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Cardinals’ 2020 Vision Is Blurry

NCAA Football: Arizona Cardinals Rookie Minicamp Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Oh what a paradox...

The Arizona Cardinals have a blurry 2020 vision?

Well, potentially the Cardinals’ 2020 vision is getting sharper each day in ways that the fans wouldn’t know yet.

In light of Steve Keim’s array of recent short term free agent signings and his unwillingness to commit his own draft picks (save RB David Johnson) to multi-year 2nd contracts---

The reality is that by 2021 the Cardinals could have an almost completely new 53 man roster.

Right now, aside from last year’s draft picks, the only players on contracts which potentially extend beyond 2020 are DE Chandler Jones, RB David Johnson, G Justin Pugh, LB Jordan Hicks and CB Robert Alford.

However, upon further review, the Cardinals have worked in “out windows” in each one of those contracts, and some of these “out windows” might come as somewhat of a surprise.

For example, did you know that after this season the Cardinals have an out window on Chandler Jones’ contract? It would cost the Cardinals $6M on the 2020 cap, but they would be saving $31.5M over the next two seasons.

Not that anyone wants to see the Cardinals trade or move on from Chandler Jones, but, as a matter of fact, the Cardinals do have an out window after this season.

CB Patrick Peterson is signed through 2020, but the dead cap money on his contract is a mere $635K in 2020. His scheduled cap hit for 2020 is $13.2M.

In the case of RB David Johnson, his cap figure in 2020 is $14.3M and the dead cap money is $16.2M, but by 2021, the Cardinals can decide to take Johnson $12M off the payroll if they swallow $3M in dead cap money.

Then there is G Justin Pugh’s contract, which carries $6M in dead cap in 2020, but the Cardinals could avoid having to pay him $27.8M over the final 3 years of his contract, particularly if Pugh does not have a good bounce back season this year.

CB Robert Alford’s 3 year deal has an out window after this season of $3M---which would save the Cardinals from having to pay him an added $13.5M over the next two seasons.

The out window for LB Jordan Hicks’ contract is in 2021 (a savings of $12M with $6M in dead cap). This contract for Hicks shows how high the Cardinals are on him and his ability to be a 4 year leader on the defense.

The rest of the Cardinals’ veterans are on 1 or 2 year deals that are up or easily voided after this season.

The potential that Steve Keim continues to create for a massive roster turnover is uncanny.

Let’s take a look at each position group with an eye on the 2020 season:

QB---Keim is trying to decide whether Kyler Murray is the best fit for the team moving forward, which could precipitate a Josh Rosen trade. Brett Hundley is on a one year deal. Chad Kanoff becomes an ERFA in 2020.

RB---David Johnson, Chase Edmonds and T.J. Logan would appear to be set for the next two years.

WR---Christian Kirk has three years remaining on his rookie contract. Larry Fitzgerald and Kevin White are on one year deals. Pharoh Cooper is in the final year of his rookie deal. Chad Williams has two years remaining on his rookie contract, if he can develop into a key contributor.

TE---Charles Clay is on a one year deal. Ricky Seals-Jones and Darrell Daniels are RFA’s in 2020.

T---D.J. Humphries and Marcus Gilbert are UFAs in 2020. Korey Cunningham has three years left on his rookie deal.

G---Justin Pugh and J.R. Sweezy need to play well to stick in 2020. Max Garcia is on a 1 year deal. Colby Gossett has three years left on his rookie deal.

C---Mason Cole has three years left on his rookie deal. A.Q. Shipley is on a one year deal. However, the Cardinals appear to be interested in finding a better short and long term fit at this position---a key position in a shotgun heavy spread offense.

DT---Corey Peters is basically in the last year of his deal. Robert Nkemdiche becomes a UFA in 2020 if Keim doesn’t pick up his 5th year option. Darius Philon is on a 2 year deal which has an out window of $2M in 2020. Rodney Gunter is on a one year deal.

DE/OLB--- Chandler Jones would appear to be a lock through 2021. Terrell Suggs is on a 2 year deal that is basically structured as a one year deal ($2M out window in 2020). Brooks Reed is on a one year deal. Vontarrius Dora and Camerson Malveaux become RFAs in 2020.

ILB---Jordan Hicks is a lock through 2020, as is Haasan Reddick. Joe Walker becomes an ERFA in 2020. Dennis Gardeck and Tanner Vallejo are signed through 2020.

CB---Patrick Peterson could become a trade chip at this year’s trading deadline if the trade value is exceptional, otherwise he’s a lock through 2020. Robert Alford is on a three year deal that basically is structured as a one year deal. Tramaine Brock is on a one year deal, as is David Amerson. Brandon Williams is in the final year of his rookie contract.

S---Budda Baker has two years remaining on his rookie contract and could be the third Keim draft pick (Mathieu, Johnson) to be re-signed to a multi-year 2nd contract. D.J. Swearinger is in the final year of his contract. Rudy Ford has two years remaining on his rookie contract. Zeke Turner has two years remaining on his deal. Josh Shaw is on a one year contract.

ST---Andy Lee has two years remaining on his contract. Aaron Brewer has three. Zane Gonzalez becomes an RFA in 2020.

It would seem that the two units that are in the best shape (starter-wise) for the next two seasons are ILB and STs.

This begs the question---what is Steve Keim’s over-arching plan? Why has he created so much flux on the current roster?

With 10 picks coming up in this year’s draft and with GM Steve Keim learning more and more each day about what Kliff Kingsbury, Vance Joseph and Jeff Rodgers are specifically looking for in terms of the positional proto-types and football character they covet, this is looking like the year to start building the roster for the future, while giving a host of newly added free agents a chance to prove they belong.