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Arizona Cardinals Defensive Free Agent targets

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We continue our look at the potential targets for the Arizona Cardinals.

NFL: Preseason-Denver Broncos at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve moved from examining needs (Offense and Defense) to examining who we can target to fill those needs. Last time around we looked at the offensive targets. The Cardinals have roughly 34 million in space according to Over the Cap. A lot of the options for the Cardinals will have to be mid-tier players and maybe one splash signing. That does not mean the Cardinals will go for the splash signing. They have enough key players to re-sign with that money. Without further ado let’s begin!


Defensive Line:

One of the few positions I labeled as a “Low” need. The Cardinals have two impending UFA’s in Calais Campbell and Frostee Rucker. The Cardinals would definitely like to keep both around, but age and price will be a factor. Here are three guys that the Cardinals will likely look at when the market opens.

Calais Campbell - The second longest tenured Cardinal. Campbell is 30 years old and had a very strong end to the 2016 season. He and the team have both expressed interest in his staying in the desert, but how much will he be willing to take? If Michael Bennett’s recent extension has any indication, Campbell staying the desert will come at a cost.

William Gholston - A fourth round selection for the Buccaneers in 2013, Gholston has been nothing more than a role player for the Bucs. His best season came in 2016, where he posted 57 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and a force fumble. Gholston had the benefit of Noah Spence, Gerald McCoy. and Robert Ayers playing with him last season, so that could have helped his numbers. Bringing him to Arizona would be a cheap deal, and likely help him develop into something more.

Dion Jordan - So here's a risky signing, but one that could pay off for the Cardinals. The former #3 overall pick has failed to live up to his draft status. Not only that, but he’s played only four games in two seasons, thanks to a suspension in 2015, and being placed on the Non-Football Injury after only four games in 2016. Jordan has had issues with the team, which lead to his being released in Miami, so teams will have to figure out what that issue was. But if the issues were nothing serious, the Cardinals could get him on a very cheap deal which would limit their losses if he fails another drug test, or fails to produce.


Inside Linebackers:

I listed this as a “Moderate” need, due to the impending departures. Kevin Minter is departing, as is Sio Moore. Minter definitely wants to return, but are the Cardinals looking for a more athletic option? The Cardinals will find very little in the upcoming free agent groups, so this seems to be a position better suited to be filled through the draft.

Sio Moore - Moore played very well in Deone Bucannons absence. He had 25 tackles in three starts, including limiting Russell Wilson in Seattle. Moore is 26, and has plenty of playing time ahead of him. His return to the desert would not be anything to break the bank, so he is definitely on the teams radar.

Lawrence Timmons - Timmons is 30. He’s got a few years left in the tank. The Cardinals could add to those years if they sign him as a mentor to perhaps a rookie? Timmons posted 114 tackles, three sacks, and two interceptions for the Steelers this year, but at his age teams will begin to wonder what he’s got left. He could cash in one more time, like Karlos Dansby, which is definitely a possibility. Timmons is definitely not a more athletic option than Minter, but you cannot rule our any Steelers ties.

Sean Spence - Another former Steeler, Spence signed with the Titans in 2016. There he posted three sacks, two forced fumbles, and 54 tackles. Spence is a hard hitter, who tackles well, but he simply struggles too much in coverage. Spence could be signed as a guy who can shoot the holes and tackle a runningback, while Bucannon could be the coverage linebacker. He’s a guy who won’t be targeted right away, so his price tag won’t be too high.


Outside Linebacker -

Another “Moderate” need, the Cardinals have their two starters already. Chandler Jones is technically a Free Agent, but everyone knows he’s either getting extended or will be Franchise Tagged. The Cardinals are only likely losing Alex Okafor, who will look for a place to start in 2017.

Barkevious Mingo - The 6th overall pick for the Browns in 2013, Mingo was with the Patriots in 2016. He only has seven sacks in four years, and only posted 10 tackles in 16 games 2016. Mingo will be a bargain bin player and possibly a sneaky addition to any team. He simply has to find the right system to succeed.

Corey Lemonier - A third round selection by the San Francisco 49ers, Lemonier was traded to the Jets in 2016. There he played in nine games, including one start. He posted two sacks, two forced fumbles, and nine tackles. There was a lot of agreement among scouts about Lemonier’s inflexible hips and how that would transition to a 3-4 OLB. However his high motor, and never giving up on plays is what sold teams on draft him in the third round.

Courtney Upshaw - Uphsaw made the transition from a defensive end, to outside linebacker. The transition has not made a difference on his production, but simply his playing time. If the Cardinals were to add him, he would fit in a role similar to the previously named players. Play a few snaps a game, and hope the Cardinals rest their top two pass rushers.


Safety:

The secondary is in need of huge upgrades. Right now the Cardinals are losing both starting safeties to free agency. Both players will be added to the list, as well as one surprise.

Tony Jefferson - An obvious name. He was huge for the Cardinals in 2017, and has been very consistent since being a UDFA in 2013. Jefferson will command a lot of money, so the Cardinals will have their work cut out in retaining him.

D.J. Swearinger - A cheaper option to Jefferson. Once Jefferson was lost for the season, the Cardinals used Swearinger in the same role and barely missed a beat. The Cardinals would love to have both back, but needs and both looking at bigger money could spell one of their departures.

Rashad Johnson - Johnson left the Cardinals for the Titans in 2016. The team felt the loss of a veteran leader in the secondary, before others slid into the role. Johnson played in 14 games, recording 38 tackles and no picks or sacks. The Cardinals could re-sign him for a team friendly deal, as he is 31.


Cornerbacks:

I labeled it a “High” need, when I really should have labeled it a “HUGE” need. Opposite Patrick Peterson everyone struggled. Brandon Williams still had to learn to role, Marcus Cooper had huge bright spots, and then some crippling lowlights. Justin Bethel looked better at the end of the year, but health and inconsistency is a concern. This is a position the Cardinals have some flexibility with. With a lot of good corners in the draft, the Cardinals could save some money, but there are some solid proven players in free agency as well. It will be interesting to see how the Cardinals address it.

Prince Amukamara - Amukamara’s biggest issue is health. He’s only managed one full season in six years. His stats don’t backup his draft position from 2011 either, as he has only recorded seven interceptions. In 2015 he gave up 9 yards per pass play which was 67th in the NFL by Football Outsiders. Amukamara is expected to make 10-11 million a season, which could put him outside the Cardinals price range.

Dre Kirkpatrick - The former Alabama corner who has failed to meet the lofty expectations set for him after being drafted 17th overall in 2012. Kirkpatrick has nine career picks to go along with one fumble force. The Bengals exercised his fifth year option this past season, which helped him make a little more money come free agency. He won’t be as expensive as some other cornerbacks, but will still get a look by a lot of NFL teams.

Logan Ryan - A guy I think a lot of people are overlooking this year. Ryan has 13 career interceptions, two of which came this season. He’s shorter than BA would like, standing at 5’11 and 195 pounds. Ryan could be the odd man out of New England, as they have to pay for Jabaal Sheard and Dont’a Hightower.


Specialist:

A group I labeled as “Moderate” in my roster look. The Cardinals currently have two punters on the roster. Chandler Catanzaro will be retained, and possibly extended. That does not mean the Cardinals will not look for someone to compete for the kicking job. This won't be a list like every other position, merely a hypothetical “who could the Cardinals add”.

Depending on the tenure the Kansas City Chiefs add to Cairo Santos, he is a player the Cardinals could take a look at. He converted on 89% of his field goals and 92% of his extra points. It’s unlikely the team will place an original round tender as he was an undrafted free agent, so a second round tender seems more likely.

Greg Zeurlein will also be on the market. Known as “Greg the Leg”, Zerulein as been very up and down so far in is career. He’s only missed three career PAT’s, but has 29 career missed kicks. His best success rate in 93% set in 2013. A lot will depend on his asking price, and if the Cardinals are willing to pay two kickers more than a million each.

That wraps up all the Cardinals potential free agent additions. With draft season set to hit full swing following the Super Bowl, it will finally be time to examine some players the Cardinals could draft come April. For now, discuss and debate who you would sign!

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