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Unleashing Cardinals’ Youth (with FA and Mock Draft)

San Francisco 49ers v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The strength of the current Arizona Cardinals’ roster is in the as yet fully untapped skill and leadership of the team’s younger players.

It means a lot that Pro Bowl QB Kyler Murray, 2020 highest graded offensive player T D.J. Humphries, Pro Bowl S Budda Baker and LB/ST ace Dennis Gardeck are already captains. In these 4 young men, here is the core of the team’s top players and leaders. Kyler, D.J., Budda and the Barbarian are 23, 27, 25 and 26 respectively.

The one thing that I hope the Cardinals’ GM Steve Keim, HC Kliff Kingsbury, DC Vance Joseph and STC Jeff Rodgers learned more than anything else from the 2020 8-8 season is to play the talented young players on the roster. As we peruse the roster, here are a number of younger players who could be impact players, given a proper chance: (in alphabetic order)

DE Zack Allen (23) —- emerged late in season as bona fide playmaker (STARTER 34 DE)

TE Dan Arnold (25) —- showed flashes of brilliance, needs to refine skills (STARTER in 12 P)

RB Eno Benjamin (21) —- kept on roster for a reason, needs to shine this pre-season (BACKUP)

G Mason Cole (24) —- best suited to play G (STARTER RG)

TE Darrell Daniels (26) —- STs stalwart who is developing as TE3 (BACKUP)

TE Seth DeValve (27) —- athletic, pass catching TE who contributed late (BACKUP)

DE Michael Dogbe (24) —- an aggressive, sure tackler, despite ideal 34 DE size (BACKUP)

RB Chase Edmonds (24) —- nifty fit as all-purpose RB with leadership skills (STARTER/RB2)

OLB Kylie Fitts (26) —- can set the edge and apply pressure in pass rush (BACKUP)

NT Leki Fotu (22) —- has all the makings of a superb NT (STARTER)

C Lamont Gaillard (24) —- smart and aggressive, needs a chance (STARTER)

WR Andy Isabella (24) —- brings much needed speed if thrown to on time (WR in 10-11 P)

WR KeeSean Johnson (24) —- has the size and talent to shine (WR in 10-11 P)

T Josh Jones (23) —- athletic edge blocker with natural agility, strength (STARTER RT)

WR Christian Kirk (24) —- keeps flashing talent, but lacks consistency (WR in 10-11 P)

DE Rashard Lawrence (22) —- could be classic 2nd year breakout player (DI ROTATION)

G Koda Martin (25) —- has natural ability, needs reps (BACKUP)

T Joshua Miles (25) —- mobile, strong edge blocker is developing nicely (BACKUP)

G/T Justin Murray —- valuable swing G/T (POTENTIAL STARTER RG, SWING G/T)

CB Byron Murphy (23) —- most consistent CB as sophomore (STARTER RCB, NICKEL)

CB Kevin Peterson (26) —- improved play late after early PI struggles (BACKUP)

OLB Haason Reddick (26) —- most natural SAM OLB since Cards have run a 34 (STARTER)

WR Trent Sherfield (24) —- has ability, toughness to win from slot, ST dynamo (BACKUP)

ILB Isaiah Simmons (22) —- showed flashes of elite physical traits and versatility (STARTER)

QB Chris Streveler (26) —- tough assignment vs. Rams D, but showed grit (BACKUP)

S Deonte Thompson (23) —- made strides as nickel safety and spot starter (NICKEL S)

S Jalen Thompson (22) —- slowed by injuries, but appears ready to splash and thrive (STARTER)

LB Ezekiel Turner (24) —- STs stud, could surprise at ILB as aggressive tackler (BACKUP)

LB Tanner Vallejo (26) —-best ILB tackling grade (77.3) and 3rd best STs grade (78.3) (POTENTIAL STARTER)

OLB Reggie Walker (24) —- 69.9 tackling grade in 17 snaps (BACKUP)

WR JoJo Ward (23) —- quick slot who was highly productive in WAC (BACKUP)

RB Jonathan Ward (23) —- one play TD wonder with speed and upside (BACKUP)

S Charles Washington (27) —- #1 ST grade (90.0), #2 defensive grade (89.0) on just 17 snaps (ST PRO BOWL CANDIDATE, BACKUP S).

LB Evan Weaver (22) —- Cal tackling machine, needs pre-season to prove talent (BACKUP, ST dynamo)

CB Jace Whittaker (25) —- pesky slot CB, who needs to trust feet and play flag free (BACKUP)

TE Maxx Williams (26) —- dynamic in running game, under-rated as spot receiver (STARTER)


if the Cardinals are eager and willing to put their faith in the young talent, then imagine how simplified free agency could be if these are the penciled in starters (key backups):

QB Murray (Streveler)

RB Edmonds (Ward, Benjamin)

X WR Hopkins (Johnson)

Z WR Kirk (Isabella, Ward)

Y TE (Arnold, DeValve)

TE Williams (Daniels)

LT Humphries (Miles)

LG Pugh (Murray, Martin)

C Gaillard (Cole)

RG Cole (Murray, Martin)

RT Jones (Murray)

LDE Allen (Lawrence)

NT Fotu (Lawrence)

RDE Phillips (Dogbe)

SAM OLB Reddick (Walker)

MIKE ILB Vallejo (Weaver)

WILL ILB Simmons (Turner)

BANDIT OLB Jones (Gardeck, Fitts)

LCB _______________________________

FS Baker (D. Thompson)

SS J.Thompson (Washington)

RCB Murphy (K. Peterson)

NCB Murphy (Whittaker)

Clearing Cap Space:

Extensions w/ Restructures: (The Syracuse Boys!)

  • Jones
  • Pugh

Create: $15M in cap


  • Alford (adds $5.95M)
  • Hicks (adds $2M, saves $12M over 2 years with $6M dead cap, $3M in 2021, $3M in 2022)
  • Kennard (adds $2.95M)

Total Added Cap Space: $25.9M

Current Available Cap Space: $9.25 (per Sportrac)

Kitty: $36.15M

Draft: $6M

Kitty: $30.15M

Sign: (* added incentives)

  • OLB Haason Reddick @ 3 years, $42M*, backloaded: counts: $5M on 2021 cap
  • OLB Dennis Gardeck @ 1 year, $2.9M*, counts $2.9M on 2021 cap
  • ILB Tanner Vallejo @ 1 year, $1.M*, counts $1M on 2021 cap
  • S Charles Washington @ 3 years, $7M*, backloaded, counts $1.5M on 2021 cap
  • TE Dan Arnold @ 3 years, $9M*, backloaded, counts $2M on 2021 cap
  • LB Ezekiel Turner @ 1 year at $1M, counts $1M on 2021 cap
  • WR Trent Sherfield @ 1 year $800K, counts $1M on 2021 cap.

2021 Cap Hit: $14.55M

Kitty: $15.75M

Free Agent Signings:

CB Shaquill Griffin (26) @ 4 years, $44M, counts $5M on 2021 cap (Sportrac projection)

CB Sydney Jones (25) @ 1 year, $2M, counts $2M on 2021 cap

WR Curtis Samuel (25) @ 4 years $49M, counts $5M on 2021 cap (Sportrac projection)

ILB Kamalei Correa (27) @ 1 year $1.5M, counts $1.5M on 2021 cap.

Cap Space Remaining: $2.25M

2021 NFL Draft: