It has been a little while, but we are back to the positional reviews and outlooks. We move to the position group that is probably the most problematic of them all -- linebackers.
Let's look back at the season and what the future holds.
Looking back at 2015
Well, this is a mixed bag. From outside linebacker, they did not get a ton of production. From the inside linebackers, they did. That is, if you count Deone Bucannon in the group.
The season started with Alex Okafor and LaMarr Woodley at outside linebacker. Kevin Minter and Deone Bucannon played inside. While the inside players didn't change, by the end of the season, it was Kareem Martin and Markus Golden.
Okafor had only two sacks all season -- both in Week 1. He got hurt, came back, was quiet on the field, appeared to be gaining steam late in the season and then ended up on the non-football injury list with some toe injury related to some alleged pool party during the playoff bye.
Woodley got hurt in the middle of the season, but that opened the door for Golden to flash. Woodley ended up with one sack. Golden had four, but also led the team in quarterback pressures.
Martin showed something in very limited time, but there was a definite dropoff from Okafor to him in effectiveness.
The bright spot off the edge was old man Dwight Freeney, who was signed off the street and was just weeks away from shutting it down completely and retiring. He spun his way to eight sacks, leading the team.
At inside linebacker, Bucannon and Minter put up numbers. Bucannon, still listed as a safety, played almost every snap of the season. He led the team in tackles with 127, he picked off a pass and scored a touchdown, forced a pair of fumbles and picked up a couple of sacks. He and Carolina's Thomas Davis were the only players to do that much. Minter had 110 tackles.
Their play kept veteran Sean Weatherspoon off the field. the veteran was signed on the offseason to a one-year deal and it was believed he would make an impact. A nagging hamstring injury in training camp and the play of both Bucannon and Minter kept him on the bench all year, except for a couple of packages late in the season.
Alani Fua made the team as an undrafted rookie and played solidly on special teams.
LaMarr Woodley: He will be an unrestricted free agent.
Dwight Freeney: He will be an unrestricted free agent.
Jason Babin: He will be an unrestricted free agent.
Alex Okafor: He enters the final year of his rookie contract. Playing time escalators mean he will make nearly $1.7 million in 2016 and will count more than $1.8 million.
Markus Golden: He enters Year 2 of his rookie deal. He will earn more than $613K and count almost $900K against the cap.
Kareem Martin: He enters Year 3 of his contract. He will make $618K and count a little more than $850K against the cap.
Shaq Riddick: He enters the second year of his contract. He will earn $525K and count more than $577K in cap space.
Zack Wagenmann: He spent all 2016 on injured reserve. The former undrafted rookie will be on the second year of his contract. He will earn $450K and count almost $453K against the cap.
Tristan Okpalaugo: The former Canadian League player signed a one-year contract.
Mike Reilly: He signed a future contract for the 2016 season.
Daryl Washington: Yep, he's still suspended. He doesn't get anymore writing space here.
Kevin Minter: He enters the final year of his contract. He earns a little more than $1 million this coming season and counts almost $1.4 million.
Sean Weatherspoon: He will be an unrestricted free agent.
Deone Bucannon: He is still listed as a safety. But he enters Year 3.
Kenny Demens: Demens is an exclusive rights free agent. Arizona can retain him if they want.
Alani Fua: He will enter his second year after joining the team as an undrafted rookie.
Gabe Martin: He is the same as Fua.
Quayshawn Nealy: He signed on for a future contract in 2016.
The offseason outlook and looking forward
We obviously know the pass rush is a priority. That means there will be turnover at outside linebacker. Does Freeney return? Will Okafor return?
Woodley and Babin are likely done. Martin will have to earn a spot. Riddick hopefully can contribute in some fashion.
At that position, the team is likely address it both in free agency and in the draft. It is expected the Cardinals look early in the draft for a pass rusher.
They like what they have in Golden.
At inside linebacker, while they are good for 2016, they need to look ahead. Does that mean they draft a guy to lay in wait for when Minter is a free agent? Do they move Bucannon back to safety and have a guy who can play his position, at least in base sets? Do they bring in a free agent?
They might not draft a guy this year, but I expect a free agent at the position brought in.