The Arizona Cardinals have been disappointing to say the very least and there is plenty of blame to go around for their abysmal 2018 season. But whether they have a solution to fix their problems or not, there is no turning back from their 2-8 record.
Whether or not Cardinals’ President Michael Bidwill will pull the plug on Steve Keim and/or Steve Wilks is still up in the air at this point. All they can do right now is play their players, evaluate their performance, and determine the extent of their futures with the team.
The Cardinals do have some pieces in place set for their long-term future. Josh Rosen, David Johnson, Chase Edmonds, Christian Kirk, Josh Bynes, Chandler Jones, and Budda Baker are the foundation of this team.
Yet there are still a lot of uncertainties on the roster with 2017 first-round pick Haason Reddick, who’s still learning the fundamentals of being a linebacker. Ricky Seals-Jones continues to struggle as a blocker but has flashed as a receiving tight end.
But who else on the roster could have a long-term future with the Cardinals?
OT Korey Cunningham
He was drafted by the Cardinals in the seventh round this year but didn’t see any action until last weekend, after D.J. Humphries was ruled out with an injury. But his first start in the NFL was a success.
Korey Cunningham had a positive pass blocking grade this past Sunday. He allowed one pressure and hurried pass which was early in the game. His 68.8 overall grade was fifth overall, and his 82.6 PBLK grade was second to Mike Iupati.— Alexander Mann (@RosentheSavior) November 19, 2018
If he can continue to improve and build off his great first start, he’ll have a shot at being a permanent starter in the offensive line at either of the offensive tackle positions. Andre Smith has struggled mightily at right tackle and so Cunningham’s future could be there.
He ran a 4.9 40, 27 bench reps, and a 35.5 inch vertical jump during his Pro Day. These numbers were right near the top of all offensive tackles that entered the 2018 draft. He backed up his athleticism with a good senior season at the University of Cincinnati, allowing no sacks on over 400 pass blocking snaps.
WR Trent Sherfield
Sherfield has not received many snaps at the wide receiver position but is starting to become a key cog on special teams. He made a big play on an Andy Lee punt to help pin the ball within the five yard line during the Raiders game. Rookie teammate Zeke Turner has already made his mark on special teams and with Sherfield starting to showcase his Justin Bethel like potential, the Cardinals could have young dominant duo in their hands.
Chad Williams and J.J. Nelson have struggled with drops and inconsistencies the past two seasons with the Cardinals. With the season already a lost cause, this is the Cardinals chance to see if Sherfield can become more than just a special teams player. If his performance during training camp can translate to a real football game, then the Cardinals might have found a potential starting receiver right here.
K Zane Gonzalez (Practice Squad)
The Cardinals’ current kicker Phil Dawson is 43 years old and is on the last year of his contract. He has missed 10 field goals in the past 25 games and so it’s fair to assume that he won’t be returning to the organization in 2019.
Zane Gonzalez is a fan-favorite in Arizona, being one of the top kickers is college football in 2016 with the Arizona State Sun Devils. Unfortunately he’s had a rough start to his NFL career. He was cut by the Cleveland Browns after week two, where he missed two costly field goals in loss to the New Orleans Saints. The belief is that his groin injury is the reason to his struggles and his return to full health will resolve his kicking woes. If that is the case, then the 23-year-old will have shot at being the Cardinals’ kicker in 2019.
A Matt McCrane return is dependent on changes made in the front office.
Honorable Mentions: Mason Cole, Rudy Ford, Rodney Gunter, Jalen Tolliver
As for the players I have not mentioned yet...
Larry Fitzgerald’s career is almost at its conclusion and a Patrick Peterson holdout is very possible in the offseason. The hope is they’ll play for the team for many more years to come but it seems like wishful thinking at this point.
Markus Golden is a favorite in the Cardinals’ fanbase and is scheduled to be a free agent in 2019. Although the Cardinals are expected to bring him back, a new general manager could change these plans.
Antoine Bethea is 34 years old and Tre Boston will likely ask for a big contract that the Cardinals are unwilling to offer.
With former Cardinals first round picks Deone Bucannon and Robert Nkemdiche being phased out of the defense, they could be playing in a different uniform next season.