On Wednesday evening, the Cardinals bolstered their receiving corps with the addition of former Baltimore Raven Michael Crabtree. This move came several hours following the release of receiver Kevin White, who had not been able to stay healthy.
Crabtree, who turns 32 next month, is still productive for his age. The veteran posted 602 yards receiving a season ago in the incredibly run heavy Raven offense. He also netted three receiving touchdowns.
This move allows the Cardinals to slow play the development of their three rookie receivers, especially when you consider fourth rounder Hakeem Butler is potentially facing IR due to a broken hand. Outside of Larry Fitzgerald, the Cardinals receiving corps did not feature the presence of an experienced NFL receiver (outside of return specialist Pharoh Cooper). The team has large expectations for receivers Christian Kirk and Trent Sherfield, however both are entering just their second NFL season.
Michael Crabtree instantly challenges for Arizona’s number three receiver role, as well as adds yet another security blanket for the team’s rookie quarterback.
According to league sources, Crabtree had been particular about which team to eventually sign with considering the lack of targets he received in Baltimore. The Cardinals figure to deploy 4-5 receivers at once, which bodes well for Crabtree especially if he is able to develop a rapport with Kyler Murray.
If you can’t tell already, I am very much in favor of adding Crabtree to the receiver mix for what it could potentially due for the development of Kyler Murray.
What’s good for Kyler is good for the Cardinals.
A season ago at Oklahoma, Murray threw for over 4300 yards and had strong contributions from five different receivers (two of which went for over 1,000 yards receiving). Murray may have helped catapult Marquise “Hollywood” Brown into the first round of last April’s NFL Draft, but his ability to spread the ball led to 19 different Sooners catching passes from the Heisman winner.
Historically, Crabtree has made his money as a possession receiver who can also be very physical in the run game. Where Crabtree has been known to struggle is with consistently catching the football, sporting a mediocre 59.6% catch rate for his career (54% in 2018). Increased targets in Arizona should aid that percentage, especially in the redzone. Drops aside, the veteran receiver averaged eight touchdowns from 2015-17.
Speculation will now turn to exactly how many receivers the Cardinals will carry on their active roster. Assuming Hakeem Butler goes on IR, the team would be best served carrying the following seven receivers: Fitzgerald, Kirk, Sherfield, KeSean Johnson, Crabtree, Andy Isabella, Cooper.
Pharoh Cooper is likely going to be the final player either kept or cut but is too valuable as a return specialist for a team that is historically poor in that arena. Isabella, Johnson and Sherfield all figure to have large roles on special teams (gunners/returners).
The release of Kevin White and the addition of Michael Crabtree likely puts a bow on the receiver room but could we see more additions at positions of need (DT/CB/ILB) over the next two weeks?
Keep an eye on Keim continuing to churn the bottom of the roster looking for potential one year bandaids.