed, it became more and more obvious there were holes that were overlooked because of the level of competition. Against Seattle and Cincinnati, the offensive line was beat inside forcing Palmer into errant throws and bad decisions.
Once Mathieu went down with his second ACL injury in three years, the secondary, which was at one point a strength for this unit, became a liability. Patrick Peterson and Jerraud Powers played well in their roles, but Bethel was picked on often and was the weak link in the secondary on countless occasions. Due to his issues, Rashad Johnson and Tony Jefferson struggled, as they now had to help him over the top.
The pass rush was again one of this teams weak points, as they were unable to get pressure consistently with just four man rushes, forcing the team to blitz more often.
With all that in the past, Bruce Arians and Steve Keim now begin their quests to bolster the weaker points of their roster. Some will be addressed via the draft, others will return from injuries, and a few will be addressed through the Free Agent market. With that, take a look at the players the team has heading to the open market, unless the team re-signs them:
(Names via spotrac)
Several of the players are likely to be re-signed for 2016. Momah was a big name in Training Camp, but was placed on IR after a knee injury during the preseason. It makes sense for him to be kept since he is a such a cheap option.
Tony Jefferson, Jaron Brown, DJ Swearinger, and Darren Fells were all key components, to the success the team enjoyed in 2015. It's likely all will be kept, as well as Josh Mauro, who was solid against the run.
Drew Butler is another option. He had his moments of success in 2015, and had a huge tackle on Ted Ginn in the loss to Carolina. There are other option in the free agency pool as of now, but some may be asking for too much money than the Cardinals are willing to dish out.
With Lyle Sendlein and Ted Larsen expiring, it would not be a surprise to see one or both go. Larsen once again replaced Jonathan Cooper, whom I believe was playing good football until another injury set him back. Sendlein was cut and brought back after AQ Shipley was not cutting it as a center. There will be several options available when Free Agency opens, that the team can pursue at the center position.
Defensively, the pass rush still needs work. Dwight Freeney produced in his half a season with the team, but most everyone else was not so solid. Markus Golden had a fantastic rookie year. He was able to get pressure as the season progressed, but a knee injury set him back as the Playoffs began. Alex Okafor had an off season, a year after recording eight sacks. Corey Peters will also return from IR, which will help bolster the defensive line.
In the secondary, Jerraud Powers will likely be one of the teams primary signings, as will Rashad Johnson. It's likely Rashad will ask for more than the team is willing to offer, seeing as he's a 30 year old safety who's coming off of one of the best seasons of his career. Tony Jefferson and DJ Swearinger offer younger options, as well as cheaper. Powers on the other hand has proved his worth as a slot corner, and if the team can sign/draft a young corner to challenge him and Bethel for the starting role opposite Peterson they could have a solid coverage unit, once Tyrann Mathieu returns to the lineup.
The Cardinals special teams unit was perhaps its biggest weakness in 2015. I've been saying it for two years that Coordinator Amos Jones needs to go. The team has not ranked better than 21st in the three seasons that Amos Jones has run the special teams unit. Coverage has broken on multiple occasions, and the return game has been unimpressive in those three seasons. Besides David Johnson's kick return against the Bears this past season, no returner has come close to breaking off a big return.
Despite what the feeling may be now, the Cardinals window to win a championship is still open. Palmer looks to have another solid year in him, and a year for David Johnson to grow will help the Cardinals tremendously in 2016. They have some holes to fill, but Bruce Arians and Keim always get the best the market has to offer.