Here are my choices and the thinking behind each one. This is not a prediction of what the Cardinals will do.
QB1—-Sam Bradford—-I am excited to see his poise and accuracy in the starting role.
Trade: Mike Glennon. The original thinking was that at #15 in the draft the chances of acquiring a young QB as NFL ready as Josh Rosen were slim. The minute the Cardinals traded up to draft Rosen, Mike Glennon’s role as QB2 was altered. A QB needy team would trade for him because he would come at a bargain price tag ($1M) for this season. The Cardinals would have to eat $4M of dead money on the cap. But, what’s the difference if he isn’t going to play anyway?
RB1—-David Johnson—-primed and ready for a big year.
RB2—-Chase Edmonds—-figures to be a key contributor from day one.
RB3—-T.J. Logan—-speedy, hard running 3rd back option who could have big year as return man.
FB1—-Derrick Coleman—-one of the more athletic FBs in the league.
FB2—-Elijhaa Penny—-can assume D.J. Foster’s (sorry to see him injured after very good camp) roles on STs (e.g. as punt protector and kickoff return blocker)—-has made better blocks in games than Coleman.
TE1—-Jermaine Gresham—-word is he’ll be ready for week 1.
TE2—-Ricky Seals-Jones—-should be featured in the passing game and could be the key difference maker in Patriots’-style offense.
TE3—-TBA (via trade or waivers)—-if the Cardinals can’t get the TE they want, then Gabe Holmes will stick.
WR1—-Larry Fitzgerald—-could feel like the Warner days with Bradford at QB.
WR2—-Christian Kirk—-his role should open up when McCoy reveals his scheme.
WR3—-Chad Williams—-ready to emerge as a playmaker.
WR4—-Brice Butler—-should be used as an intermediate to deep threat.
WR5—-Trent Sherfield—-one of 4 STs mainstays who will be active on game days.
Trade or Release: J.J. Nelson. The Cardinals can save $1.9M on the cap. Rumors are the Patriots have interest.
LT1—-D.J. Humphries—-has a chance to elevate his game under Ray Brown.
LG1—-Mike Iupati—-looks rejuvenated and highly motivated.
C1—-Mason Cole—-has transitioned well into starting role.
RG1—-Justin Pugh—-could be the leader the team needs up front.
RT1—-John Wetzel—-best RT on the roster.
T2—-Will Holden—-should profit from Brown’s coaching.
T3—-Korey Cunningham—-Brown’s pet project.
C2—-Evan Boehm—-has been solid (unless the Cardinals claim a backup C/G off waivers).
G2—-TBA—-could be an encore for Earl Watford who might hit it off with Brown (if not, I like Daniel Munyer over Josh Allen. Munyer’s blocking has been surprisingly good).
Trade or Release: T Andre Smith. Never understood the signing in the first place. He’s not the player he was 4-5 years ago and is no longer a viable starting tackle. The Cardinals would save $1.38M on the cap in base salary, but would have to eat $3.5M in dead cap space.
LDT1—-Corey Peters—-best run stuffer on the roster.
LDT2—-Rodney Gunter—-could thrive in rotation.
RDT1—-Olsen Pierre—-on the verge of stardom.
RDT2—-Robert Nkemdiche—-rotate to keep him fresh and explosive, if possible.
RDT 3—-Peli Anau (or TBA via waivers)—-has value as a situational DT and inside pass rusher.
LDE1—-Vontarrius Dora—-he deserves to start, although Mayowa has been good against the run.
LDE2—-Benson Mayowa—-has been stout against the run, but has yet to flash as an edge rusher.
RDE1—-Chandler Jones—-emerging as the leader of the defense.
RDE2—-Cap Capi—-graded at 90.8 this past week, now has 4 sacks and two strips and a fumble recovery in 3 games.
DE3—-Jacqueis Smith—-has shown flashes of explosion.
LB1—-Deone Bucannon—-rang the bell this week with 90.9 grade.
LB2—-Josh Bynes—-forming a solid tandem with Bucannon.
LB3—-Haason Reddick—--has had a good camp and is making plays on the ball.
LB4—-Gerald Hodges—-has assimilated well as a backup.
LB5—-Dennis Gardeck—-one of 4 STs mainstays active on game days.
LCB1—-Patrick Peterson—-eager to dominate in all aspects of CB play.
LCB2—-Bene Benwikere—-good addition who should see plenty of action in sub packages.
RCB1—-Jamar Taylor—-starting to look comfortable and productive in his role.
RCB2—-Christian Campbell—-should make strides with time and reps.
CB3—-Deatrick Nichols—-one of the 4 STs mainstays active on game days, could factor, at times, in sub packages.
FS1—-Tre’ Boston—-made to order for Wilks’ defense.
FS2—-Rudy Ford—-STs star in the making and could factor in sub packages.
SS1—-Budda Baker—-versatile defensive catalyst.
SS2—-Antoine Bethea—-has been starting opposite Baker in the nickel (which is quickly becoming the base defense in Arizona’s “Desert Swarm”).
S3—-Ezekiel Turner—-one of the 4 STs mainstays active on game days.
K—-Matthew McCrane—-has the leg strength, form and accuracy that Jeff Rodgers covets.
P—-Andy Lee—-looking like he’s still very much in his prime.
LS—-Aaron Brewer—-solid snapper who hustles downfield on punts.
Trade or release: Phil Dawson. The argument for keeping him according to Al Michaels and Jess Root is his ability to hit clutch field goals in big games. However, Dawson has only been on two playoff teams: the Browns in 2002 and the 49ers in 2013 (and yes in 4 playoff games he was perfect in FGs 7/7 and XPTs 6/6—-but, is he the same kicker he was 5 years ago?). For example, his FG % has dropped in recent years and, at 80.0% last year, this was his lowest FG% since 2002. He also missed 3 XPTs last season, making it 11 missed kicks in all. At a 2018 salary of $3.5M, the Cardinals could save $3M on the cap by trading or releasing him (with a dead cap figure of $500K). If he is on the roster week 1, Dawson gets a $500K roster bonus and his 2018 salary of $3.5M is guaranteed, if case of injury.
By trading or releasing Glennon, Nelson, Smith and Dawson the Cardinals could save $7.29M of cap space. That money could come in handy if they want to make key additions to the roster this year and/or if they want to re-sign any of their own players like RB David Johnson.
Add the $7.29M to the Cardinals’ $11.95M existing cap space and the sum is $19.24M. As crazy as this might sound—-the $19M+ cap space would allow the Cardinals to try to trade for DE Khalil Mack if they wanted to because they could afford his $13.84M salary and still have $5.4M of cap cushion to work with.
Regardless, the Cardinals could use that hefty cap space to build on their promising present and future.