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What I would do to rebuild the Arizona Cardinals for 2018

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NFL: New York Giants at Arizona Cardinals Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

As the combine and free agency get closer and closer into view, I’m excited to see how the Cardinals reload. Here’s how I would approach this offseason if I were Steve Keim and newly hired Steve Wilks.

Free Agency:

Resign:

1. Tramon Williams - Cornerback

2 years, $6,000,000 (2nd year team option)

2. Jaron Brown - Wide Receiver

1 year, $1,750,000

3. Frostee Rucker - Defensive End

1 year, $1,500,000

4. Aaron Brewer - Long Snapper

2 years, $1,650,000

No one really thought that Tramon Williams would have the type of year he did, being one of the top corners in the market this time around. Problem is, he’s 35 years old in March, and not a lot of teams want to invest that kind of capital in a vet that probably has two more solid years left. I think, for the chance at the playoffs, Tramon Williams would return on a team option type of contract. I also wanted to get back Jaron Brown to boost the wide receiver corps, and I still think he can be a contributor, if he fixes the drops. Frostee needs to be a core piece in the development of Robert Nkemdiche and Olsen Pierre, as they possibly transition from the 3-4 to the 4-3. Plus, he still has some ability, and would be great to get on the cheap. Easy to pick up my starting long snapper cheaply also.

Release:

1. Jared Veldheer - Offensive Tackle

(+$6,906,250) (-$3,250,000)

2. Mike Iupati - Offensive Guard

(+$6,300,000) (-$3,400,000)

3. Adrian Peterson - Running Back

(+$2,881,250) (-$0)

4. A.Q. Shipley - Center

(+1,750,000) (-$362,500)

Seriously, the elder lineman of Veldheer and Iupati are a failed experiment, and it’s time to cut our losses. I think they are both very good players when they are not injured, but recently, it’s just not a possibility. They both can’t seem to stay healthy. Cutting both gives the Cards a savings of just over $14M, which is exactly what the Cards need, cap relief. It was already reported that Adrian Peterson was being waved soon, and so it shouldn’t be a surprise. Neither should A.Q. Shipley, who played all 16 games, but is still standing in the way of Evan Boehm playing his natural position (center).

Sign:

1. Terrelle Pryor - Wide Receiver

Previous Team: Washington Redskins

3 years, $22,500,000 (2018: $4,500,000) (2019: $9,000,000) (2020: $9,000,000)

2. Luke Joeckel - Offensive Guard

Previous Team: Seattle Seahawks

2 years, $8,500,000 (2018: $4,250,000) (2019: $4,250,000)

3. Josh McCown - Quarterback

Previous Team: New York Jets

1 year, $4,000,000

4. Darrelle Revis - Cornerback

Previous Team: Kansas City Chiefs

1 year, $3,000,0000

5. T.J. Ward - Free Safety

Previous Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2 years, $6,000,000 (2018: $2,500,000) (2019: $3,500,000) (team option)

6. Robert McClain - Cornerback

Previous Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

1 year, $1,500,000

7. Ulrick John - Offensive Tackle

Previous Team: Green Bay Packers

1 year, $750,000

My free agency depended on whether some players wanted to bet on themselves with prove-it deals. I’m very aggressive in my pursuit for fixing major holes. The receiver position needed to get more options, and I believe that Terrelle Pryor still has the talent to be a number one receiver. If I pair him with Larry Fitz, who knows, maybe Pryor returns to his 1,000 yard receiving ways. It doesn’t hurt that Pryor takes a lesser contract in year one for the team, as he bets on himself, and our organization bets on him.

The offensive line was just disgusting last year, as Evan Boehm (natural center) was forced to play right guard, two addition starters were (Veldheer, Iupati), somehow Earl Watford came back (but still played mediocre), and Wetzel seemed to maybe be better at guard then right tackle. Shoot, I didn’t even want to play Will Holden, and they ended up having to. That’s why Luke Joeckel (and a lesser degree, Ulrick John) were important for the Cardinals to sign. I think Joeckel can be the replacement at left guard for Iupati, and he wouldn’t be put out there on an island with D.J. Humphries assisting in directing traffic.

Oh, and how about Josh McCown returning to the desert to finish his career. That just makes me feel some type of way. Honestly, if I didn’t get a quarterback I liked in the draft (which I do), then I understand why fans would be disappointed, but Kirk Cousins goes to Miami, Nick Foles goes to the Giants, Sam Bradford to Buffalo, Case Keenum to Cleveland, and A.J. McCarron goes to New Orleans (duh, Brees returns too). I think that my draft pick and McCown are going to be just fine.

I also take a low-risk, high reward on declining players. T.J. Ward and Darrelle Revis were once Pro-Bowlers but have been labeled slow as of late. Shoot, Revis is being told he quits on plays, but I don’t believe that to be the problem. Revis needs a Patrick Peterson to push him. If you put those two greats together, maybe they are able to rebuild Revis’ career. If not, don’t worry, I am bringing in a Steve Wilks’ signing (Robert McClain). Ward was overworked in Tampa and showed a lot of flaws when not playing his natural position (box safety).

Robert McClain came from Carolina before he went to Tampa, where he saw either not enough time, or was exposed. I think either Revis or McClain will show they still have the talent to boost this defense. Maybe the oldest corner room, Revis (33 this year), Tramon (35), and McClain (30 this year) are going to significantly improve the back-end, and hopefully develop Brandon Williams. And Ulrick John returns to the Cardinals after a brief stint with the Packers.

Pre-Draft Trade:

1. Arizona Cardinals receives:
Corey Coleman - Wide Receiver (-$3,338,176)

Cleveland Browns receives:
Tyrann Mathieu - Free Safety (+$11,000,000) (-$3,100,000)
2019 4th Round Selection

I didn’t want to give up on the Honey Badger, I thought he played very well towards the end of the year, but it’s for the extra cap. Trading him to a defensive back-needy Cleveland could possibly destroy Tyrann’s career, but I decided to care more about the team then the player. I did have to part ways with a 4th round selection in the future, but I loved the grab. Corey Coleman, I loved him during the pre-draft process from Baylor, but he simply has not worked out for Cleveland. Plus, they just got back Josh Gordon who seems to be the man in Cleveland. Get myself Coleman, who’s speed will help in separation for coverage, and can take the top off.

1st Round (19th Overall Selection from Dallas Cowboys)
Mason Rudolph - Quarterback
Oklahoma State - Senior
6’5’’, 235 Pounds

So the top-4 quarterbacks (Lamar Jackson to Cleveland @ 4, Josh Rosen to Denver, Baker Mayfield to Jets, Sam Darnold to Buffalo @ 10) should presumably be gone by the time the Cardinals pick at 15. So, instead, I traded away from the situation, and acquired some more draft capital with the receiver needy Cowboys. Still, I can get myself a quarterback to learn behind my free agent acquisition, Josh McCown, and affording myself time to develop Mason Rudolph. Here’s the facts about Mason Rudolph: He’s got a huge base, seems to be very good about not leaning off his back foot, and plays within his strengths. His biggest positive is his attitude, he seems like a great young man, and a guy that can lead. Shoot, if Mason deserves the starting spot in an open competition against McCown, then you as the GM have done your job.

2nd Round (53rd Overall Selection from Buffalo Bills)
Jesse Bates - Free Safety
Wake Forest - Redshirt Sophomore
6’1’’, 195 Pounds

It’s not very often that a free safety with cornerback movement skills becomes unnoticed in a crowded safety draft. Shoot, I think this is the deepest draft in at least seven years (2011), and Jesse Bates is a victim of circumstance. Bates is an aggressive ballhawk, someone that you could reasonably leave out there on an island, and you wouldn’t feel worried. This defense is already super impressive, and if we possibly switch to the 4-3, Bates, Budda Baker, and my free agent acquisition T.J. Ward will rule the NFL for years to come. Like Mason Rudolph, Jesse Bates doesn’t need to play immediately, but it doesn’t hurt if he’s a fast learner. His tackling ability could make him a viable option for special teams also, as he plays aggressively fast on every single play. Here’s his issues. I don’t feel safe putting him in the box in the NFL, because running backs can force Bates to take the wrong angle.

3rd Round (79th Overall Selection)
Zachary Crabtree - Offensive Tackle
Oklahoma State - Redshirt Senior
6’6’’, 315 Pounds

I kept thinking to myself, if I’m bringing a prolific quarterback like Mason Rudolph to the Cardinals, would it hurt if I grabbed his blindside blocker? In the third round, I feel comfortable grabbing Crabtree for the expressed consent of rebuffing the line. So, my offensive line will receive some competition, with Luke Joeckel, John Wetzel, Will Holden, and the returnee Ulrick John battling already for the right tackle/right guard job. I think that this is finally my redshirt player, as Crabtree doesn’t immediately have to play. His kick slide can be smooth, and he has strong hand placement, but does appear to get put out on skates against those speed rushers. I think Crab has a future in the NFL.

3rd Round (81st Overall Selection from Dallas Cowboys)
D.J. Chark - Wide Receiver
Louisiana State - Redshirt Senior
6’3’’, 205 Pounds

Oh, you can tell I’m on board with rebuilding the receivers room completely, and longtime returnee Larry Fitzgerald will have the opportunity to mold the next batch if he so decides. D.J. Chark has been very impressive since November, and scouts are raving about his Senior Bowl performance and practice. I think he uses his size very well, being able to out-muscle defenders with perfect basketball-like post-ups. He seems very polished in his route running, but he lacks immediate get-off. It’s not a lack of speed, more of an endurance issues. I think his development needs to be paired with a vet.

3rd Round (97th Overall Selection via Compensatory)
Justin Lawler - Defensive End
Southern Methodist - Redshirt Senior
6’4’’, 266 Pounds

My first comp pick is Justin Lawler, a standout defensive lineman who was overshadowed by a blue-chip receiver, but no more. Watch out for Lawler, he is a hard-working blue collar kid who started as a two star defensive end. His work could land him into a day two selection. He is someone with a decent spin move, but his money maker will be his unbelievable motor off the line of scrimmage. Justin Lawler could be just as good as any of the other first round speed rushers (Bradley Chubb to Tampa @ 9th, Sam Hubbard to Cincinnati @ 12th, Marcus Davenport to Baltimore Ravens @ 16th, and Dorance Armstrong to Tennessee Titans @ 25th). He needs to use his hands better against the better offensive tackles in this league. He could be the third pass-rusher the Cardinals get. As Markus Golden returns from injury, Lawler could be depended on heavily in the beginning of the season.

4th Round (123rd Overall Selection from Buffalo Bills)
Daurice Fountain - Wide Receiver
Northern Iowa - Senior
6’1’’, 190 Pounds

Not just one receiver, how about another receiver for the Cardinals. In this scenario, I have attacked the second biggest weakness for this team (quarterback is 1), and I regret nothing so far. So far, I have Larry Fitzgerald, J.J. Nelson, and Chad Williams as returnees, I re-signed Jaron Brown for cheap, signed a Terrelle Pryor who had a down year with injuries, and traded for former first round selection Corey Coleman who hasn’t played well with a terrible quarterback situation in Cleveland. I add Daurice Fountain, a standout at the East-West Shrine Game, and someone to keep our eyes on. He plays the deep ball very well and doesn’t have to be heavily depended on in the beginning of the season. Plus, he plays well on speacials. Great hand-eye coordination. He and D.J. Chark could develop into some solid pieces.

4th Round (135th Overall Selection via Compensatory)
Skyler Phillips - Offensive Guard
Idaho State - Redshirt Senior
6’2’’, 320 Pounds

Rebuilding the offensive line isn’t easy, except it kind of was for me in this scenario. I knew I’d want to invest into it in free agency (Luke Joeckel, Ulrick John), keep some current pieces (Evan Boehm, John Wetzel) in place for development, and add some tools from the draft (Zachary Crabtree, and now Skyler Phillips). Skyler Phillips didn’t impress very much at the East-West Shrine Game, as he seemed too slow against power moves. I don’t think he lacks strength, just needs to center himself a little bit.

5th Round (152nd Overall Selection)
Ito Smith - Running Back
Southern Mississippi - Senior
5’9’’, 195 Pounds

It’s hard to lose Adrian Peterson in my opinion, as it’s been my dream forever as a Cardinals fan to see him in Cardinal red. But he is assuredly out of the desert with the return of David Johnson. I think they need to not worry about the second running back, Elijhaa Penny seemed to have a better grasp of the offense, and seemed to play very well towards the end of the year. I grab a third down back to help relieve DJ in obvious passing situations. Ito Smith does not get the attention he deserves, as he came in hot for the SM Eagles, but just hasn’t received much accreditation from scouts. He can catch very well out of the backfield, but doesn’t seem keen on pass-blocking. Totally fixable for the Cardinals, just stick him with David Johnson and Elijhaa Penny, boom, he’ll learn how to block. Maybe.

7th Round (227th Overall Selection from Baltimore Ravens)
Oren Burks - Inside Linebacker
Vanderbilt - Redshirt Senior
6’3’’, 226 Pounds

I’m taking a flyer on Oren Burks, a relative unknown to many, but someone who performed very well in the Senior Bowl. He’s long and athletic and would be able to contribute in the immediate future on special teams. The kid seems to be someone who could play outside linebacker also, if that’s the direction you want to take.

Trades:

1. Arizona Cardinals receives:
19th Overall Selection (Mason Rudolph - Oklahoma State)
81st Overall Selection (D.J. Chark - Louisiana State)

Dallas Cowboys receives:
15th Overall Selection (Courtland Sutton - Southern Methodist)

2. Arizona Cardinals receives:
53rd Overall Selection (Jesse Bates - Wake Forest)
123rd Overall Selection (Daurice Fountain - Northern Iowa)

Buffalo Bills receives:
47th Overall Selection (Leighton Vander Esch - Boise State)

Undrafted:

1. K.J. Malone - Offensive Guard
Louisiana State - Redshirt Senior
6’4’’, 300 Pounds

2. Kentavious Street - Defensive Tackle
North Carolina State - Senior
6’2’’, 290 Pounds

Post Draft Free Agency:

1.Joe Thomas - Outside Linebacker
Previous Team: Green Bay Packers
1 year, $3,500,000

2. Max Garcia - Center
Previous Team: Denver Broncos
1 year, $650,000

Before Cap: $156,887,348 ($22,714,438 total cap)
Released: +$28,837,500
Dead Money Gained: -$10,112,000
Free Agency 2018 Salary Gained: -$24,650,000
Re-signed Salary: -$7,075,000
Draft + Undrafted: -$6,500,000
Total: $176,386,848
Estimated Salary Cap: $178,000,000
Under by: $1,613,152

If need be, Deone Bucannon and/or Phil Dawson become expendable, and you could gain some salary in that way. Still, in this scenario, the Cardinals are going all in, and that’s why I’m okay with splurging. Anyways, this was my offseason fun, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did, which was a lot. I am also attaching what I project to be the depth chart in this scenario. Enjoy.

My Projected Depth Chart:

Offense:

QB:
1. Mason Rudolph
2. Josh McCown

RB:
1. David Johnson
2. Elijhaa Penny
3. Ito Smith
4. T.J. Logan

WR:
1. Terrelle Pryor
2. Jaron Brown
3. D.J. Chark

WR:
1. Larry Fitzgerald
2. Chad Williams
3. Daurice Fountain

WR:
1. J.J. Nelson
2. Corey Coleman

TE:
1. Jermaine Gresham
2. Ricky Seals-Jones
3. Ifeanyi Momah

LT:
1. D.J. Humphries

LG:
1. Luke Joeckel
2. K.J. Malone

C:
1. Evan Boehm
2. Max Garcia

RG:
1. John Wetzel
2. Skyler Phillips

RT:
1. Zachary Crabtree
2. Will Holden

Defense:

LDE:
1. Chandler Jones
2. Josh Mauro

DT:
1. Olsen Pierre
2. Frostee Rucker
3. Kentavius Street

DT:
1. Robert Nkemdiche
2. Rodney Gunter
3. Xavier Williams

RDE:
1. Markus Golden
2. Justin Lawler

LOLB:
1. Haason Reddick

ILB:
1. Deone Bucannon
2. Oren Burks

ROLB:
1. Joe Thomas
2. Gabe Martin

CB1:
1. Patrick Peterson
2. Brandon Williams

FS:
1. Budda Baker
2. Jesse Bates

SS:
1. Antoine Bethea
2. T.J. Ward

CB2:
1. Tramon Williams
2. Darrelle Revis
3. Robert McClain

K:
1. Phil Dawson

P:
1. Andy Lee

LS:
1. Aaron Brewer