We finished with the offensive side of the ball. Now we move on to the defense in our positional reviews and outlook for the offseason. The defensive line is where we begin, and it is a group that statistically wasn't the best, but was quite effective most of the year. The fact that Deone Bucannon and Kevin minter has such great numbers (127 and 110 tackles) tell you the line did its job.
Looking back at 2015
As noted above, the line was very good at keeping the linebackers clean. When the inside backers are making plays, it means the line is doing well.
Statistically, Calais Campbell led the way with 68 tackles, five sacks, 13 pressures and 15 QB hits. However, head coach Bruce Arians constantly called for more all season from him. Even still, the productive season earned him his second straight Pro Bowl berth. Frostee Rucker had 43 tackles, three sacks, and 12 pressures and hits each.
Corey Peters entered the season as a solid pickup to be the starting nose tackle, but his season ended before it even began with a torn Achilles. That meant rookie Rodney Gunter became the starter. He fared well most of the year. He ended up with 34 tackles and a sack, along with 12 pressures and a pair of QB hits.
Josh Mauro flashed some in specific roles and Ed Stinson was effective. They got very good leadership from Cory Redding and a touchdown (and a dance as well).
Undrafted rookie Xavier Williams had a few snaps and old man Red Bryant added depth late in the season.
As a unit, they combined for 206 tackles, 11 sacks, an interception, three forced fumbles, 53 QB pressures and 33 QB hits.
Calais Campbell: He has one year remaining on his deal that will pay $9.5 million in salary and will count more than $15 million against the salary cap.
Frostee Rucker: Rucker signed a one-year extension last year. He has one year left worth a total of more than $1.3 million. There is no dead money if he is released before he is paid his roster bonus.
Corey Peters: Peters was signed to three-year deal. He has two years left and will earn $1.75 million in 2016 and count more than $2.4 million against the cap.
Cory Redding: He enters the final year of his two-year contract. He will be due $3 million and will count $4 million against the cap.
Rodney Gunter: The fourth round pick from last year has three years left on his rookie contract. He will make $525K and count more than $620K against the cap.
Red Bryant: He is an unrestricted free agent.
Ed Stinson: He enters Year 3 of his four-year rookie deal. He will earn $600K and count $646K against the cap.
Josh Mauro: He is an exclusive rights free agent. If the Cardinals want him back, they are the only one who can sign him.
Xavier Williams: He enters year 2 of his contract. He will earn $525K and his salary counts $527K against the cap.
Olsen Pierre: He was on the practice squad for much of the season and was signed to a future contract after the season ended.
Outlook for the 2016 offseason
This appears to be a position group Bruce Arians would like to see get younger. Cory Redding and Red Bryant will not likely return. Redding will either retire or be a cap casualty. It is possible the team moves on from Rucker, but that would be a lot of turnover of veterans.
Calais Campbell's contract has to be addressed. Arians really wants more from him, too, although you are hard pressed to see a defensive tackle get more overall production.
Peters will return from his Achilles injury. Will he be able to step back in as a starter? And will that mean that Gunter can move to his more natural position of defensive tackle instead of playing only nose tackle?
If the Cardinals move on from Rucker as well, you might see a Peters/Xavier Williams rotation at nose tackle and then Josh Mauro, Gunter and Ed Stinson battle for the starting job on the left side opposite Campbell.
In free agency, perhaps they add a veteran. More likely is they add a draft pick to add youth and athleticism. But as they stand, they have a good set group of players and, if Gunter takes a solid step forward, it could be very disruptive with Campbell.