Over the next four days, we’ll take a look at the four participants in the NFC and AFC Championship Games.
The question Walter Mitchell posed was how close are the Cardinals?
What we’ll see is that there is no one way to build a team.
In fact, the construction of each roster varies in such a way that basing the Cardinals off of any is hard to pin down, but we’ll do our best.
Let’s start with the top seed left in the AFC, the Kansas City Chiefs.
QB - Patrick Mahomes (2017 first round pick) Mahomes is perhaps the best and most talented quarterback in the NFL, he’s also on a rookie contract that allows the Chiefs to take risks at other positions.
RB - Damian Williams (free agent), LeSean McCoy (free agent) The chiefs have not invested much in their running backs after their release of former third round pick Kareem Hunt.
WR - Tyreek Hill (5th round pick just signed a 3 year $54 million contract) Sammy Watkins (3 year $48 million free agent contract) Mecole Hardman (2019 2nd round pick) Chiefs have invested heavily in their wide receivers. Over $100 million in contracts and a second round pick in this year’s draft.
TE - Travis Kelce (2013 3rd round pick signed 5 year $46 million contract in 2016) Kelce is one of the best tight ends in the NFL. The Chiefs 2013 draft was a building block for their franchise, but they again can be ultra aggressive with contracts because of the Mahomes rookie deal through 2020.
LT - Eric Fisher (2013 1st round pick signed 4 year $48 million extension in 2016) Fisher reminds me a lot of D.J. Humphries. A bit underachieving for his draft position, but good enough to give a modest (in NFL terms) extension.
LG - Andrew Wylie (2017 undrafted free agent)
C - Austin Reiter (2015 7th round pick for Redskins)
RG - Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (2014 6th round pick signed to 5 year $43 million extension in 2017)
RT - Mitchll Schwartz (2012 2nd round pick signed of Cleveland Browns signed 5 year $33 million contract in 2016 with Chiefs)
Offense overall - Well, two first round picks on the offense, but a ton of money spent there. Hill was an anomaly because of his domestic abuse history and he has had some issues still in the NFL. But the Chiefs have spent a boatload of money on their wide receivers and tight ends. They have three big contracts on the OL, but only Fisher was an early round pick. This is actually the closest to the Cardinals that I see from the final four.
Humphries can be Fisher, they need to find their Duvernay-Tardif and Schwartz though. Maybe one is on the roster in Joshua Miles and Pugh is their Schwartz.
Defensively, it is a hodge podge of player acquisitions.
LDE - Tanoh Kpassagnon (2017 2nd round pick)
NT - Chris Jones (2016 2nd round pick)
DT - Derrick Nnadi (2018 3rd round pick)
RDE - Frank Clark (2015 2nd round pick Seahawks, traded for 1st and 3rd pick 5 year $105.5 million extension from Chiefs)
LB - Damien Wilson (2015 4th round pick for Cowboys, 2 year $5.75 million contract with Chiefs)
LB - Anthony Hitchens (2014 4th round pick for Cowboys, signed 5 year $45 million contract in 2018 with Chiefs)
CB - Chavarius Ward (2018 undrafted free agent, traded from Dallas Cowboys)
CB - Bashaud Breeland (2014 4 round pick for Redskins, signed one-year contract with Chiefs in 2019)
CB - Kendall Fuller (2016 3rd round pick for Redskins, part of Alex Smith trade)
SS - Tyrann Mathieu (2013 3rd round pick for Cardinals, signed 3 year $42 million contract in 2019)
FS - Daniel Sorenson (2014 undrafted free agent signing by Chiefs, signed 4 year $16 million contract extension in 2017)
Defense overall - The Chiefs defense has three draft picks, no first round draft picks (outside of a Frank Clark trade) and four home grown players. How you get the talent is less important than finding the talent overall.
Having Mahomes allows you to take your time and spend money on areas of need.
In terms of the Cardinals I think the big money needs lie on the defense. Obviously you have the offensive line, but if they bring Hump and A.Q. Shipley back, you can focus your big money on the defense.
That’s why I think (again my opinion) that focusing on the defense in free agency this season will be key.
The Cardinals have the ability to load up the defense in free agency this year and get it into the top 20 of the NFL (not good, but probably a playoff contender in 2020).
Then, they will have some options in 2021 and 2022.
We shall see how it goes.