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Arizona Cardinals Free Agents: Keep or let walk?

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Rob Chambers has an opinion on who the Arizona Cardinals should try to re-sign and who they should led walk.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

In an effort to expand the writing staff I am opening up an opportunity for people to write.

First off, there are no paid positions available on the staff, I work with the budget I am given and that is at $0 right now, but I wanted to get that out of the way first just in case anyone had an inkling.

Second, I am happy to allow any and all of you an opportunity to write, so if you are interested, write something and send it to me, my email is in the bio.

Rob reached out to me on Twitter and then blew me away with what he sent me.

It is literally 3500 words long, so Rob will get six articles out of writing one because I have broken up his opus into six articles, content is good, but also our audience tends to like shorter work.

Note: I am waiting to get Rob’s information to put him on the title, but you can find his Twitter here, reach out and let him know what you think. He is taking a chance and I appreciate it.

Free Agents:

Push to Keep

Calais Campbell DL: Had arguably the best year of his career at age 30. Graded by PPF as the second best interior defensive lineman in the league and will need to be paid like it. Will likely cost more than Michael Bennet’s 3yr/$31.5/$17.5M guaranteed to make him a Cardinal for life as he is both younger and more productive. Vital.

Josh Mauro DL: Unheralded but a valuable depth piece to the defensive rotation. Played disciplined physical football on 1st and 2nd down. Should be cheap to bring back. EDIT 14/01/17: Mauro signed a 2 year contract with the Cardinals for a low rate of 750k in year one and $1.3 million in 2018.

Chandler Jones OLB: Productive and impactful pass rusher in his prime. A priority. Played the third most defensive snaps on the team and helped free up teammates (Golden and Campbell in particular) to make plays. Franchise tag would cost over 15million dollars. A contract comparable to Olivier Vernon’s 5yr/$85M/$50M guaranteed could be on the cards.

Alex Okafor OLB: One of the most interesting pieces of the offseason puzzle. Played between 10 and 20 snaps a game primarily in the team’s pass-rushing ‘nascar’ alignment. As of week 13 Okafor had 20 QB pressures and the third best pass-rushing productivity grade among OLBs (PFF). This statistic is undoubtedly aided by fresh legs, the licence to pin his ears back and plenty of 1-on-1 opportunities courtesy of the attention his teammates consistently drew. Played all season with a torn biceps tendon and would be an ideal candidate for a 1yr ‘prove-it’ deal. He can stay in a familiar situation/scheme and will be given the opportunities to rush the passer and earn a big payday next season. A win-win for him and the team if he can turn a productive season into a big contact which would add into Arizona’s future compensatory pick equation.

Kevin Minter ILB: Had his best professional season and wants to stay in the desert. Leader in the locker-room and on defence. Played the second most defensive snaps on the team, 93%, trailing only Patrick Peterson. Also recorded the second most tackles, 95, and 3.5 sacks. However his lack of side-line to side-line speed stands out. A contract in the region of 3yr/$9-12M/$4 guaranteed seems fair to keep a ‘glue’ guy on the books and avoid a Rashad Johnson type cohesion drop-off. Could see him having a Larry Foote type of career.

Sio Moore ILB: Signed in week 11 and ably filled in for the injured Bucannon slating 40 tackles in 3 games and change. Would make an excellent back-up line-backer with starting experience. Should be available for the close to the veteran minimum. Could be a Keim special bargain.

(Could Keim decide to save cap space and roll the dice on Sio Moore over Kevin Minter?)

Marcus Cooper CB: Pro bowl alternate? Comes under a lot of pressure playing opposite Patrick Peterson and has shown the ability to hang onto the CB2 role. Was burned at times but led the team in interceptions and passes defenced. Performed better on the perimeter of the defence and that is exactly what the Cardinals need. A multi-year deal to provide competition and depth would be ideal. Still young with the potential to improve. Interest of other teams is hard to gauge and striking a deal early in free agency may be the best course of action.

Tony Jefferson S: Undrafted, developed by the team and finally in line for a payday. Emerged this year as one of the best safeties in the league and wants to be paid like it. Has stated he would like to return but it could cost in the region of $6-8M per year. A disruptive player on the field. Would re-signing him would send a good message to the locker room that the team looks after its own? Spotrac sets his market value at 5yrs/$32M by comparing his production and age to the contracts signed by Reshad Jones (Mia), Aaron Williams (Buf) and George Iloka (Cin).

Jeremy Ross WR: Cheap as chips veteran wide receiver who has familiarity with the offense. Would battle for a roster spot.

Jermaine Gresham TE: Played 70% of the team’s offensive snaps (over twice that of TE2 Darren Fells) and was, at times, an (over)competitive sparkplug for the unit. Spurned better offers to return to Arizona last year, would he be willing to do so again? Locking him up for multiple seasons could potentially cost $5M (or more) per year but his blocking and receiving have become key parts of the offense.

Chris Johnson RB: Has stated he would like to play another season and could feasibly return on a team friendly deal similar to his 1yr/$1.5M pact last season. But this is David Johnson’s world now and all other running backs are merely paying rent. A positive role model in the meeting room and still capable of impactful plays on Sunday.

AQ Shipley C: Ever present on the O-line and played at a league average level. Productive and dependable, his value exceeds his on-field play. Has stated he would like to return and has the support of both Arians and Palmer. Would provide stability and competition.

Taylor Boggs G: Feel good story of 2016 has earned the right to compete for a place on the roster in training camp. Would have made the final 53 last season if not for an injury.

Chandler Catanzaro K: A down season marred by key misses and extra point woes. Talent is obvious but does he lack a certain ‘moxie’? Is still very young in kicking terms and has room to develop but he needs to improve consistency, especially on extra points. Backing him now may pay big dividends later. Respected in the locker room his winning walk-off FG at Seattle was a highlight and example of his potential. Undoubtedly affected by the inconsistencies at long-snapper and holder. Competition in training camp is a must to test his mettle.

Let Walk

Frostee Rucker DL: Production and impact waned this season. Veteran presence would be beneficial for the locker and meeting room but letting him walk would free up playing time for younger players such as Gunter and Nkemdiche.

DJ Swearinger S: Has finally put the athletic and mental pieces of the puzzle together. Plucked from obscurity and came with a reputation for immaturity, DJ played exceptionally well as both a deep and box safety when required. One of the hardest hitters at the position and receivers would fear the hits he could deliver when coming over the middle. Young, talented and productive safeties get paid. I’m sure the Cardinals would love him back but the market will dictate his value. If his knucklehead reputation negatively effects his value than maybe the Cardinals can keep him at a bargain price. It would be their gain as he was perhaps even more impactful and versatile than Tony Jefferson.

(It seems to be a straight choice between TJ and DJ as there isn’t enough cap space to lock them both up. My heart says Jefferson but head says Swearinger due to his flexibility. Signing at least one of young, playmaking safeties is a priority due to the uncertainty at the positon.)

Mike Jenkins CB: Slated to be the team’s CB2 before an ACL injury in preseason. Would seem to be victim of a numbers game in the secondary as younger players step to the fore.

Evan Mathis G: Retired (unless he can play defensive end).

Andre Ellington RB: Eye-catching, game-changing plays litter highlight reels of past seasons but a lack of availability and the aforementioned dominance of David Johnson signal an end to his time in Arizona. If he can stay injury free another team should benefit from his playmaking ability but will likely never be the feature back with 20+ touches Arians once proclaimed him as.

Earl Watford G/T: Swiss army knife O-lineman. Could see him returning for the right price to fight for the RG position but entirely dependent on his market value. Cole Toner was drafted to fill this void.

Stepfan Taylor RB: A solid as they come depth contributor and locker room presence but time to move onto younger/cheaper options with room to develop e.g. Kerwynn Williams and Elijhaa Penny.