Befitting a team that went 3-13 last season, the Arizona Cardinals entered 2019 free agency with needs across the roster. GM Steve Keim has been more active than in years past, signing several players thus far at positions of need to bolster the roster for next season.
But one thing remains clear when looking at the current team roster: he’s not done yet. Not by a long shot. The 2019 Arizona Cardinals are very much a work in progress.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at our current biggest needs and see how they might be filled—keeping in mind that we’re not likely to make any other splashy free agent signings given our rapidly dwindling cap space. We’ll start with a few less-pressing needs before moving onto the three biggest areas of need.
Honorable Mentions (roughly in order of need)
Safety depth: Our starters are set with Budda Baker and D.J. Swearinger. Maybe one of Rudy Ford or Jonathan Owens steps up this season, but it still feels like we’re one veteran short for sub packages and/or when injury strikes. Keim will undoubtedly land someone for cheap later in the offseason (rather than in the draft), à la Tre Boston last year.
O-line youth: Even with the influx of offensive lineman this week, it still doesn’t feel like we have a long-term solution at either guard or tackle spot—as usual during Keim’s tenure. Since all the free agent signings so far have been closer to 30, Keim would do well to add at least one O-lineman on Day 2 of the draft who can hopefully assume a starting role next season.
Tight end: We tendered Ricky Seals-Jones and signed Charles Clay, but this position still feels unsettled given both players’ limitations (inconsistency for RSJ, health for Clay). We can probably get by with these two for 2019, but drafting a guy in the middle rounds to represent the future of the position would be welcome.
Edge rusher: Yes, we added Terrell Suggs (go Devils!) and Brooks Reed to go with Chandler Jones, but like safety above, this group still feels one guy short, especially given that Suggs and Reed are both on the wrong side of 30. This position could easily be addressed at the top of the draft if we go that route (Nick Bosa? Josh Allen?), but if it’s not, another free agent bargain or mid-round pick would help out here.
#3 Need: Cornerback
This may not seem like a pressing need after the Robert Alford signing, but the depth chart behind Patrick Peterson (assuming no new trade request is forthcoming) is still a bit murky. Right now, it looks like Alford would man the slot (although he can play outside as well), and last year’s midseason pickup, David Amerson, would play across from Peterson, with precious little depth behind them (mostly practice squad types like Deatrick Nichols and, somehow, Brandon Williams still). That’s far from ideal given the abundance of pass-happy schemes in today’s NFL—including our NFC West foe the Los Angeles Rams, who have a trio of dynamic receivers we’ll have to cover twice next season.
Possible solutions: Keim could go back to the veteran well later in the offseason if guys like Bashaud Breeland, Morris Claiborne, Darqueze Dennard, or Nevin Lawson haven’t found a new home yet—a classic Keim Time special. (And perhaps other names might wind up on waivers after the draft.) Nabbing a rookie in the middle-to-late rounds to develop and contribute on special teams wouldn’t be a bad idea either. (Just as long as he doesn’t get cut before the season like Chris Campbell.) I don’t think we’ll sink significant resources into the CB position moving forward, but this group doesn’t feel complete yet either.
#2 Need: Wide Receiver
No, the recent signing of Kevin White doesn’t make this any less of a need. Even with White added to the room, it could very well be that the WR4 and even perhaps WR3 for the 2019 Cardinals are not on the roster yet. The depth chart behind the returning Larry Fitzgerald and recovering Christian Kirk might be the worst in the league—it’s not pretty when guys like Chad Williams and Trent Sherfield are the biggest names. No, this unit still needs a massive infusion of talent. There’s no one to stretch the field (although Kirk did flash some downfield ability in his rookie season) or a big-bodied, outside-the-numbers type. And no one scares you in the red zone except maybe for Fitz. Unfortunately, as we’ll see below, this isn’t really the year to fill this need.
Possible solutions: There are several big-name veterans still out there, but most of them either don’t have the skillset we’re looking for (Randall Cobb, Pierre Garcon) or don’t seem to have much left in the tank (Jordy Nelson, Demaryius Thomas)—not to mention they’re all probably asking for more money than we want to spend right now. While we’ll surely sign at least one veteran, it will probably be someone in the Dontrelle Inman/Jermaine Kearse tier. I’d also be shocked if we didn’t strongly consider taking a receiver with our #33 pick. Could former Sun Devil N’Keal Harry fall? Do we look at one of the Browns? Either way, this group probably needs at least two more additions.
#1 Need: Defensive Line
Right now, our defensive line depth chart is Corey Peters at DT… and that’s basically it. (We do have Pasoni Tasini and Vincent Valentine to back him up, and Cameron Malveaux as deep depth at DE.) So we need two starting DEs, a couple rotational DEs, and maybe another backup DT. While I’m concerned that Keim hasn’t really done anything of note to address the WR room yet, I’m absolutely shocked he hasn’t made a single pickup on the defensive line. Fortunately, there are plenty of quality free agents still available and the draft is loaded on the D-line, so he still has time—but he needs to act fast.
Possible solutions: D-linemen like Tyeler Davison, Darius Philon, Brent Urban, and our own Rodney Gunter are still unsigned and would all fit nicely in Vance Joseph’s 3-4. If we were going to shell out a little bit of cash for any remaining need, doing so for a player like one (or even two) of these guys would help a lot. But Keim can’t stop there, as he has to address the D-line in the draft, too, probably with multiple picks. Quinnen Williams is absolutely an option with our first pick if we don’t draft Kyler Murray (almost made it through a whole article without mentioning him!), but D-line should be considered on each day of the draft if there’s a player we like on the board. There are going to be a lot of new names on the D-line for the Redbirds in 2019—and hopefully we find out who some of them are sooner rather than later.
Even though Keim hasn’t been sitting idly by and has already addressed a number of needs (chiefly the offensive line), this roster is still clearly a work in progress. Wide receiver and defensive line are the biggest needs, and we should expect at least one signing at each position in the next week or so, and then at least one rookie drafted at each position as well. Those are the main needs, but depth and/or youth is needed at a number of other positions—safety, edge rusher, O-line, tight end, and cornerback. Keim still has a lot of work to do over the next few months.
How do you feel about the offseason so far, Cardinals fans? What do you see as our biggest priorities moving forward? And how should we address them? Put on your GM pants in the comments.