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Planning for 2019 for the Arizona Cardinals: Free agency primer

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Take a look at some of the options the Arizona Cardinals may have in order to fix their problems.

Carolina Panthers v Buffalo Bills Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

The Free Agency outlook for the Cardinals

OUR OWN:

Now, to able to establish some leadership, I will look to keep some of our talented players, but will have the opportunity to cut the fat off the juicy steak.

Keep;

  • Larry Fitzgerald, WR (1 yr, $7.5M - $10M, if he doesn’t retire)
  • Markus Golden, DE (3 yr, $3M - $5M, but that’s all I’m spending)
  • Bene Benwikere, CB (2 yr, $2M - $4M)
  • Zach Moore, DE (1 yr, $1.5M)
  • John Wetzel, OT (RFA, $750K - $1M, totally worth it)
  • Olsen Pierre, DT (ERFA, $750K - $1M, so cheap)
  • Jeremy Cash, ILB (RFA, $750K - $1M, coming off injury)
  • D.J. Foster, RB (RFA, $750K - $1M, also coming off injury)
  • Joe Walker, ILB (ERFA, $750K - $1M, good STs player)
  • Ricky Seals-Jones, TE (ERFA, $750K - $1M, totally worth cheap contract)
  • Colby Gossett, OG (ERFA, $750K - $1M, surprise starter, maybe?)
  • Zack Golditch, OG (ERFA, $750K - $1M, another surprise?)
  • Chris Jones, CB (ERFA, $750K - $1M, need corner help)
  • Jalen Tolliver, WR (ERFA, $750K - $1M, liked him in preseason)
  • Zane Gonzales, K (ERFA, $750K - $1M, future kicker possibly)

Let go;

  • Mike Iupati, OG (slow and injured through 3 seasons)
  • Phil Dawson, K (please retire)
  • Deone Bucannon, ILB (needs a fresh start)
  • Tre Boston, SS (should have a good market, too expensive for my taste)
  • Benson Mayowa, DE (meh)
  • John Phillips, TE (I need to see more from him)
  • Leonard Johnson, CB (again, show me the plays)
  • Gerald Hodges, ILB (trouble in coverage)
  • Derrick Coleman, FB (we didn’t even USE the FREAKEN FULLBACK!)
  • Oday Aboushi, OG (he gets tossed around like a ragdoll)
  • Rodney Gunter, DT (he’s going to want a starting job, just like Xavier Williams)
  • Jeremy Vujnovich, OG (boy he’s just too darn inconsistent)
  • David Amerson, CB (let’s see how he does in coverage first)
  • J.J. Nelson, WR (you couldn’t pay me to put Nelson on the keep list)

Cut:

  • Jermaine Gresham, TE (enough with this cruel charade, $3M savings)
  • Andre Smith, OT (a swing tackle, not starter, still too expensive, $4M savings)

Trade-bait examples:

1.

Arizona Cardinals receives:
Christian Kirksey - Inside Linebacker

Cleveland Browns receives:
D.J. Humphries - Offensive Tackle
2020 4th Round Selection

We need a way to earn something from Humphries, as he has been very lackluster in Arizona, but for a team like the Browns, he could be their investment. Why would the Browns depart with Kirksey? Because, you have Joe Schobert who was a pro bowl linebacker last year, and I believe that Jamie Collins was the right player to trade for. So far, the left tackle for the Browns has been the achilles heel (maybe receiver) of the offense this year. Yes, we trade our 2020 4th round selection, but we earn a linebacker who can solidify the corps. Maybe someone who can work in the 4-3 more efficiently (I don’t want to give up on the 4-3 yet).

2.

Arizona Cardinals receives:
2020 6th Round Selection

Green Bay Packers receives:
Antoine Bethea - Strong Safety

If anything is apparent for Antoine Bethea this year, it’s that the guy still has some juice to his gears, and could be a solid contributor. My problem is that this is a rebuilding team, and I’m not inconsiderate, I’d feel great sending him to a contender. As the Packers got older this year, I find it hard to imagine them replacing HaHa Clinton-Dix or Damarious Randall with a rookie from this upcoming class. It’s riddled with unknown commodities, with one or two safeties going in the first round only. Bethea is probably (big probably) worth a 6th in the next years draft.

Free Agency:

There are three positions I would like to focus on in this upcoming offseason and free agency; right tackle, linebacker, and wide receiver, in that order. Left tackle would be an issue in this scenario because of D.J. Humphries, but I think a rookie (Mitch Hyatt of Clemson, rd 3) + John Wetzel could handle it.

Right Tackle:

  1. Daryl Williams, RT; Carolina Panthers (5 yr, $7.5M - $13M per yr)
  2. Bobby Massie, RT; Chicago Bears (3 yr, $4.5M - $8M per yr)
  3. Ja’Wuan James, RT; Miami Dolphins (1 yr, $2.5M - $5M per yr)

This is the best of the best for right tackles. Ray Brown coached Daryl Williams, so he might be intrigued to coach him once again. Daryl isn’t the best, he’s probably the most versatile run-blocker in the right tackle class; able to keep his balance, and extend his arms without being pulled out of position. Can get pushed back to the QB’s lap in pass-pro, but seems still intuitive and could be a good one in due time (still only 27 next year). Plus, we could buy low because of injury concerns.

Bobby Massie has sustained moderate success in Chicago, after showing he can hold his own in pass-protection, something he had a hard time with in AZ. He’s really an even player, which can be attributed to his success in finally getting a good QB in Chicago. Maybe he comes back, and protects another young quarterback, let’s just hope the Cards actually pay him this time.

A lot of people thought that Ja’Wuan James would be traded before the season (or at least by the deadline), but James has withstood a problematic situation in Miami. Don’t get it twisted, he needs to get better at pass-protection in the NFL, which is kind of confusing since he did so well at the University of Tennessee. Maybe a change in scenery would help Ja’Wuan become a better right tackle.

Outside Linebacker:

  1. K.J. Wright, OLB/ILB; Seattle Seahawks (4 yr, $8M - $13.5M per yr)
  2. Damien Wilson, OLB; Dallas Cowboys (4 yr, $4.5M - $7M per yr)
  3. Thomas Davis, OLB; Carolina Panthers (2 yr, $2M - $4M per yr)

Want to know something? Josh Bynes is actually decent, while Haason Reddick might still have a chance to be a good linebacker. We need to get better, and that starts with veteran leadership.

K.J. Wright would be the biggest win in the offseason for the Cardinals since they took Mike Iupati from the 9ers. If it actually fixes the poor tackling, then I don’t see any reason why Wright couldn’t be THE GUY for the Cardinals. Wright has been injured, but when he comes back, he should be the same K.J. Wright, great coverage skills, and great in run-defense.

Damien Wilson is about to get paid like Anthony Hitchens did with the Chiefs last year, and he kind of should. In short spurts, Damien Wilson has shown great positional value, playing very well in coverage, and allowing Leighton Vander Esch to essentially become the roamer. Wilson could take away a tight end or a running back completely out of the picture, your choice.

This is the only free agency where I could see the Cardinals invest in the linebacker corps, as it’s rich with good solid playmakers. Thomas Davis has excelled in the 4-3, as he’s shown he can do it in space and in coverage. If I had my choice, I’d like to sign Davis and either Wright or Wilson. We will see.

Honorable ILBs: Avery Williamson, NYJ; C.J. Mosley, BAL; Preston Brown, CIN; Kwon Alexander, TB; Patrick Onwuasor, BAL; Cory Littleton, LAR

Wide Receiver:

  1. Devin Funchess, WR; Carolina Panthers (4 yr, $5M - $12M per yr)
  2. Golden Tate, WR; Philadelphia Eagles (4 yr, $7M - $12M per yr)
  3. Kelvin Benjamin, WR; Buffalo Bills (1 yr, $4M-$5M)

Devin Funchess probably had a lot of fun in Carolina, and most likely on this list to be resigned by their former team, but he’d be an intriguing prospect for the Cardinals. He’s 6’4’’, 225 pounds, and is actually very quick for a big-bodied receiver. He just needs some weapons (like Benjamin) to complement his abilities as a big target who can make big plays.

Golden Tate is an interesting member of the free agency crop. Tate got traded midseason unexpectedly for a decent coin, but he might not deliver like the Eagles would like. In all actuality, the Eagles are in the toughest position; they can’t franchise him because they NEED Brandon Graham for that defense, and they can’t get into a bidding war for the receiver. The Cardinals could cause a dilemma by stealing him from the Eagles, and no one would bat an eye.

I see Kelvin Benjamin as the top question mark of this class so far, but that’s because as a physical specimen (6’5’’, 245), he’s very much intriguing. He plays very tough off the line, and could be someone with a good chance to succeed in Arizona alongside with Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald (if he returns). Just needs to be surrounded by more weapons, and Arizona has that (David Johnson, Josh Rosen, Christian Kirk, maybe Fitz).

If you’re asking me who’s the best receiver on the market, this year, I’d say so far, no idea. It’s a current toss-up of who’s going to pay, and who’s not. Aside from the three I mentioned, there’s still Randall Cobb, who’s a really detailed route-runner, Jermaine Kearse, who has been overshadowed by shoddy QB play, the oft-injured but talented Kevin White/Phillip Dorsett/Quincy Enunwa/Tyrell Williams, and the top-slots in the game today in Adam Humphries, Cole Beasley, and Chris Hogan.