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Should Cardinals Tag Patrick Peterson?

Arizona Cardinals v New York Giants Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

I would like to thank Burns and Gambo for taking the time to read my “Cardinals’ 2021 Jobs in Question” article and then discussing aspects of it on their show a couple of days ago.

I listen very frequently to Burns and Gambo. I appreciate their energetic insights and their visceral reactions to what they see day-to-day and week-to-week from the Cardinals.

As someone who grew up in the New York metropolitan area, I think that Burns and Gambo are Arizona’s equivalent of WFAN’s Mike and the Mad Dog. As a football fan, you want to hear shrewd analysis combined with passionate banter. With Burns and Gambo, just as it was in NY with Mike and The Mad Dog —- we get lavish servings of both —- plus the added element of alluring entertainment.

The segment begins at the 13:14 mark of this recording.

Dave Burns went through the lists of “Existing Player Contracts for 2021” and “2021 Free Agents” and asked Gambo “should he stay or should he go”?

Existing Player Contracts 2012

  1. Chandler Jones —- Gambo: “I would bring him back, and if they can restructure the contract go ahead and restructure it.” (my take: UNDECIDED)
  2. Devon Kennard —- Gambo: “should be gone.” (my take: AGREE)
  3. Robert Alford —- Gambo: “IR for two years, he’s got to go.”(my take: AGREE).

They didn’t offer a take on Justin Pugh —- would be curious to know where they stand on him. (my take: keep him)

Nor did they mention Jordan Hicks. (my take: let him go)

UFAs

  1. Patrick Peterson —- Gambo: “I would put the franchise tag on him for one more year. I know he’s not great, but I would bring him back.” (my take: let him go)
  2. De’Vondre Campbell —- Gambo: “do not bring him back.” (my take: AGREE)
  3. Markus Golden —- Gambo: ““I’d bring him back.” (my take: AGREE if Jones is traded or let go)
  4. Haason Reddick —- “see what the market wants to pay him, he can’t play in the 43 so it’s got to be a 34 team. I would not put any of the tags on him, it’s too much money on the cap.” (my take: TAG him).
  5. Kelvin Beachum —-Gambo: “I bring him back. He was fantastic and shouldn’t cost too much. (my take: if the money’s right, AGREE, but as a mentor to Josh Jones and as the team’s swing tackle).
  6. Zane Gonzalez —-Gambo: “I think they like Zane Gonzalez”.
  7. Corey Peters —- Gambo: “they drafted two players who can replace him in Lawrence and Fotu. They should be able to move on.” (my take: same as with Kelvin Beachum, if the money’s right, re-sign him for his leadership and rotational value).

RFAs:

Gambo: “Keep Dan Arnold, Trent Sherfield, Dennis Gardeck and Zeke Turner.” (my take: AGREE).

Commentary:

I would be curious to know Dave Burns’ choices. He asked some very good questions about some of the players, particularly the ones who are on the bubble, so to speak.

I say this because I was very surprised to hear Gambo say that he is in favor of keeping Chandler Jones, tagging Patrick Peterson and letting Haason Reddick test the market.

Player (age in 2021): 2020 PFF grades:

Chandler Jones (31): 62.6

Patrick Peterson (31): 55.2

Haason Reddick (26): 72.8 (2nd highest grade of the defensive starters behind Budda Baker)

Here we have Haason Reddick heading into his prime, coming off an excellent season (63 tackles, 12.5 sacks, 56 QB pressures, 6 forced fumbles, only gave up 158 yards in pass coverage - less than 10 yards a game —- and gave up 0 TDs).

By the way, can/should anyone blame him for being miscast as an ILB for three years?

And then we have Chandler Jones who only had 1 sack and 10 QB pressures in 5 games before his season-ending bicep tear and Patrick Peterson who gave up 677 yards (206 RAC yards), intercepting 3 passes, but giving up 5 TDs and incurring 12 penalties.

By keeping Jones ($20.8) and tagging Peterson.($14.9M) it would count as $35.7M on the 2021 cap, with would be 1/5th ($20%) of the projected $174M team cap.

What I am hearing from a number of Cardinals pundits and fans is the argument “we need to keep Patrick Peterson because he is better than any other CB in the free agent market.”

What’s especially surprising about this claim is that it comes after a season where Peterson’s skills were so diminished that QBs (even backups like C. J. Beathard and John Wolford) had no reservations whatsoever about throwing in Peterson’s direction.

Secondly, the most glaring weakness of Vance Joseph’s defense has been its softness on perimeter. This is why so many of the well-prepared opponents threw a barrage of jet sweeps, bootlegs, bubble screens, delay screens, simple flare passes, knowing that the two most reluctant tacklers and screen busters on the team were Patrick Peterson and Dre Kirkpatrick.

In today’s NFL, CBs have to be ballers. They have to be able to force the run and bust up screens. The Cardinals have one CB who does that and takes pride in it. His name is Byron Murphy. But he didn’t play much on the perimeter. Murphy is only a slot corner? To me, this is yet another personnel error with a high draft pick. Byron Murphy should be a starting CB on the perimeter where he absolutely balls.

As for the idea that Patrick Peterson is the best the Cardinals can do at CB in 2021, there are a number of free agent CBs who would fit the bill.

Group A:

William Jackson (CIN):: 71.4 overall, 77.3 tackling, 72.4 coverage

Brian Poole (NYJ): 77.1 overall, 83.6 tackling, 79.5 coverage

Desmond King (TEN): 70.7 overall, 64.8 tackling, 74.6 coverage

Ronald Darby (WAS): 76.0 overall, 70.0 tackling, 75.9 coverage

Shaquill Griffin (SEA): 64.1 overall, 69.2 tackling, 63.6 coverage

Ahkello Witherspoon (SF): 80.2overall, 75.5 tackling, 80.7 coverage

Xavier Rhodes (IND): 76.3 overall, 70.9 tackling, 77.5 coverage

Quinton Dunbar (SEA): 87.6 overall, 83.7 tackling; 89.5 coverage

_______________________________________________________________________________

Group B:

Sidney Jones (JAX): 68.1 overall, 65.0 tackling, 71.3 coverage

Michael Davis (LAC): 63.1 overall, 67.4 tackling, 62.9 coverage

Tye Smith (TEN): 71.9 overall, 87.7 tackling, 71.7 coverage

  • Note: I did not include any CB who had a tackling or coverage grade under 60.0, like Jason Verrett, Camerson Sutton and Fabian Moreau.

Instead of giving Patrick Peterson $14.9M on an f-tag, the Cardinals could sign 1 CB in Group A and one in Group B.

Imagine having a Cardinals’ defense where all 11 players tackle!

Or —-sign one of the FA CBs above and draft one of the top CBs:

CB Draft Pool: Very good in Round 1 and 2:

Round 1:

  • Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
  • Jaycee Horn, South Carolina
  • Patrick Surtian II, Alabama

Round 2:

  • Derion Kendrick, Clemson
  • Asante Samuel, Florida St.
  • Tyson Campbell, Georgia
  • Elijah Molden, Washington
  • Eric Stokes, Georgia
  • Josh Jobe, Alabama

Taking the Emotion and Nostalgia Out of It:

What would appear to be the wisest thing the Cardinals could do:

  • Trade or release Chandler Jones (recover his $15.6M base salary).
  • Let Patrick Peterson leave in free agency. Sign a younger, more physical (and less penalty prone) CB. Add another CB in free agency or with the 1st or 2nd round pick in the draft.
  • Sign Haason Reddick to a D.J. Humphries type 3 year deal —- or —-at the very least give him the transition or franchise tag. Right now, Reddick has a higher market value than any of the Cardinals’ free agents. He is an asset whom the Cardinals should want to protect. If the Cardinals let him go to another team without getting any compensation that would be a colossal organizational failure —- not only for wasting him for 3 years, but for not getting any compensation for him in return. . But —- the key is —- the Cardinals should want to keep Haason because right now he is the 2nd best player on the defense —- and, at 26, he hasn’t even hit his prime yet.
  • Plus, after years of playing 34 OLB who are too slow to play the position, the Cardinals have finally gotten it right with Reddick. He is the quintessential 34 SAM OLB. He is the FIRST OLB in years to be athletic enough to contain Russell Wilson. That in itself is a coup.
  • Moreover, the Cardinals now have another superb, quick, athletic OLB in Dennis Gardeck. Gardeck is a better fit than Jones as a 34 OLB. He had 7 sacks and 18 QB pressures in 79 pass rushing snaps. That is extraordinary. And, many times he was rushing from the inside as he did versus the Giants and 49ers.
  • With Reddick and Gardeck on the edges, the Cardinals would boast two OLBers with elite speed and athleticism. It would be the first time ever in the Cardinals’ version of the 34.
  • If the team trades or releases Chandler Jones, then it would make sense to re-sign Markus Golden to stay on as a nickel edge rusher.