Background: Dec 20, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns center JC Tretter (64) blocks Las Vegas Raiders outside linebacker K.J. Wright (34) during the second quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin
On Seth Cox’s Ben Niemann thread, Chamban81 posted this Sports Illustrated article by Ryan Sanudo yesterday: (thank you Chambana)
Five Free Agents Cardinals Should Sign Before Training Camp
Which NFL free agents could help the Arizona Cardinals before training camp?
- RYAN SANUDO
With under six weeks to go until training camp, the Arizona Cardinals have time to evaluate their roster.
There are plenty of veteran free-agent targets who will be finding NFL homes in the summer. The Cardinals need more depth on defense and the team recently signed cornerback Josh Jackson and linebacker Ben Niemann after seeing them tryout in minicamp last week.
It will be interesting to see what transpires with 32-year-old center Rodney Hudson, who was absent from both days of mandatory minicamp. It’s unclear what Hudson’s situation is and head coach Kliff Kingsbury told the media that his absence was unexcused.
We picked five free agents who make sense for the Cardinals to target. We won’t include free-agent cornerback Robert Alford, who played 13 games for the Cardinals last season and Kingsbury told the media that they remained in contact with the 33-year-old. We also won’t include center Billy Price, who visited with the Cardinals in May.
As of right now, we’ll assume that Hudson’s future remains in Arizona since there aren’t enough details concerning his situation.
According to OverTheCap, the Cardinals have $11.5 million in cap space, which doesn’t include the Jackson and Niemann signings.
In no order, here are five free agents who could help the Cardinals’ depth chart:
EDGE Trey Flowers
The Cardinals drafted outside linebackers Cameron Thomas, Myjai Sanders and Jesse Luketa in this year’s draft after losing Pro Bowler Chandler Jones in free agency. Markus Golden, who led the 2021 Cardinals in sacks (11), headlines the edge group. Other than the two rookies, Arizona could still use more depth knowing Devon Kennard and Dennis Gardeck (both didn’t record a sack in 2021) are the top two remaining outside linebacker options.
Signing EDGE Trey Flowers would make sense as the 28-year-old is a low-risk, high-reward type of player. Flowers’ price tag wouldn’t be costly as he’s missed 19 games over the last two seasons with the Detroit Lions due to an array of injuries. There’s hope Flowers could become valuable as he posted 21 sacks in three seasons with the New England Patriots from 2016 to 2018.
When healthy, Flowers was a sensational run defender. In 2019, Flowers had the highest run-stop percentage in the NFL per Pro Football Focus. Despite the injuries, Flowers finished with 10.5 sacks in 29 games with the Lions.
If the Cardinals sign Flowers, he could have a balanced snap count and help a Vance Joseph-led unit that struggled at rush defense in 2021.
CB Chris Harris Jr.
After the devastating death of Jeff Gladney on Memorial Day morning, the Cardinals are likely to find help in the cornerback area.
The 32-year-old Harris is still available. He spent nine seasons with the Denver Broncos from 2011 to 2019 and during that tenure, he was a four-time Pro Bowl selection, three-time All-Pro, and Super Bowl champion.
Harris hasn’t been named to a Pro Bowl since 2018. Yet last season, Pro Football Focus ranked Harris as the 60th-best cornerback among 116 qualifiers.
Arizona currently has Byron Murphy Jr. and Marco Wilson as its top two cornerbacks. While not all of it was on the cornerbacks, the Cardinals’ defense was burned for 30 passing touchdowns, which ranked 25th in the league.
Breon Borders, Jace Whittaker, Antonio Hamilton, Nate Brooks, rookie Christian Matthew and Josh Jackson make up the rest of the cornerback group. Adding a veteran like Harris could strengthen a group that needs depth.
EDGE Jason Pierre-Paul
Defensive ends J.J. Watt and Zach Allen could use a sidekick who moves around to keep defenses guessing. That sidekick could be the 33-year-old Pierre-Paul, who has the ability to line up in multiple positions and create havoc.
Unfortunately for Pierre-Paul, he had career lows in sacks, tackles and forced fumbles in 2021. He also played in only 12 games because of a broken finger and a shoulder injury.
From 2018 to 2020, Pierre-Paul had at least 8.5 sacks in each season, making the Pro Bowl in 2020 and contributing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Super Bowl-winning run in the same year.
Pierre-Paul could command $10 million annually in free agency, according to Spotrac. If his price lowers, it would be tough for general manager Steve Keim to not investigate.
CB Janoris Jenkins
In 2022, you can never have enough cornerbacks in the NFL. Entering a second season with 17 regular-season games, cornerbacks can go down via injury, the penalty rules favor wide receivers and that are better than ever.
Janoris “Jackrabbit” Jenkins, 33, is a free agent after being responsible for the third-most pass breaks-ups from 2018 to 2020, via ESPN’s Stats & Info. In 2021, Jenkins was boom or bust, giving up six touchdowns and 55 completions on 90 targets according to Pro Football Reference,
However, Jenkins ranked third in press-man coverage last season according to PFF. It’s unclear how to project Jenkins’ market, but there are still aspects of the former Pro Bowler that resemble a starting quality cornerback.
DT Ndamukong Suh
If you want availability and stability up front, this five-time Pro Bowl is your guy. The 2010 No. 2 overall pick hasn’t missed a game since 2011 and remains a force at defensive tackle.
Just like Pierre-Paul, Suh is another Super-Bowl-winning veteran Buc who needs an NFL home. Last season, Suh gathered six sacks, seven tackles for loss and 13 quarterback hits. While Suh played in 63% of the snaps in 2021, it’s easy to speculate if he could reunite with defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. In 2016, Suh played under Joseph for one season in Miami.
Rashard Lawrence and Leki Fotu are the two defensive tackles on the roster. The Cardinals could use Suh, especially knowing his playoff experience.
My response (with 2021 PFF grades):
Flowers (63.7): too injury prone.
Harris (62.4) : could be a. good fit, depending on his desire to regain his form. Has played for Vance and knows the system,
JPP (45.3) : won’t sign for cheap. I am higher on J.J. Watt (Edge, DI), Markus Golden, Dennis Gardeck, Cameron Thomas and Myjai Sanders than most. These are the 5 edge rushers I want to see take the snaps, not an over-the-hill veteran.
Note: Cardinals’ fans have been rightfully complaining that the coaches do not play the top draft picks in favor of giving the vast majority of the snaps to mediocre veterans who are in the last years of their contracts. This needs to change. Right?
Jenkins (65.9) : not physical enough for a Vance Joseph defense and doesn’t take consistent pride in tackling (very Pat P-esque).
Suh (52.4) : was a guest on NFL Live yesterday, said he doesn’t want to pay state taxes (which made him scoff a little at joining the Rams or Chargers --- really?) and appears to be eyeing the Raiders. Cards would have to offer him a bag. Last year his level of play was not consistently strong. Caveat emptor.
What do you think, RedC? Everyone?
My Current Top 5:
- C JC Tretter (78.6)
Note: Boston Globe writer Ben Volin believes that Rodney Hudson (57.4) is unhappy with his contract. According to Spotrac: In 2022, Hudson will earn a base salary of $10,850,000, while carrying a cap hit of $12,610,000 and a dead cap value of $8,040,000.
- CB Kevin King (71.0)
- CB Robert Alford (66.9)
- T Duane Brown (71.5)
Note: trading or releasing D.J. Humphries (67.5) can add over $15M to the Cardinals’ cap space. The Cardinals could acquire Duane Brown, the stronger player, for about half of the $15M. odds are not great that the Cardinals sign Humphries to another extension anyway.
- C Billy Price (62.3)
The recent signing of ILB Ben Niemann:
It’s mystifying that the Cardinals keep signing ILBs who lack the speed to cover RBs and TEs. Nick Vigil and Ben Niemann are decent zone guys, but are liabilities in man coverage. Not great downhill tacklers. Sound familiar? Niemann is a good special teamer, but it would be hard too imagine him beating out Zeke Turner for a 53 man roster spot.
NFC West Inside LB 40 times:
- 4.39 Isaiah Simmons
- 4.46 Bobby Wagner
- 4.64 Fred Warner
- 4.64 Cody Barton
- 4.65 Ezekiel Turner
- 4.67 Zaven Collins
- 4.67 Tanner Vallejo
- 4.72 Nick Vigil
- 4.75 Ben Niemann
What do you think, RedC? Everyone?