There are a number of things the Arizona Cardinals should do this offseason. We know the one thing at the top of everyone's list is to improve the pass rush. Naturally, this is easier said than done. But among the offseason priorities, ESPN's Bill Barnwell has one that might surprise you -- make sure safety Rashad Johnson returns.
He wrote about the entire NFC West, noting five moves each team should make.
His five for Arizona involves the pass rush, extend Tyrann Mathieu's contract, find a long-term answer at center and add a veteran cornerback. Those are all pretty normal and expected. The one that is a little surprising is Johnson.
Here is what he wrote:
Nobody uses their defensive backs more than the Cardinals, and while they've already re-signed veteran Chris Clemons, they also should bring back the 30-year-old Johnson, who played 72.2 percent of the snaps for Arizona last season. They don't have a like-for-like replacement for Johnson on the roster unless the Cards have faith that they'll be the ones to turn around D.J. Swearinger. And hey, given that they revitalized Freeney and Chris Johnson last year, stranger things have happened.
There is no denying Johnson's value on the field. He diagnoses plays and is another coach on the field. His teammates (at least the other defensive backs) call him Saban because he is super smart like Nick Saban when it comes to football.
However, he is now 30 years old and you might consider he had some decline in production. He did go from four to five interceptions from 2014-2015 and he broke up eight passes over six the previous year, but his tackle production went from 92 to 59, although he did play in two less games in 2015. Of course, the Cardinals did get a ton of tackle production from their linebackers. Deone Bucannon and Kevin Minter combined for 237 tackles.
Bruce Arians is on the record as saying he wants to get longer and more athletic at safety. Since they are not replacing Tyrann Mathieu, that leaves some question as to whether Johnson is in the Cardinals' plans.
Plus, there will be the question of money. Arizona already has a ton of money locked up in Patrick Peterson. Justin Bethel got a new contract. Mathieu is going to get paid. Johnson's last contract was three years, $3.6 million. As one of the more productive safeties in the league the last three seasons, he is likely to garner a fairly lucrative deal. Can the Cardinals afford him and pay Peterson, Mathieu and Bethel?
Do you you agree with Barnwell? Should Johnson's return be a priority this offseason?