Having laid out a number of off-season possibilities for the Arizona Cardinals throughout the first three articles of this series, now it’s time to consider what an encouraging off-season would be for the 2024 Arizona Cardinals. Here are some suggestions and an ROTB Mock Draft Simulator competition:
- QB Kyler Murray
- RB James Conner
- S Budda Baker
Headed for New Teams:
- T D.J. Humphries
- WR Marquise Brown
- WR Zach Pascal
- CB Marco Wilson
Cardinals Own UFAs to Keep
- G Trystan Colon —- 26
- LS Aaron Brewer —- 34
- DT Kevin Strong Jr. —- 28
- LB Krys Barnes —- 26
- P Blake Gillikin —- 26
RFAs to Keep:
- WR Greg Dortch
- C Keith Ishmael
- DE Jonathan Ledbetter
ERFAs to Keep
- LB Jesse Luketa —- 25
- T Carter O’Donnell —- 26
- NT Naquan Jones —- 25
Outside UFAs to Sign:
Moore pushed for an early re-up on the four-year extension he signed in 2019, but his efforts were to no avail as the Colts worked to overhaul the roster and get younger in the secondary, in particular. Fortunately for Moore, he is earning a career-high 82.5 coverage grade along with a 71.3 run-defense grade — his sixth straight season going above 65.0.
At 5-foot-9 and 190 pounds, Moore never backs down from a tackle opportunity, doing a good job as the force defender to keep ball carriers inside or running the alley to make the tackle himself when called upon — a key role in Gus Bradley’s Cover 3 defense.
Moore became just the 28th player in NFL history to record two pick-sixes in the same game with his outstanding Week 9 performance and can now look to capitalize on a strong season. However, it will be an uphill battle in a completely dormant slot cornerback market.
Top free agent comparison: Buster Skrine, 2019
Contract Projection: Two years, $13.5 million ($6.75 million per year), $8 million total guaranteed
44. C ANDRE JAMES, LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
James clearly earned a lot of respect and trust from the previous Raiders regime, given that the team was willing to trade away franchise pillar Rodney Hudson to the Arizona Cardinals to have James supplant him at center.
The move has proven to be a smart one. James is patient and a clean fit in pass protection, able to mirror the shiftier interior pass-rushers and generally withstand power rushes, save for a few matchups with the true brute forces on the inside.
Top free agent comparison: Bradley Bozeman, 2023
Contract Projection: Three years, $24 million ($8 million per year), $13.33 million total guaranteed
Note: The coaches would slide Hjalte Froholdt over to LG and have Andre James start at center for the next three years.
- DT Grover Stewart (6-4, 314, IND) —- $2.6M per yr
- WR Jalen Guyton (6-1, 212, LAC) —- $1.2M per yr.+ incentives
- TE Harrison Bryant (6-5, 230, CLE) —- $1.2M per yr. + incentives
Cardinals’ 2024 NFL Draft Mitch Mock
- While I was tempted to trade down, the buzz and talent jump that Marvin Harrison Jr. would create for the Cardinals, plus the fact that he would join Paris Johnson Jr. as back-to-back Buckeye 1st rounders for Arizona, made the pick virtually imperative.
2024 WRs: Marvin Harrison Jr., Michael Wilson, Rondale Moore, Greg Dortch, Jalen Guyton
2. Joe Alt is my favorite lineman (on either side of the ball) in this draft. If MHJ is off the board, I am hoping that the Cardinals trade down close enough to be able to draft Joe Alt, T, Notre Dame or Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia. But, seeing as the MHJ was on the board and we selected him, I was hoping to see big RT Taliese Fuaga of Oregon St. on the board and voila there he was. Drafting Fuaga means a switch to LT for PJJ, which, imo, is where he should have been playing from day one.
2024 Starting Offensive Line:
- LT Paris Johnson Jr.
- LG Hjalte Froholdt
- C Andre James
- RG Will Hernandez
- RT Taliese Fuaga
3. While Michigan DT Kris Jenkins Jr. is currently ranked the #56 player in the 2024 NFL Draft by PFF, I believe that he is the second-best defensive tackle prospect in the draft behind Illinois’ Jer’Zhan Newton. Jenkins at 6-3, 305 reminds me a good deal of the Dolphins’ Christian Wilkins (6-4, 310) —- Wilkins is the UFA I would most love to see that Cardinals sign in free agency, but it is very likely that the Fins will put the franchise tag on him and team cannot afford to give up 2 first round picks to acquire him.
2024 Starting Defensive Line:
- LOLB Zaven Collins
- LDE Kris Jenkins Jr.
- NT Kevin Strong Jr.
- RDE Dante Stills
- ROLB B.J. Ojulari/Dennis Gardeck
2024 Defensive Interior: Kris Jenkins Jr., Kevin Strong Jr., Grover Stewart, Dante Stills, Roy Lopez, Jonathan Ledbetter, Ben Stille
4. One of the Cardinals’ most glaring weaknesses on defense is their lack of a bona-fide cover free safety with the range and instincts to make big plays on the back end. This is why I jumped on Kris Jenkins’ Michigan teammate Rod Moore. If you watched Moore’s stellar level of play in the Ohio St. game, this play sealed the big win for the Wolverines while trying to bracket Marvin Harrison Jr.
5. The next thing I wanted to do was to keep strengthening the middle of the Cardinals’ defense. in particular, I wanted to draft a MIKE ILB so that Kyzir White can shift over to WILB where he shined in Philly.I went with this year’s Butkus Award winner, Payton Wilson from North Carolina St. Wilson may well be the most instinctive downhill defender and most explosive inside blitzer in this draft.
6. Again, wanted to keep strengthening the middle of the defense and was elated to see Texas’ DT Byron Murphy II on the board at pick #79. Murphy’s a compact, somewhat under-sized DT at 6-1, 308, but don’t let that fool you. He’s got rocket boosters on his hips. He also is tenacious versus double team block, at times out-quicking them.
7. While some may scoff at the notion of the Cardinals selecting a QB with their early pick in the 4th round, as AZKidd and I have discussed for two years now, there is something special about Florida St.’s Jordan Travis —- who, intime, could become the Cardinals’ version of Brock Purdy. What I love most about him is his super-quick tight release and the accuracy of his throws. he does a very good job of buying those precious extra seconds of time in and around the pocket.
My primary concern about Kyler Murray has never been his talent —- there are few dudes on the planet with his combination of skills. But,the main reason why I was hoping the Cardinals would wait to sign Kyler long-term was the question of whether he could endure the physical rigors and sustain a high level of play throughout a 17-game schedule and hopefully for several games in the playoffs. We have yet to know whether Kyler can.
Thus, it is because of that question that I believe the Cardinals should keep drafting QBs like the 49ers did when they were questioning Jimmy G’s durability. I very much like what we have in Clayton Tune —- and would have much preferred watching him grow and learn at QB the first 8-9 games, rather than spend a 5th round pick on a short-term rental at the position. But, adding a talent like Jordan Travis to the mix would feel like a very warm security blanket.
8. Khyree Jackson will probably be a Day 2 pick, With three-3rd round picks, I hope the Cardinals select him with one of them. I knew with the PFF rankings that I could select him here —- but that won’t be true on draft day. This kid is tall, fluid and physical —- made to order as a boundary corner.
9. The same can be said about Kansas St. All-American G Cooper Beebe. He’s likely going to be a top 120 pick. But, hey, this mock is about taking the best players when and where we can get them. Check out his brute strength at the line of scrimmage and how solid he is in his base and hand placements. Check out a few of the early plays here of him versus Texas’ rough and tumble defensive lineman:
10. Frank Gore, Jr. reminds me a lot of Emari Demercado. I am so high on Emari that the thought of adding another tough as nails RB like him to the team is very appealing, particularly at this point in the later rounds of the draft.
11. Malachi Moore from Alabama is a very aggressive box safety where the Cardinals need depth. You probably remember how sky high I was about Brian Branch who played the “star” DB position at Alabama last year. Well, while Malachai Moore has very big shoes to fill at the star position this year, he balled his butt off covering from the slot and defending runs and screens. Here’s consistency for you —- he graded 80.2 in pass coverage and 79.5 in run defense.
12. WR Jacob Cowling, Arizona is another player whom I believe will ascend up the draft boards over the next few months. He reminds me quite a bit of Tyler Lockett.
13. My super sleeper is LB/SS/ATH Jontrey Hunter of Georgia St. He’s a 6-1, 220 rover type player who has a nose for the ball and for making big plays.
Would you be happy with this draft? Yes? No? Why?
Thanks to all of you who voted for the Cardinals picks at each spot in the draft.
We will try to do it again before the draft in April.