Now that the 2020 NFL Draft is in the books, NFL teams can begin to revisit the remaining pool of free agents who remain unsigned.
In fact, as of 1pm PST today, any free agent signing will not cost the team future compensatory compensation.
Cardinal GM Steve Keim did an admirable job filling holes during last week’s draft, particularly with the additions of first round pick LB/S Isaiah Simmons and third round selection OT Josh Jones.
Still, areas of need remain for the Cardinals, specifically in the team’s secondary and at pass rusher.
It’s no secret that Keim has done some of his best work post draft in previous off seasons. Names like Eric Winston, John Abraham and Dwight Freeney immediately come to mind as late summer additions that quickly became impact players for the redbirds.
At the writing of this article, via Over the Cap, the Cardinals have just under $9 million dollars in available cap space. The unsigned rookie draft class figures to eat up a fair amount of that money.
With that being said, there are a slew of names still available that could aid Arizona in their quest for a 2020 playoff birth.
Tony Jefferson, S
Jefferson is a familiar name in the desert, as the veteran was once upon a time signed by Keim as an undrafted free agent back in 2013.
Jefferson quickly developed into a quality starter on a team that went to the post season in back to back years (‘14,’15).
Unfortunately for Jefferson, the front office didn’t believe in sacrificing long term dollars in the former Sooner and eventually let him leave as a free agent in the spring of 2017. Shortly after, the Baltimore Ravens signed Jefferson to a four-year, $34 million contract that included $19 million guaranteed.
After two very productive seasons for the Ravens, Jefferson tore his ACL in October of 2019 and was released by the team this past February.
Earlier this month, Jefferson spoke to the Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec on his impending free agency:
“I know that my knee is feeling fine, and I know that I have teams that are ready. I’ve just kind of let my agent do his thing. We’re just waiting for this virus to settle down, and I think something will happen quickly.”
Dating back to 2017, Keim has signed a veteran safety prior to the season. In 2017, the team signed Antoine Bethea, followed by Tre Boston in 2018 and finally D.J. Swearinger was brought on board to be a part of the 2019 Cardinals.
Whether it’s Jefferson (who had a rocky exit with Keim), or another veteran, expect Arizona to take add a safety sometime this summer.
Prince Amukamara, CB
After a three year stint with the Chicago Bears, veteran CB Prince Amukamara is once again available on the open market. He was released this past spring and went unclaimed after signing a three year extension back in 2018.
During his time in the Windy City, the former Nebraska product started 42 games for a Chicago defense that was consistently amongst the league’s best.
Amukamara finished 2019 with a solid coverage grade of 69.6 via Pro Football Focus, and would likely only command an incentive laded one year deal.
The Cardinals did not address the secondary during last week’s draft and are relying on second year pro Byron Murphy to take a large leap in his development. Additionally, veteran CB Robert Alford is a virtual unknown in terms of production after missing all of 2019 with a leg injury.
Pro Bowl CB Patrick Peterson is also entering the final year of his current agreement, although the team would like to bring him back longterm.
Amukamara attended Apollo High School in Glendale, Arizona and was named the 2006 “Big School Player of the Year” by the Arizona Republic.
The Cardinals have already signed one local product this offseason in Devon Kennard. Could Amukamara be next?
Markus Golden, OLB
Speaking of Kennard, the former Lion was quickly snatched up by the Cardinals a day after he was cut by Detroit. This move was impactful on many fronts, one of which being that it was Keim’s pivot off current conversations with reps for Markus Golden.
The Cardinals had been in touch with Golden’s people throughout the duration of the offseason, dating back to early January. Golden had departed as a free agent the previous year and signed a one year “prove it” deal with the New York Giants.
The Cardinals made an attempt to resign Golden, but the former Missouri Tiger actually took less money with the Giants.
Golden reunited with former Cardinal DC James Bettcher in the Big Apple and responded by tallying a team high 10 sacks. The Giants, to this point, have opted not to bring him back.
Even with another double digit sack season under his belt, Golden’s free agent market has been relativity quiet.
In fact, at the timing of this article, the Giants announced that they are using the “May 5 tender” on LB Markus Golden. According to reports, this is to ensure he count for them in the 2021 compensatory pick formula should he sign somewhere else.
Golden’s initial contract ask, according to reports, was roughly $8-10 million per season.
Remember that the Cardinals did not specifically address the edge position in last week’s draft (unless you consider Isaiah Simmons edge help).
Golden is still very close to many of his former teammates in Arizona, and would provide an upgrade over Kennard on passing downs.
Kennard himself has never had more than seven sacks in a given season.
Steve Keim is in an advantageous position in which he’s able to meticulously find cheap, one year additions for a defense that could still need a boost. Golden or any other edge help could be welcomed especially as the team continues to shop former first round pick Haason Reddick.
The team was proactive last offseason, even after signing veteran Terrell Suggs, as Keim secured pass rusher Cassius Marsh who ended up playing a vital role following the formers release.
You can never have too much pass rush.
Charles Clay, TE
Clay was one of the first additions made by Keim a year ago, and while he was mostly overshadowed by Maxx Williams, his presence in the lockerroom was still benefitial.
In an overall solid season that was supported by a 64.7 grade via Pro Football Focus, Clay finished the year with 18 receptions for 237 yards and a TD.
According to reports, the Cardinals were holding off on bringing back Clay should the team use a premium draft pick on a tight end. That, of course, did not happen which reopens the idea that he could return.
As far as in house options at the position, Arizona did see flashes of brilliance from former Saints practice squad standout Dan Arnold.
Arnold finished with 102 yards receiving with two touchdowns in only three games played with the redbirds.
Still, the Cardinals could look to bring back Clay on a vet minimum deal to once again group him with both Williams and Arnold.