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Getting into the offseason mode with the Arizona Cardinals

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What one man would do to make 2018 a better season for the Arizona Cardinals.

NFL: Arizona Cardinals Practice Tom Tingle-USA TODAY Sports

This is MY offseason plan, not the Cardinals. It breaks down what I would do as a GM, not that it matters what I would do. But what the hay, I’m making the decision.

Draft

1st Round (9th Overall Selection)
Baker Mayfield - Quarterback
Oklahoma - Redshirt Senior
6’1’’, 220 Pounds

I DON’T CARE. Skepticism says we should stay away from Baker Mayfield, and which I say NAY. The guy is a complete college quarterback: He runs, and he throws touchdowns with minimum repercussion. The guy is just a beast. Seriously, 41 touchdowns thrown compared to 5 interceptions. Your odds are great with the ball in Mayfield’s hands, and seems to be very athletic extending drives. People want to say Mayfield is like Manziel...Wrong. He’s a flashy player, but I think I’d rather have bravado than that of a quieter QB. Example? Tom Brady and Cam Newton love to interchange words with the opposing team, so why are we critiquing Baker so much? Because, no one wants to take that chance on a young player of Mayfield’s stature and bravado. I do.

2nd Round (40th Overall Selection)
Blace Brown - Cornerback
Troy - Redshirt Junior
6’0’’, 186 Pounds

So here is one of my surprise early entrants, and he is deserving of a top-64 pick. Last year, Blace was the leader in interceptions last year with six interceptions, and he didn’t disappoint this year either. He still had five interceptions this year, and broke up about a ½ a pass defensed each game. The kid is above average when it comes to coverage skills, and he needs to work on his footwork. I am trying to throw definitive options at the much-maligned corner spot, and it starts with my draft.

3rd Round (71st Overall Selection from Houston Texans)
Matthew Thomas - Inside Linebacker
Florida State - Redshirt Senior
6’3’’, 227 Pounds

Look, I know the reason to stay in the 3-4, but they don’t have the talent to be a successful 3-4 team. It starts with the linebackers, who haven’t shown enough consistency since the opening tilt. This year, they selected Haason Reddick, and with another year under his belt, he should come back with the playbook on lock, and not having to switch positions halfway through week 4. So, I’m also throwing depth at one position also, and the Florida State alum Matthew Thomas seems to have the chops for the NFL. He’s been a major plus for a disappointing Seminole team (him and Josh Sweat). Even with him not playing three games, Thomas has had 10+ tackles in five games this season. He doesn’t seem to shy away from contact either, huge plus.

3rd Round (97th Overall Selection via Compensatory)
Christopher Herndon IV - Tight End
Miami (Fla.) - Senior
6’4’’, 252 Pounds

The tight end position needs a massive overhaul, and that’s a fact. This season has been very bad for Jermaine Gresham, and Troy Niklas hasn’t really shown what anyone wanted from him. Don’t get me wrong, I’m probably the biggest Ricky Seals-Jones fan right now, and I think his stock will only rise, but they need more options at tight end. I drafted Chris Herndon of Miami (Fla.) to be a big bodied tight end who could break coverages. He’s also not bad as a red zone target, with four touchdowns on the year.

4th Round (134th Overall Selection via Compensatory)
Greg Senat - Offensive Tackle
Wagner College - Redshirt Senior
6’8’’, 290 Pounds

Switching positions is very difficult for some players, but what about a sport change. He played a majority of his college as a two-sport athlete, playing college basketball as well as football. Which means… He should have good feet.

5th Round (144th Overall Selection)
Elijah King - Wide Receiver
Texas State - Senior
6’2’’, 190 Pounds

The position of wide receiver needs to drastically change (excluding Fitz), and what do I do? Nothing. I just draft a receiver in the fifth round and call it a day. That’s definitely not enough, and I know better than that. I got close in the first round, but chose Baker Mayfield because I want a quarterback more than a receiver…don’t worry, Elijah King is a guy who can get up and attack the ball. Jaron Brown 2.0.

5th Round (172nd Overall Selection via Compensatory)
Uchenna Nwosu - Outside Linebacker
Southern California - Senior
6’2’’, 240 Pounds

Obviously Haason Reddick was drafted to be an inside linebacker, and when Markus Golden went down, Reddick and Kareem Martin filled in. Further down you’ll see us signing someone to assist in that category, but it’s helpful to have some youth at the position also. Uchenna Nwosu has compiled 7.5 sacks on the season, but that’s not the number I focused on for the fifth round. ‘Get your hands up’ says every coach for the defensive line. 13 passes have been knocked down, and seems to have a lot of football IQ going for him.

6th Round (182nd Overall Selection)
A.J. Howard - Cornerback
Appalachian State - Senior
5’11’’, 197 Pounds

I hear the uproar of Cards fans yelling ‘no more small school projects’. I get it, it’s been tedious, but I have a rational thought of small school diamonds. The ‘unknowns’ should remain unknown until the latter rounds, say round 6-7? Undrafted maybe. So, I draft A.J. Howard in the sixth, and that’s me swinging for the fences. A.J. isn’t afraid of contact, as evident of his game against UMass, where he collected 11 total (8 individual) tackles. Maybe a nickel? Who knows. Swinging for the fences.

6th Round (206th Overall Selection via Compensatory)
Curtis Cothran - Defensive Tackle
Penn State - Redshirt Senior
6’5’’, 301 Pounds

If Curtis Cothran played the whole season, he possibly would have seen his draft stock rise. This did not happen though. He still got 3.5 sacks on the year, his length resembling that of Rodney Gunter, but maybe a more proven track record. Plus, if Gunter breaks out, it’s nice to pick up a rotational lineman.

7th Round (231st Overall Selection from Baltimore Ravens)
Andrew Vollert - Tight End
Weber State - Redshirt Senior
6’5’’, 245 Pounds

I wanted to give Baker Mayfield as many weapons as possible, and two tight ends in one draft is where I went. Andrew Vollert had two straight years at Weber State with at least 700 yards and 5 touchdowns. That, coupled with a knack for special teams makes Vollert an intriguing prospect. He needs to develop his blocking, but that will come. Plus, who cares about blocking? Seriously, Ricky Seals-Jones hasn’t been known for his blocking (he’s a good blocker). That’s why I’m okay with Vollert.

Trades:

1.
Arizona Cardinals receives:
Kareem Jackson - Cornerback (-$6,750,000)
71st Overall Selection (Matthew Thomas)

Houston Texans receives:
Jermaine Gresham - Tight End (-$5,250,000) (+$2,000,000)
74th Overall Selection (Michael Gallup - Colorado State)
2019 5th Round Selection

This was so freaking easy as a decision. Jermaine Gresham is NOT the tight end they paid for. He’s sloppy with blocking techniques, and seems to have a problem with catching recently. I’ve also heard that Houston wants to surround Deshaun Watson with a competent pass catcher. Maybe the blocking aspect is too much for Gresham. Of course, if I want to get rid of Gresham, I need to take on most of his salary for 2018, and maybe suck up some salary from Houston. Kareem Jackson is that salary dump for the Texans. If not for some incredible play from Kevin Johnson and Johnathan Joseph (free agent in 2018), we’d be talking about why Kareem is not starting. Truth be told, he’s slower than he used to be. Now, gaining all this salary to get rid of Jermaine isn’t the only positive, I’m also moving up three picks in the draft.

Resign:

Blaine Gabbert - Quarterback = 1 Year, $7,500,000
Tyvon Branch - Free Safety = 2 Year, $8,000,000
Alex Boone - Offensive Guard = 1 Year, $2,500,000
Josh Bynes - Inside Linebacker = 2 Year, $2,500,000
Frostee Rucker - Defensive End = 1 Year, $1,050,000
Tramon Williams - Cornerback = 1 Year, $1,000,000
Kerwynn Williams - Running Back = 1 Year, $760,000
Justin Drescher - Long Snapper = 1 Year, $650,000

Look, I believe in competition, hence why I resigned Blaine Gabbert, no matter the return of Carson Palmer. I think that it shouldn’t just be handed to Carson, he needs competition, and competition breeds success. Blaine has been great, but I won’t pay him over the amount I set forth. He’s an interesting prospect, and I want him to continue to be a Cardinal.

I also didn’t want to see probably the ONLY defensive pro-bowler leave (before the injury). Tyvon Branch seemed to be flying all over the field, adding young pieces to Tyvon would only help develop such pieces.

I think Alex Boone has outperformed Mike Iupati, and hence why I resigned him also. He’s a road grader who can open holes for Adrian Peterson (that’s right, I’m keeping him) and David Johnson.

Another guy who has outperformed his current contract is Josh Bynes, he’s been all over the field, and seems more active than that of Karlos Dansby. I chose between both Karlos and Josh, Josh wins in my opinion. Doesn’t mean they won’t have vets on defense, as I also resigned Tramon Williams (solid thus far) and Frostee Rucker (anchor). These guys can still make a difference, if need be.

I think Kerwynn was exceptional against the Rams, finding small holes when need be, and I think he’s a complementary piece in the passing game. Last, I chose between Aaron Brewer and Justin Drescher, and I think it’s too early to deem Drescher ‘out’ as the future of long snapper. Plus, it’s a small-ish contract with minimum monetary impact.

Release:

Jared Veldheer - Offensive Tackle (-$3,250,000) (+$7,000,000)

Mike Iupati - Offensive Guard (June 1st Cut) (-$1,700,000) (+$8,000,000)

A.Q. Shipley - Center (-$362,000) (+$1,750,000)

Tyrann Mathieu - Free Safety (June 1st Cut) (-$3,100,000) ($11,000,000)

I’ve been wanting to do these moves since the season began (excluding Mathieu), and I think it’s a good idea to say goodbye to the aging o-line Arizona has. The protection NEEDS improvement, one way or the other. I will incur some dead cash, but that’s what happens when you invest in the free agency market. It’s time to clean up. Mathieu is more of a cap casualty, because of recent weeks, he’s been producing decently. I don’t think he’s that same ‘Honey Badger’ who plays with tenacity, so it would be easy to part with him.

Free Agency:

Andrew Norwell - Offensive Guard (prev. Carolina Panthers)

4 Year, $32,000,000 (workout incentives-$400,000)

Aaron Lynch - Defensive End (prev. San Francisco 49ers)

2 Year, $7,500,000 (pro-bowl incentives-$500,000) (workout incentives-$150,000)

Sherrick McManus - Cornerback (prev. Chicago Bears)

1 Year, $1,750,000

Dontae Johnson - Cornerback (prev. San Francisco 49ers)

2 Year, $2,000,000

In free agency, I feel that it will be time to beef up the offensive line, and it starts with Andrew Norwell of the Carolina Panthers. He’s a boulder, somewhat of a bright spot on a pedestrian offensive line for the Panthers, and is tremendous in pass-protection.

Someone who could be a top-flight third pass-rusher for the Cards is Aaron Lynch of rival San Francisco. I think Lynch could spell Markus Golden or Chandler Jones on any given play. Plus, he’s a hell of an athlete.

The special teams from this year to last year has improved drastically in terms of rankings against returns, and they don’t want to take a step back. That’s why I’ve replaced Justin Bethel with special teamer Sherrick McManus. I also wanted to test every avenue to shore up the second corner spot, so I attached McManus and recently disgruntled Dontae Johnson of the 9ers. Two division rival players at a discount, what the heck.

Rookie contracts: estimated $5,000,000

Pre-cap: $158,446,848

Active cap spending: $22,740,948

Gain: $29,750,000

Loss: $58,122,000

Cards cap: $169,077,900

League cap: $175,000,000 (rumored)

That’s all she wrote, or that I wrote. Have a pleasant day Cards fans. RIP Cardinals 2017. Looking forward to 2018.