Good idea or bad idea, sometimes an early extension is necessary for NFL teams these days. We’re not talking about every other team, but rather, we are talking about who on the Arizona Cardinals deserves a contract extension. Let me be frank: I’m not pulling any punches, either a guy deserves an extension or doesn’t, and it’s my call.
1. Larry Fitzgerald - Wide Receiver
This is the priority. Larry Fitzgerald was (key word, was) the face of the franchise, but with David Johnson firmly entrusted as the new face, the tides of change are evident. Larry Legend is still the ‘man’, as he can make a lot of the difficult catches, sometimes one-handed, and still makes it look routine. The problem with trying (or at least attempting) is that maybe this is the end of the line for the legend of AZ. If Larry can play one more year for the Cards, who knows, maybe next year he and Carson would ride off into the sunset together.
Projected Salary: 1 year, $5.5M (plus incentives)
1. Deone Bucannon - Inside Linebacker
I get it, the skepticism is there because of recent injuries, but I urge you to judge according to what Deone has been for the Cards. He’s been a consistent force for the Cardinals, usually manning the middle and being the most athletic player out on the field. The good and the ugly:
Good: Bucannon has changed the position (money-backer), and could eventually become a pro-bowler. Plus, he’s recently been reactivated for the Cards, why not reward the three other seasons he’s played well.
Ugly: Athletic prowess usually deteriorates through time. Knowing this, do you extend Deone, knowing the fate of the defense has usually been about being a side-to-side tackler, or let him test the market.
Projected Salary: 4 year, $32M (numbers close to Mark Barron)
2. Justin Bethel - Cornerback
When evaluating Bethel (and the next guy, John Brown), I seriously debated internally; can Bethel stay healthy during a season that would warrant an extension? I believe a new leaf has turned for Bethel, he’s worthy of being paid as a corner now, and deserves respect for finally becoming the player the Cards envisioned him to be. Now, do the Cards want to extend Bethel, or could they depend on the development of Brandon Williams, who has looked WAY better then last year, and more dependable? Obviously, Bethel is going to be paid this offseason, the Cardinals have some decisions to make, and it’s starting to look like Bethel made the right decision voiding his final year of his contract.
Projected Salary: 3 year, $27M (numbers close to Robert Alford)
Decision: Let Go
3. John Brown - Wide Receiver
I don’t know if the Cardinals’ receiver John Brown knows it, but one preseason game might have earned himself an extra $3M-$5M than I originally expected him to make. His expected price will only go up if he keeps playing the way he does, and with all things considered (health-wise), he really could be one of the top receivers paid this offseason.
Don’t forget, this is a very DEEP receiver market next offseason, as guys like Alshon Jeffery, Sammy Watkins, Terrelle Pryor, DeAndre Hopkins, Jordan Matthews, Davante Adams, Martavis Bryant, and Jarvis Landry are all on the prowl for that big contract. Meow, meow.
Projected Salary: 4 year, $39M (numbers close to Jordy Nelson)
Decision: Let Go
1. Corey Peters - Defensive Tackle
There have been some good anchors for the Cardinals since 2011, as Corey Peters helped the Cards transition from Dan Williams quite nicely. There has been no drop-off in play (although, Peters was on IR his first year), so you have to rationalize paying Peters. Could you afford to lose Peters? Yes. But could you pay him adequately? Also yes. Dealer’s choice, as Peters shouldn’t be expensive, but he is 30 next year. Rationally, I try to look at who could replace him from this roster, and that would bring another set of questions. Questions for a later time.
Projected Salary: 2 year, $6M (last contract)
Decision: Let Go
2. Drew Stanton - Quarterback
Weirdly, I think Stanton’s contract will be a lot smaller than that of another certain QB on the roster. I think Stanton could be the transition from Carson Palmer to the next quarterback, which would finally help Stanton get the job he wanted back in 2013. Do the Cards reward him for his undying loyalty to this team, or is it time to let this Card fly (pun intended).
Projected Salary: 1 year, $4.5M (numbers close to Landry Jones)
3. Blaine Gabbert - Quarterback
We really weren’t expecting anything from Blaine Gabbert, as most of the Cards fan base might have been intrigued by a new quarterback, Blaine Gabbert captured a lot of momentum from a solid training camp and preseason. If you want Blaine Gabbert back, then QB-needy teams will need to forget the whole experiment. That’s not going to happen, as Gabbert is still 28 next year, and is bound to get into a possible battle next year with another team. Fans want me to be optimistic? How about this, maybe, big maybe, he doesn’t end up back in the NFC West and it officially doesn’t become our problem.
Projected Salary: 2 year, $14M (mix between Jay Cutler and Brian Hoyer contract)
Decision: Let Go
1. Tyvon Branch - Free Safety
I understand, injuries are apart of the game, but when we are evaluating ‘resign-or-don’t’, we need to look at all parts. I think this preseason has been a representation of a healthy Tyvon Branch, someone who could play in a pinch, and would give you speed and route recognition. Trust is my problem, as Tyvon needs to trust his studying and eyes. You can sometimes see Branch not accurately working a receiver. But at least his speed is helping him play routes a lot better.
Projected Salary: 1 year, $2.1M (numbers close to Lardarius Webb)
2. Jaron Brown - Wide Receiver
Could this finally be the year that Jaron Brown earns himself more catches, in turn earns himself a bigger salary? I think so, as Jaron has probably been the best hands (besides Larry), and could end up with a better salary than before. His value seems to be more towards special teams in years past, but now he has value at receiver. This season is very important for Jaron, can he prove his worth outside of special teams?
Projected Salary: 3 year, $9M (numbers close to Marquise Goodwin)
Decision: Let Go
3. Kareem Martin - Outside Linebacker
Everyone, including me, had their doubts about Kareem Martin, but this preseason has been very informative. He seems to be a better player on the outside, seems to be doing very well at diagnosing run plays, attacking with strength, and sacking the QB. That’s all relatively good, considering this could be contract type upgrade type of motivation for him. Bigger role equals bigger stats. Never hurts to have a third pass-rusher.
Projected Salary: 1 year, $4M (numbers close to Derrick Shelby)
4. Troy Niklas - Tight End
Last, but not least, Troy Niklas. What can I say; he’s been a very pleasant surprise for all of us Cardinal fans. This outlines a huge turnaround for the 2014 class, as they’ve mostly been disappointing through the years, but maybe it’s time for ‘potential’ to pay off. Troy Niklas seems like the same player Arians was raving about when he first got to Arizona. No more super glue and duct tape, Niklas and finally play. If he has a good year, you could believe (even as a second stringer to Gresham) that he’s going to earn a good contract increase.
Projected Salary: 2 year, $5.6M (numbers close to Virgil Green)
This is dependent on the 2015 class, as David Johnson, D.J. Humphries, Markus Golden, J.J. Nelson, and Rodney Gunter will be working towards contract extensions next offseason also. The Cards typically like to keep a lot of their own guys, so maybe I didn’t do the exercise correctly. This is what I would want to do, as Steve Keim, while I prepare for the years without Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald. You could probably say I’m being wary (my words), but it’s because I really want to save money for the aforementioned 2015 class. We’ll see.