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Thoughts on PFF’s free agency predictions for the Cardinals

Pro Football Focus recently made a few predictions for the Cardinals in free agency. Let’s find out if those predictions make sense for the team.

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NFL: New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills
Could Patriots G Joe Thuney be headed to the desert this offseason?
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this week, ESPN listed the ideal landing spot for each of their top 50 free agents. As Walter pointed out, not one of those landing spots was with the Cardinals. Could this be a sign of a rough offseason ahead for GM Steve Keim?

Not so fast. PFF released a similar list as well, and they went all the way up to 150 free agents. They predicted a few players to leave the desert, a few who would stay, and a couple splashy free agent signings within their top 50.

Today, I’ll go through PFF’s predictions and offer a few brief thoughts. Let’s start with the players PFF has leaving the team this offseason.

117. WR Larry Fitzgerald

Prediction: Fitzgerald retires. If not, he signs a one-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals for $5.5 million fully guaranteed.

I predicted a $5M contract for Fitz if he comes back, so this prediction seems fairly accurate to me. This is such a tough situation because Fitz is one of my favorite NFL players ever and the Cardinals GOAT, but couldn’t that $5M be put to better use elsewhere on the roster? Obviously 2020 was an atypical NFL season in general and for Fitz in particular, but he sure looked cooked to me. But I suppose I would be okay with him coming back on a discounted salary like this as a WR3/4.

87. EDGE Haason Reddick

Prediction: Panthers sign Reddick for one year, $8.5 million.

This one would be tough to stomach—but I also don’t know how accurate this prediction is. Surely a 26-year-old coming off a 12.5-sack season could fetch more on the open market than this? If this is all Reddick could garner, I’d expect Keim would be able to make it work. But I feel like some team will offer him a multi-year deal that the Cardinals might not be able to match. Reddick will be a fascinating player to watch this offseason. I’d love to see him back in the desert for the right price.

75. T Kelvin Beachum

Prediction: Steelers sign Beachum for one year, $4.5 million.

Beachum went from being somewhat of an offseason afterthought last year to starting every game at RT for the Redbirds. He was a steady presence on the O-line, but with Marcus Gilbert coming back from his opt-out year and Josh Jones waiting in the wings, he’s not a must-resign. If someone wants to offer him $4.5M, Keim should let him walk.

133. TE Dan Arnold

Prediction: Arnold signs for one year, $1.75 million.

PFF didn’t list a specific team that Arnold signs with, so I’ll just assume it’s the Cardinals. He flashed as a receiving TE last year, hauling in 31 passes for 438 yards (14.1 YPC, tops on the team) and 4 TDs—but ball security was an issue. This seems like a reasonable deal to me for the soon-to-be-26-year-old. Those numbers could certainly rise with the tide if the offense improves and make $1.75M look like a bargain.

77. RB Kenyan Drake

Prediction: Cardinals sign Drake for three years, $20 million.

Nothing against Drake personally or as a player, but I would hate this deal if it were to happen. He’s a serviceable player and put up decent numbers in the Ground Raid, but I think his numbers—239 carries for 955 yards (a pedestrian 4.0 YPC) and 10 TDs with almost no impact in the passing game—are easily replaceable for much less than ~$7M a year. No one would bat an eye if Chase Edmonds put up similar numbers on the ground with much better receiving stats. As I’ve been saying all along, let Drake walk and nab a cheap back in the draft or free agency to pair with Edmonds next year and spend this money elsewhere.

71. CB Patrick Peterson

Prediction: Cardinals sign Peterson for two years, $25M.

In the article linked earlier, I also advocated for letting Peterson walk. PFF succinctly summed up why: “2020 [saw] him post his worst coverage grade since 2011 to go with a league-high 11 penalties. Recent play shows a below-average corner in both man and zone coverage.” Does that sound like a player worth $12.5M a year—especially one on the wrong side of 30? And Vance Joseph’s defense has never seemed to be a good fit for him, and Joseph likely isn’t going anywhere. That said, I shudder to think of what our secondary would look like if Keim lets him go but strikes out on bringing aboard another veteran CB1 via trade or free agency. I hope Keim is doing his homework on this year’s CB options.

46. DI Shelby Harris

Prediction: Cardinals sign Harris for three years, $33.375 million.

Now on to the new players PFF has us bringing in. Harris is a nice player and has some familiarity with Joseph’s defense already, having played for him for two years in Denver. But he’ll be 30 by the time the season starts and that’s a lot of money—Jordan Phillips money, which the team is already regretting. Although the Redbirds definitely need bodies on the D-line, this would be a head-scratching signing—and where’s the $11M a year coming from? I’d rather two younger, cheaper options for that money than overpaying for Harris like this.

13. G Joe Thuney

Prediction: Cardinals sign Thuney for four years, $57 million.

Hoo boy, that’s a lot of quiche. Guard is definitely a need for the Cardinals, and Thuney is one of the best ones available—still just 28, he’s a 5-year starter who has never missed a game in his career. He’d be a massive upgrade in the interior of our O-line, likely pushing Justin Pugh to RG (if not off the team) and helping to keep Kyler upright against the likes of Aaron Donald. But $14M a year would put Thuney among the highest-paid guards in the league, and the Redbirds aren’t exactly flush with cap space. And is guard really our biggest need? Upgrading the O-line like this would obviously be great, and I could get behind a move like this but only if it works under the cap and we still have plenty of flexibility to make other moves.

Final Thoughts

I usually like PFF’s grades/analysis, but a lot of these moves seem questionable to me, especially the big ones. I mean, $135M for Drake, Peterson, Harris, and Thuney? And what would the cap hit be this year when all the signing bonuses and all that are factored in? Remember, we only have about $20M cap space right now. Thuney intrigues me, but I’d pass on the other three.

What do you think, Cardinals fans? Do you like these predictions? Or do you have your sights set on other players on PFF’s list? Throw out a few offseason predictions in the comments.