clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Spring cleaning: Making decisions on all 27 Arizona Cardinals free agents

The Arizona Cardinals have 27 free agents on their roster. Who should be re-signed and who should we let walk heading into 2019? Let’s find out.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals
Rodney Gunter has been a solid player on the D-line for the Cardinals. Will he be back in 2019?
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, we took a look at potential free agent targets for the Cardinals. While the team will undoubtedly look to add more talent on the free agent market, the Cardinals also have several of their own players in free agent limbo—27, according to Spotrac.

This week, we’ll take a look at that list and consider who should stay and who should go. Walter Mitchell did a similar rundown back in November, but a lot has changed since then—new coach, new schemes, #1 draft pick, etc. We know a lot more now than we did over 3 months ago. And, with spring on the horizon, it’s time to do some serious cleaning on this roster.

So, let’s wade into our own, in-house free agent pool, starting with the end of the bench.

Uninteresting Depth

The players in this category are so far down the depth chart that we won’t even discuss them. Maybe they’ll get a training camp invite in the fall, maybe not. No one should be holding their breath whether we re-sign them or not. For purposes of this article, we’ll assume none of these guys will be back.

OLB Thurston Armbrister

TE Darrell Daniels

RB D.J. Foster

ILB Gabe Martin

C Daniel Munyer

TE John Phillips

OT Jeremy Vujnovich

Semi-Useful Depth

The guys on this list all saw the field a decent amount for the Cardinals last season (with the exception of one injured player), but most of them were forced into the lineup when the players ahead of them on the depth chart got hurt or played poorly. Several of these guys were also key special teams contributors. Unlike the guys on the list above, most Cardinals fans actually know their names. But they’re not going to make or break the Cardinals’ 2019 season. For each of these guys, we’ll make a quick decision and give a simple, one-sentence explanation.

OG Oday Aboushi – Re-sign. He played well enough at the end of the year to warrant a 1-year deal as a backup guard.

OT Joe Barksdale – Let walk. Barksdale also played okay, but he’s also on the wrong side of 30 and would probably command more than the veteran’s minimum.

OLB Jeremy Cash – Re-sign. Cash looked good in the preseason before tearing up his knee—let’s see what he can do on a 1-year deal as well.

FB Derrick Coleman – Let walk. Who knows if Kingsbury will use a FB, but if he does, it’d figure to be one who’s more of a receiving threat than Coleman (3 receptions in 2018).

ILB Gerald Hodges – Let walk. Hodges was serviceable in 2018, but his production can be easily replaced by a younger, cheaper player.

DE Zach Moore – Let walk. Everything said about Hodges above applies to Moore, and Moore is a year older—he’ll be 29 by the time the 2019 season starts.

DT Olsen Pierre – Re-sign. Pierre will benefit from the switch back to the 3-4 and, like Aboushi, would be a nice depth piece on a 1-year deal.

G/T John Wetzel – Re-sign. Wetzel has seemingly played everywhere but center, and that kind of versatility has value.

The Name Players

The rest of our free agents are all names that Cardinals fans know. We have former 1st-round picks, big-ticket free agent signings, and productive veterans. Let’s explore whether GM Steve Keim should consider re-signing these guys, or just let them walk.

S Tre Boston

Boston was a Keim Time special last season, signing a 1-year deal late in training camp when the safety market failed to materialize last offseason. He was productive but frustrating for the Cardinals in 2018—penalties were an issue—but he played well enough to probably warrant a multi-year deal from someone. It very likely won’t be the Cardinals, who will look to spend their money elsewhere after claiming D.J. Swearinger off waivers and moving Budda Baker back to safety full-time.

Re-sign or let walk: Let walk.

ILB Deone Bucannon

Cardinals fans fondly remember Buc’s first three seasons in the league when he put up big numbers as a LB/S combo “moneybacker,” but changing schemes and injuries have sapped most of that production away. The door still seems to be open a crack for a possible return, but it’s more likely he’ll end up in Cleveland or Tampa with one of his former coaches.

Re-sign or let walk: Let walk.

K Phil Dawson

Dawson’s fate with the Cardinals was sealed when he was placed on the IR after the team picked up Zane Gonzalez, who will go into 2019 as the Cardinals kicker. Most Cardinals fans will be happy to see Dawson go.

Re-sign or let walk: Let walk.

DE Markus Golden

Like Bucannon, Golden was a once-promising player whose shine has faded with age, injuries, and the revolving door of defensive coordinators he’s played under. Still, he’s on the right side of 30 and just two seasons (but one ACL) removed from a double-digit sack campaign. There seems to be mutual interest in a return, but this will come down to money—and another team seems sure to overpay for Golden’s (fading) promise. If and when that happens, we should let him go.

Re-sign or let walk: Let walk.

DT Rodney Gunter

Gunter had a solid year as a DT on an underperforming 4-3 defense in 2018. The switch back to the 3-4 won’t affect him much, as he was also solid playing 3-4 DE the previous year. It’s also very likely that Gunter is one of the 3-4 Cardinals free agents Keim is purportedly interested in bringing back. But has Gunter played his way to a contract bigger than what the team is willing to pay? That will be one of the key in-house storylines to monitor during free agency. If the price is right, Gunter should be back—but we shouldn’t overpay.

Re-sign or let walk: Re-sign.

OG Mike Iupati

Like Dawson, Iupati’s time with the Cardinals basically came to an end when he went on the IR last season. Iupati was a capable starting guard when he was healthy, but he never played up to his reputation or contract. He will not be missed.

Re-sign or let walk: Let walk.

DE Benson Mayowa

Mayowa was a nice free agent find in 2018, a solid pass rusher who held up well against the run as a 4-3 DE. However, the switch back to the 3-4 leaves him without a true fit—not big enough to play 3-4 DE and not quick enough to play 3-4 OLB. Could he slim down or bulk up a bit in the offseason to fit better in the 3-4? Maybe, but why try to force a square peg in a round hole? Let him find a new home elsewhere as a 4-3 DE.

Re-sign or let walk: Let walk.

WR J.J. Nelson

There might not have been a more frustrating Cardinals player over the past few seasons than Nelson, who wowed fans and coaches alike with his impressive speed. But he had hands like bricks and a knack for big-time drops. Let him be someone else’s headache next season.

Re-sign or let walk: Let walk.

TE Ricky Seals-Jones

There are still plenty of Cardinals fans out there drinking the RSJ Kool-Aid, tantalized by his better-than-average size and speed for a TE. And he would seem to be a fit as a supersized WR-type TE in new coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense. But he’s also maddeningly inconsistent, has scored just 4 TDs in two seasons, and had more drops than TDs last year. If Kingsbury likes what he sees, then bring him back on a cheap 1-year deal to see if the fit is right. Otherwise, we’re probably better off starting over from scratch at the TE position.

Re-sign or let walk: Let him walk.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve been keeping count, of the 20 free agents who played a role for the Cardinals in 2018, there are only 5 whom Keim should be keen on bringing back—Aboushi, Cash, Pierre, Wetzel, and Gunter, with the latter the only name of any real consequence. That’s right in line with the 3-4 he mentioned at the combine.

There are a few more who are borderline cases (Barksdale, Moore, Golden, Mayowa, RSJ), but the reality is that this team was 3-13 last season and some serious spring cleaning is in order. Let’s not “retool” this offseason—let’s rebuild this team with the kind of players who will thrive under Kingsbury and new DC Vance Joseph.

Any thoughts on this group of free agents, Cardinals fans? Should we be bringing back more than just a handful of these players? Or should we just clean house entirely? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.