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Recapping Cardinals free agent haul so far with the 2021 NFL Draft 24 days away

J.J. Watt, AJ Green, Rodney Hudson, and Matt Prater have a combined 17 Pro Bowl selections

Tennessee Titans v Houston Texans Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The Arizona Cardinals have been very busy this offseason, adding many proven talents to a roster that had many holes and needed a boost in leadership.

This list includes J.J. Watt, AJ Green, Rodney Hudson (trade), Malcolm Butler, Matt Prater, Colt McCoy, Shawn Williams, and Brian Winters.

Although it might be one of the older free agent hauls in recent memory with an average age of 31.75, it is also one of the most established group of players the Cardinals have ever added in one season.

Despite having an older roster, the valuable experience from these proven veterans could be exactly what the Cardinals need to make the playoffs after falling one game short of a playoff berth last season.

Indianapolis Colts v Houston Texans Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

J.J. Watt - Defensive End

Watt was the first of many additions as he signed a two-year $31 million with the Cardinals. He immediately improves a defensive line that was among one of the worst in the NFL last season in the pass rush category.

Despite being the most double-teamed edge rusher in 2020, Watt still managed to get 45 pressures which is more than half of the pressures of the Cardinals’ defensive line rotation (79). No Cardinals’ defensive lineman in 2020 generated more than 19 pressures.

Watt earned an 85.4 overall grade by Pro Football Focus, which is the seventh-highest among edge rushers last season. The future Hall of Famer has 531 tackles and 101 sacks in his 10-year NFL career. The long-time team captain of the Houston Texans will be a great mentor for the Cardinals’ defensive line draft selections of the last two years.

Dallas Cowboys v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

AJ Green - Wide Receiver

Green (6’4’’ 207lbs) is coming off his worst season in the NFL with 47 receptions, a career-low of 527 receiving yards, and two touchdowns through 16 games. He signed a one-year $6 million contract with two voidable years in 2022 and 2023.

The 32-year-old receiver struggled to create separation during the 2020 season. Even with tight coverage, Green continued to make the tough catches. He was one of the league leaders in contested catches.

With DeAndre Hopkins drawing all of the attention as the No. 1 receiver, Green will have more favorable matchups as the No. 2 receiver on the Cardinals. He is another big target for Kyler Murray to work with. Now, Christian Kirk can play in his natural position in the slot full-time.

Oakland Raiders v New York Jets

Rodney Hudson - Center

Center was one of the Cardinals’ biggest needs. GM Steve Keim upgraded that position quickly by trading a third-round pick to the Raiders in exchange for three-time Pro Bowler Rodney Hudson and a seventh-round pick.

Hudson allowed only 14 pressures and was penalized only once last season. He has been one of the best centers in the NFL over the last decade, a fact that Kyler Murray should be really happy about.

The 31-year-old center is a major upgrade over Mason Cole, who allowed 23 pressures and the second-most penalties (8) at his position in 2020. He was traded to the Minnesota Vikings for a sixth-round pick.

Tennessee Titans v Cleveland Browns Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

Malcolm Butler - Cornerback

Cardinals had two vacancies at outside cornerback with Patrick Peterson signing with the Minnesota Vikings and Dre Kirkpatrick still a free agent. They filled one of the holes with one of the best available free agents at the position.

Malcolm Butler (5’11’’ 190lbs) signed a one-year $6 million contract with a voidable year in 2022. He set career highs in tackles (94) and interceptions (4) with the Tennessee Titans last season.

He is regarded as one of the best tackling cornerbacks in the NFL and one of the better players in man coverage. Peterson and Kirkpatrick were both liabilities at tackling. Butler earned a coverage grade of 72.7 and allowed a passer rating of 83.7 in 2020.

Detroit Lions v Tennessee Titans Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Matt Prater - Kicker

Just like Green, Matt Prater is coming off a bad season converting only 21-of-28 (75 percent) of his field goals.

The 36-year-old kicker signed a two-year $6.5 million contract with the Cardinals. Prater reunites with special teams coach Jeff Rodgers and long snapper Aaron Brewer as previous members of the Denver Broncos.

Can Prater return to form as one of the best kickers in NFL history? Or will he continue struggle just like the previous Cardinals kickers (Zane Gonzalez, Phil Dawson) before him?

Arizona Cardinals v New York Giants Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Colt McCoy - Quarterback

In the Cardinals’ season finale against the Los Angeles Rams, Chris Streveler took over for Kyler Murray in the first quarter after he sustained an injury. However when he was forced into action, Streveler struggled. Though one game against one of NFL’s best defenses is not enough to give a fair assessment of the second-year signal caller, it did not stop Steve Keim from adding a veteran backup quarterback in free agency.

Colt McCoy signed a one-year deal, with terms undisclosed for now. He completed 600-of-989 passes for 6,455 passing yards, 30 touchdowns, and 28 interceptions. He has an 8-22 win-loss record in his 30 career starts.

The addition of McCoy could open up the opportunity for Kliff Kingsbury to use Streveler in a Taysom Hill-like way. McCoy would be a good mentor for Streveler and might still be able to teach a few things to Kyler Murray.

Cincinnati Bengals v Miami Dolphins Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Shawn Williams - Safety, Brian Winters - Offensive Guard

Over the last eight seasons, Williams (6’0’’ 212lbs) made 61 starts in 119 games all with the Cincinnati Bengals. He has 413 tackles, 12 interceptions, and three sacks in his long NFL career. He had consecutive 100 tackle seasons in 2018-19 and made a career-high in interceptions (5) in 2018. He was relegated to special team duties last season and was quite good with five special team tackles. After Jalen Thompson’s injury-plagued 2020 season, Williams is very underrated signing. He signed a one-year deal, reuniting with AJ Green and Vance Joseph.

Winters signed with the Cardinals on a one-year veteran minimum contract. He has extensive experience as a starter, making 88 starts out of 105 games in eight years in the NFL. He enjoyed some of the best years of his career with Cardinals’ offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum (2017-19) when they played for the New York Jets. The 29-year-old brings positional versatility as a backup having played both left and right guard.