Steve Wilks is a one and done head coach, and GM Steve Keim is retained for the 2019 season (and beyond?)
So what are the biggest questions to be answered this offseason? Let’s begin.
Honorable Mention: The 2019 NFL Draft
Arizona’s going to have the #1 overall pick. Where do they go with that? Nick Bosa? A tackle like Quinnen Williams or Ed Oliver? Take an offensive guy like Jonah Williams? Or a trade down?
All seem to be possibilities but there’s five more important items to be resolved first...
#1: Who’s the next head coach who will “fix” all this?
Bidwill and Keim essentially hung the poor performance in this season on the coaches not putting the players in position to succeed in their press conference, and the Cardinals probably had the worst coaching of any team in the NFL this season.
They compared the situation to what Bruce Arians did in his management of the team.
Well Bruce is gone (at least from Arizona) and they find themselves in a pickle. They have a young quarterback with a broken offense and a defense that might need to get rebuilt or at least find the right coaching to mold AZ’s defense back into a competitor.
They’re essentially betting their future on this next hire, and also onto the 2nd biggest question.
#2. Is Steve Keim returning the right decision?
It seems like Keim might have never been in danger...but is that the right decision? This offseason the man not only hired Mike McCoy to go along with Steve Wilks (reportedly) and signed Sam Bradford for a 1 year, $20 million deal with a 2nd year option and Mike Glennon, who couldn’t beat out a rookie in Josh Rosen.
He also added in an injury-prone big money offensive line that trusted players like Andre Smith and Justin Pugh to perform and stay healthy and it didn’t happen.
The corners and wide receivers behind Patrick Peterson and Larry Fitzgerald, besides Christian Kirk, were meh to bad...at best.
Now, Keim has built it once before and built a team that was one of the best in the NFL from 2014 to 2015...but it’s been 3 years from that.
It’s possible Keim can be the guy to rebuild it, but in order to do so, he’d have to build an offensive line, draft and find solid linebackers, a wide receiver to complement or even replace Larry Fitzgerald, and a partner for Patrick Peterson.
...All of which he’d struggled with in his 5 year tensure in Arizona.
If Keim’s going to turn the team around he’ll have cap space and draft status he’s never had to work with before, but it’ll take him overcoming issues that he’s had in AZ from his entire tenure.
#3. Does Patrick Peterson’s status with the team change?
Patrick Peterson earlier this year essentially demanded for a trade from the Arizona Cardinals. The premier player at his position, he’d leave a gaping pair of holes in the Cardinals’ secondary should they have dealt or deal him.
His two-years remaining with his current deal at $12 million per year is one of the most affordable in the NFL for his level of play. It might also mean that he gets a big-time contract extension since he’s clearly earned it versus when he’s 31 years old.
If Arizona gives that, he’ll be here for the long-term, but what if he refuses to play for the team? I don’t see that happening, but Peterson already tried to force his way out of the team once. It will be something to watch moving forward this offseason for sure.
#4. How will Steve Keim rebuild the offensive line, and who will be left?
The Cardinals began this season with an offensive line of: LT D.J. Humphries, LG Mike Iupati, C A.Q. Shipley, RG Justin Pugh, RT Andre Smith.
It seemed like a solid veteran line. Then...A.Q. Shipley went down and rookie Mason Cole came in and the injuries and poor performance started.
It seemed like they couldn’t block anyone, and they essentially lost all 5 starters on their line from the preseason in addition to the majority of their backups in John Wetzel, Korey Cunningham and shuffled the interior around Cole.
Keim’s essentially locked into Pugh and Humphries for next year, but with how unreliable they looked and how Cole played just average, it might mean Arizona needs to add a large number of players at the position.
How many? 5 new ones? 4? 3? There’s so much to figure out, especially given at left tackle as Humphries has one year left on his deal but can’t stay on the field to protect Rosen...and wasn’t great at it during the season either.
It’s arguably the most important item in the offseason as far as keeping Rosen upright.
#5. Will Larry Fitzgerald be back?
Fitz’s retirement has been an ongoing question since the 2016 NFL season. He, Arians and Palmer battled rumors (and health scares for two of them) for two years before Palmer hung it up and Arians retired...for a while it seems.
But Fitzgerald kept going, and had one of the lower productive seasons in his career, though it might not have been his fault versus a bad offense with a bad and a rookie quarterback.
His return would help the Cardinals in more ways than one.
For starters, Arizona needs him. Christian Kirk is a 2nd year player but he looks like the only other proven pass-catcher on the roster. They pick at #1 which is too high to take a receiver in this class, meaning that if Fitzgerald retires they’ll have to look to free agency.
Ironically, looking at the names IN free agency? Fitzgerald’s arguably the top option, even at his age, for what he brings to the team.
Giving Josh Rosen a reliable target who can make clutch plays might be what the doctor ordered if they can find the right team, offensive mind and scheme to make the best use of their talents, and Fitzgerald gives his all.
But with records set and another offense, and coach, to get to know, is it too much for him to endure for a 2nd offseason in a row?
That remains to be seen. But should Fitzgerald come back, it’ll help put butts in the seats and cheers in the crowd to watch the living legend at least one more time. Which is a good sell for a rebuilding team in a rebuilding year.
It just would have been nice if Arizona had recognized that was what the 2018 season was a little bit sooner.
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