Evaluations are a key part of a front office, and there's no off-season. Whether it's evaluating college players for the draft, potential free agents throughout the league, or looking at the current team for weaknesses, there's always work to do and a plan to be hatched. So what players, on pace to be free agents, are under the microscope for the Cardinals during this crucial contract year?
This is the first of many evaluations which I'll revisit throughout the season as we near the expiration of their contracts. Who's playing well enough to warrant a few more years in the desert, and who isn't worth the payday?
1) Marcus Cooper
Acquired for just a conditional seventh round pick in the 2018 draft, Marcus Cooper has looked better than advertised.
After playing just five special teams snaps in the season opener, Cooper has seized control of a starting cornerback spot after two solid games. 11 tackles, 4 pass deflections, 2 interceptions, 1 touchdown.
At 6-2 and 192 pounds, he fits the size Keim covets, and combining that with his 4.4 combine speed and the fact he's just 26, I believe Cooper (an UFA) went from a mere afterthought to a priority resigning.
2) Tony Jefferson
After receiving the lowest tender in the off-season, TJ was considered gone. But surprisingly, his market was quiet and he ended up signing his tender and returning to the Cardinals for the 2016 season.
Jefferson admitted to the experience as "humbling" him, and he dropped weight to improve his speed and even dropped some of his social media accounts to focus more on the game.
It shows, and if Keim wants to keep Jefferson for another year, it won't be nearly as cheap as the 1.67 mil he's earning this year. After notching 78 tackles all of last season, TJ is already at 30 through three games, playing at an enforcer position close to the LOS, similar to Kam Chancellor of Seattle.
Though Jefferson may not have the measurables that Keim has targeted, he has been an obvious play maker, in addition to a vocal leader on defense, and he has already made his case for a payday next off season.
3) Calais Campbell
After turning 30 and the team pulling a trade for Chandler Jones, Campbell's end seemed to be a mere formality. But through three games, he hasn't played poorly, notching solid grades from PFF for his ability to hurry the QB and stuff the run in each of the last three games.
Despite just 8 tackles and 2 pass deflections, he's been a disruptive force. We are still waiting for his first sack though. He's an interesting case to monitor as we try to judge his value to the team.
You can't pay everyone, and Keim has already added promising youngsters Gunter and Nkemdiche to the line.
4) Chandler Jones
Count me in as a Chandler Jones supporter. As Seth noted after the week 2 match up, Jones had 2 sacks, 4 pressures, and 5 qb hits, totaling 11 disruptions through two games.
He added another sack and 4 more hurries in the Bills game, bringing him to 16 disruptions through just three games. That's an average of over 5 disruptions a game, which, if he stays at the pace, would give him an unreal 80 disruptions projected for the season.
Markus Golden, while equaling the sack totals, is projected just for about 40 disruptions, which is also impressive.
Last year, Aaron Donald led the league with 79 disruptions (11 sacks, 26 hits, 42 hurries). PFF notes that Chandler Jones pass rushing rating has already exceeded his rating for the 2015 season through just 3 games.
Trust me. He;s making a difference.
5) Jaron Brown and Michael Floyd
These two receivers will be linked throughout the season as both push through their contract years. Floyd's stats- 24 targets, 9 receptions, 134 yards, 1 TD.
Jaron Brown's- 10 targets, 6 receptions, 145 yards, 1 TD. What jumps out?
Brown's catch rate in an impressive 60%, while Floyd's hovers at 38%. Drops have also plagued Floyd, who was credited with 2 in the Buffalo game.
Spotrac projects Michael Floyd's market value at 8.3 mil per year, and he has not shown to be close to worth that money yet this season. Jaron Brown, a career depth guy, is arguably outplaying him despite less targets and snaps.
As of right now, Chandler Jones and Marcus Cooper are the biggest resigning priorities for me.
I'd like to keep around Tony Jefferson, but it's hard to justify a payday when Keim recently paid Mathieu and signed Branch.
Campbell is likely to be a casualty of just not being able to sign everybody, while Floyd is having a disappointing season.
Kevin Minter and DJ Swearinger are other free agents that are likely to get resigned. Chris Johnson and Jermaine Gresham both signed a one year deal last year, and both may look elsewhere for paydays, as neither have been heavily utilized.
Evan Mathis i believe will retire. Andre Ellington, Alex Okafor, and A.Q. Shipley are three guys i would let walk unless the money was right. Same with perennial depth guys like Earl Watford and Stepfan Taylor. One thing is certain- with 19 UFAs and just 30 mil in projected cap space, it's likely to be a crucial off-season.