The Cardinals open up their 2016 Training Camp on July 29th. That means we are now less than a week from the unofficial start to the 2016 NFL season. For the Cardinals this camp is huge on a number stages. The biggest is that this is their chance to bounce back from the butt kicking they received in January. The Cardinals and their fans are confident that they can return to the NFC Championship Game, and this time make it to the Super Bowl and take home the hardware.
On another stage, this camp is huge for a number of players. These players are fighting for larger contracts in 2017, whether that is with the Cardinals or with another team. The Cardinals have a whopping 25 players who will be up on the market in 2017, and the Cardinals know that they cannot retain all of them.
There are a number of players who's training camp will be huge for their success in 2016, and where they can start to build a case for a large contract in 2017. We won't talk about Tyrann Mathieu or Chandler Jones, simply because we all know Mathieu is working on a new contract and Chandler will be a priority during the offseason.
One such player is Michael Floyd. Floyd has been one of the more infuriating players for the Cardinals in recent years. Despite all his physical talents, Floys not been consistent. Following a 1000 yard season in his second year, Floyd has had 841 and 849 yards respectively. This past season, Floyd had an injury in camp that hindered him at the start of the season. Floyd was a nearly unstoppable force for a period of time last season. In five of seven games, Floyd posted 100 yards, and it was during that time that Floyd had a chance to have his second 1000 yard season.
If Floyd has a big season in 2016, he could command a contract similar to that of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, who average eight and six million a season. Floyd could be a highly sought after commodity in 2017.
Matt Barkley will need to have a big training camp in order to make the Cardinals 2016 roster. Barkley was brought in via trade in 2015, and was never active. If Barkley fails to show something worth working with in 2016, his 2017 contract will likely be a one year deal and with another NFL team.
Alex Okafor is likely a bubble player this season, thanks in large part to the talent the Cardinals have acquired at outside linebacker. He's shown glimpses of being a good linebacker, but thanks to injuries, or simply inconsistent play, Okafor has never really done much to even think about being a long term option for the team. If Okafor can perform up to the same level he showed in 2014, the Cardinals might think twice about letting him walk in 2017.
Calais Campbell is another to add to the list. Campbell currently has a 15 million dollar cap hit this season. Many thought the Cardinals could extend him to limit that cap hit, and probably even ask him to take a pay cut. However, with the addition of Robert Nkemdiche, Chandler Jones, and the addition of many young pieces to the Defensive Line, the Cardinals may just be looking to build for the future after 2016. Campbell will have to show that despite turning 30 this season, he's still got what it takes to be a premier lineman in the NFL.
Tony Jefferson is the final of the five names. Jefferson was a RFA this year, and the Cardinals gave him an original round tender, he was undrafted in 2013, despite his play in 2015. The tender may have been a sign of things to come for Jefferson. The Cardinals added two safeties in the offseason, Tyvon Branch in Free Agency, and Marquis Christian via the draft.
Jefferson will likely not be in the Cardinals plans past this season, unless he shows something spectacular. That's why he must have a big camp and season in order to be one of the better paid safeties in Free Agency next season. The highest salaries for the past group of Safeties was seven million a season.
Why was Larry Fitzgerald not mentioned? Fitzgerald is at that point in his career where he's now year to year. He's recently stated that he has plenty left in the tank, but with a string of high profile early retirements, that means little. Fitzgerald could very well stay with the Cardinals, but he does not need to prove to anyone what he's capable of.
Is there a name that was not mentioned? Guys like Andre Ellington, Jermaine Gresham, or Earl Watford? Discuss in the comments below.