Over the next couple of weeks we will go through what happened to the Arizona Cardinals in 2016, how it went so wrong and what can be done in order to get the Cardinals not just back on top of the NFC West, but get them a little closer to winning that first Super Bowl.
Let’s start from the beginning.
The Veteran Additions:
QB Carson Palmer QB Drew Stanton RB Rashard Mendenhall, G Chilo Rachal, DE Frostee Rucker, DE Matt Shaughnessy, DE/OLB Quentin Groves, ILB Karlos Dansby, ILB Jasper Brinkley, CB Antoine Cason, CB Javier Arenas, CB Jerraud Powers, S Yeremiah Bell.
G Jonathan Cooper
ILB Kevin Minter
S Tyrann Mathieu
DE/OLB Alex Okafor
G Earl Watford
RB Stepfan Taylor
WR Ryan Swope
RB Andre Ellington
Tony Jefferson (Undrafted Free Agent)
It was a “rebuild” from the beginning, at least that is what we thought, yet in the end it wasn’t a rebuild, it was a retooling from the Cardinals brass.
Karlos Dansby, Jasper Brinkley and Kevin Minter were brought in to offset the first suspension of Daryl Washington.
The Cardinals needed to overhaul their offensive line, they did that with Jonathan Cooper being the first pick of the regime.
Yet, when you look at this list of players, how many ended up having an impact more than one season?
Dansby took a payday with the Browns then moved onto the Bengals, he’d probably still be the best inside linebacker on the Arizona Cardinals roster, but the Cardinals and their brass picked Daryl Washington to pay, we can lament that mistake, but it is what it is at this point.
Matt Shaughnessy and Jeraud Powers were both looked at as replaceable commodities, the Cardinals have done that with Josh Mauro doing a good job taking over for Shaughnessy. Powers replacement is still a work in progress.
Brinkley, Cason, Bell, Arenas, Rachal and Mendenhall were all one and done, and calling them one year impact players is being generous.
In fact, if you go back, the best player from this entire group, outside of Carson Palmer obviously, is Powers and not one single person seemed to shed a tear when we was not brought back for $1.25 million that he signed for in Baltimore or Frostee Rucker.
Then you move to the draft and the reality is, Kevin Minter is the best pick of the bunch.
Obviously, Tyrann Mathieu is the most talented player, but injuries have ravaged his effectiveness, especially in the year 2016.
Look at that draft class, no one matters, no one is making a weekly impact from this class outside of Minter and... Tony Jefferson, who is a priority undrafted rookie free agent.
The effectiveness of this class early is nice, we all believed that Andre Ellington was going to be a good NFL player, we thought Alex Okafor was more than just a situational pass rusher, we thought Earl Watford would become a starting offensive lineman and of course, we knew Jonathan Cooper was the next great offensive guard in the NFL. None of that came to fruition, none of these players are must re-sign.
What was once thought of as a franchise changing draft class ends up being a league average middle linebacker and Bob Sanders version 2.0.
If you look at these players brought in and drafted, it ends up being something simple.
The Arizona Cardinals had to continue to chase the same positions they invested in.
Look at that draft class again.
The Cardinals still are searching for a guard. They had to pay top dollar to bring in Mike Iupati, they had to draft another inside linebacker after bringing in three in that offseason. They continue to have to reinvest in the secondary, they had to bring in different options along the defensive line and at outside linebacker.
When you are chasing the same positions for four consecutive offseasons, that is a problem.
That is when it started for the Arizona Cardinals.