With the Divisional Round of the playoffs finished, four teams will now duke it out for the right to represent their conference in the Super Bowl. Their are a few former Cardinals vying for their chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy, but none of that matters to fans. Right now, it’s about debating who should be cut, who should we sign, or draft.
We looked at the offensive side of the ball last week, this time we take a peek at the defensive unit.
Defensive Tackle: (Need Low)
Calais Campbell - Campbell is the second longest tenured Cardinal behind Larry Fitzgerald. This offseason, both could be departing. Campbell was a monster during the latter half of the season, helping both Chandler Jones and Markus Golden dominate opposing Quarterbacks. He could be in line for more money than the Cardinals are willing to spend.
Rodney Gunter - Had a huge play against Seattle to keep them out of the endzone. Has flashed a lot of potential during his two seasons, but he will need to show more if Campbell does indeed depart.
Josh Mauro - Mauro received a two year extension and deservedly so. He’s made a numbed of clutch plays, and has been excellent defensive depth for the past few seasons.
Robert Nkemdiche - Nkemdiche’s rookie season was more of a redshirt type year. Similar to DJ Humphries, the Cardinals let him sit back and learn how to be a pro. He played in a number of games, but never managed to stay in the rotation. 2017 will be a big year for him, as fans will expect him to produce numbers.
Corey Peters - Was a solid contributor in 2016. Came back from his Achilles injury in 2015 to anchor down the interior of the Cardinals defense. He is scheduled to make 3.6 million in the final year of his contract.
Olsen Pierre - He’s an exclusive rights free agent, so he will be with the team for the offseason. Pierre intrigued the coaches with his upside, but never made it into a game, despite being on the roster for all 16 games. He’s a guy to keep an eye on in 2017.
Frostee Rucker - Rucker has been a valuable asset for the Cardinals. He has provided veteran leadership, and depth. But his time in the desert likely has run out, as the Cardinals will likely pursue younger alternatives.
Ed Stinson - Stinson has shown glimpses of being a viable starter, but his inability to maintain consistency, as well as injuries, have hampered his progress. 2017 will be his contract year, so we will see if he’s able to dig deep and play.
Xavier Williams - Played in eight games, recording six tackles. He’s a big man, but he has yet to be anything more than a rotational player.
Inside Linebackers: (Need Moderate)
Alani Fua - A key special teams contributor, only managed three games before sustaining a season ending injury. At 6’5 he could be one of the guys in line to replace Minter if he does depart.
Deone Bucannon - The safety turned linebacker. Bucannon had an off year in my eyes, looking slower and less explosive than years past. We will see if he sheds some of the 20 pounds he added last offseason, to repeat his past explosiveness.
Zavier Gooden - He is currently signed through the 2017 season. Was added to help the linebackers once injuries began to stack up. He’ll likely push for a roster spot.
Gabe Martin - Played eight games before injuries hit. He is an exclusive rights player, so he will be on the offseason roster, but nothing is set after that.
Kevin Minter - The Cardinals second round pick in 2013. Minter had his most productive season as a pass rusher, totaling 3.5 sacks. He ranked 24th out of 83 graded players in coverage as well. While the Cardinals can, and most likely will, find more athletic players for linebacker, Minter was a solid leader for the Cardinals.
Sio Moore - Signed due to Bucannon’s injury, Moore saw his first action against Miami. In the weeks that followed, Moore totaled 25 tackles, a pass defended, and two forced fumbles. Regarded as a journeyman, Moore may have finally found a home in Arizona, depending on his upcoming free agency.
Scooby Wright - Wright was almost a Cardinal prior to the start of 2016. Cleveland jumped on him moments before the end of the draft, which sent him to the Browns. He found his way to the practice squad, and finally found his way to Arizona. Used as a special teamer, Wright will have an opportunity for a roster spot in 2017.
Outside Linebacker: (Need Moderate)
Markus Golden - Lead the Cardinals with 12.5 sacks. Was the key beneficiary of having Chandler Jones on the opposite side. The Cardinals will want to keep Golden and Jones together for as long as possible.
Chandler Jones - Jones will be a Cardinals in 2017. Whether the team gets a deal done, or they franchise him, he’s in the desert for one more season. Was second on the team with 11 sacks, and was the main reason the Cardinals lead the NFL in sacks.
Kareem Martin - The Defensive End turn Linebacker has found a role on Special Teams, but continues to lack a defensive impact. The Cardinals will likely chase for more depth here.
Alex Okafor - A season that was hampered by a torn bicep. He recorded 3.5 sacks, and 13 tackles in a reserve role. Okafor will likely be searching for a new place next season, one where he has an opportunity to start.
Cap Capi - Signed to a futures deal. Was an undrafted Free Agent for Jacksonville in 2015. Bounced around practice squads before ending up on Arizona’s in October.
Safety: (Need High)
Tyvon Branch - Branch was limited in 2015 to a groin injury. He was placed on IR, and was ultimately brought back, before going back on it with the same injury. Do the Cardinals deem him a cap casualty with all the uncertainty? Likely not, but he will be under the microscope in 2017.
Christian Bryant - Bryant is set to be an Exclusive Rights FA. His return for 2017 is likely with all the question marks, but nothing else is guaranteed.
Trevon Hartfield - On the Practice Squad for 2016, Hartfield will have an uphill battle to make the roster in 2017.
Tony Jefferson - A fan favorite, Jefferson was snubbed by the Cardinals last offseason when they gave him an original round tender. In 2016 he was very productive and earned himself a bigger payday. Can the Cardinals pay him? They have other players to lock up, so it will all come down to money.
Tyrann Mathieu - Struggled to bounce back from his ACL injury. Other injuries hampered him as well. Now a full offseason of rest and no therapy, Mathieu is in line for a big season.
D.J. Swearinger - Played well in 2016. Won’t be as expensive as Jefferson, but will still command more money. A cheaper and more likely alternative to paying Jefferson.
Cornerback: (Need High)
Justin Bethel - Glimpses in the final few weeks of 2016. Once his foot was recovering, the Cardinals saw a lot of what they paid for. Will have to show that and more in 2017.
Elie Bouka - Out of Canada in 2016, Bouka was placed on IR with a foot injury. The Cardinals were intrigued by the film, but Bouka never made it to the field. Now has the offseason to show if he can do it.
Marcus Cooper - The Cardinals traded for him in week two. He recorded two picks in that game, and four on the season. Depending on the money he wants, the Cardinals can find more talent elsewhere.
Brian Dixon - Dixon was signed off of the Saints practice squad when the secondary began to take a hit. Dixon is a restricted free agent this offseason, so the Cardinals will likely bring him back. After that, depending on how the draft plays out, it’s uncertain.
Mike Jenkins - Looked good in a very brief window of opportunity. Injuries sent him to IR, and that was the end of that. It’s unlikely he’s back in 2017.
Harlan Miller - Miller was a Corner, before the Cardinals used him at safety. Miller took on the role of safety, and played well in his opportunity. This offseason will determine just where exactly he will play.
Patrick Peterson - Was his fantastic self once again. Despite having no help on the opposite side, Peterson played at a high level for much of 2017. He had moments where he seemed to tune out, which lead to big plays on occasion, but for the most part of 2016, he was the lock down corner we all expected.
Brandon Williams - The runningback converted Corner was beat far too often. He was benched in favor of Cooper by week two, and got limited reps the rest of the way. He did have very few bright moments, but again few and far in between. This offseason will be huge towards his development.
Ronald Zamort - A three year starter at Western Michigan, Zamort was on the Cardinals roster in the preseason, and spent part of the regular season on the practice squad. He impressed the team during the preseason, so we will see what he has to offer this offseason.
Specialist: (Need Moderate)
Chandler Catanzaro - Catman struggled in 2016. He missed seven field goals, and saw his percentage drop from 90.3 to 75.0. He’s a restricted Free Agent in 2017, so his return is likely. However, it’s a near certainty that the Cardinals will bring in competition.
Aaron Brewer - Once Brewer took over in Week 3, the Cardinals snapping woes came to an end. He had a few low snaps early on, but nothing as severe as Kam Canadays mishaps. He will most likely be retained, and the Cardinals could possibly bring back Canaday to see how he’s developed.
Matt Wile - Wile will be on the roster this offseason. He had 10 punts for an average of 43.7 yards. That number is bent due to punting on a short field against New Orleans a few times. He got better as the games moved on, punting for 44.0 and 49.0 to end the season. The Cardinals did bring in competition to challenge Wile.
Richie Leone - Signed from the CFL, Leone is averaging 49.4 yards per punt in his two year career. This season alone he punted 97 times for 4778 yards, an average of 49.3 yards per punt. He had a long of 78 yards during the season as well. He’ll compete with Wile during the offseason for the punting job.
That wraps it up. As of January 16th those are the players on the roster. There are many more moves to come, and it’s time to speculate on which Free Agents leave Arizona, who comes back, and who we wind up signing off other teams.
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