I may be a little late to the party on this, but I recently came across Walter Mitchell's version of the ideal Cardinals offseason, complete with free agent signings and draft picks (www.revengeofthebirds.com/2023/2/16/23602446/1st-jg-hc-mock-with-ufa-signings).
For the most part, I like what he put together. I definitely agree on many of his choices. I suppose I could leave well enough alone, but where's the fun in that? I love playing the role of (wannabe) GM. Besides, Walt did issue a challenge, or at least a call to action.
So here it goes. You may notice several similarities. Like I said, we agree on a lot. But I had to put my spin on what I would do differently, or at least try to do. Let me know what you think.
I'll start with the free agents I would target then go to my own mock draft with ideal trades. I primarily focused on targeting starters or higher impact positions in free agency. I didn't quite dive as deep into the minutia with depth players as much as Walt did. But I think you'll get the idea.
- DE Zach Allen (ARI)
- CB Byron Murphy (ARI)
- G Will Hernandez (ARI)
- T Kelvin Beacham (ARI)
- WR Greg Dortch (ARI)
- WR DeAndre Hopkins
- LT D.J. Humphries
- QB Colt McCoy
- QB Jacoby Brissett (CLE)
- WR DJ Chark (DET)
- G Ben Powers (BLT)
- DT Sheldon Rankins (NYJ)
- LB Kyzir White (PHI)
- CB Isaiah Oliver (ATL)
- T Andre Dillard (PHI)
- K Matt Gay (LAR) or Eddy Pineiro (CAR)
- P Riley Dixon (LAR) or Matt Haack (IND)
- LS Taybor Pepper (SF) or Matthew Orzech (LAR)
- RB Tony Pollard (DAL) - I know he should demand a big payday. So, this may be a stretch. But I'm calculating for a particularly deep free agent RB class - along with a strong draft class. I'm hoping that might drop his demand enough to take a shot at him. I think his explosiveness would be a huge boost to our offense.
- CB Patrick Peterson (MIN) - This may be a pipe dream based on how he has torched the franchise over the past couple of years. I'm sure many fans wouldn't even want him back. Heck, I might be one of them. He has tried to clarify his beef was with Steve Keim, not the organization. Not sure I believe that, but who knows. I said all year that if he played like that while he was still here, they would have never let him go. I think he knows that deep down. I know he desperately wants recognition in the ROH. This could be a way to patch things up and make it happen. The Cards get a proven CB1 (or at least a solid CB2) for his last year or two, and P2 can resurrect his reputation with the franchise and fan base he made his name with.
Even though age is not the primary factor, with a few exceptions, I tried to focus on getting younger and deeper. The theme of this new era appears to be youth and resurgence. The idea is to get a younger group to build and develop around.
I also focused heavily on the big boys up front, on both sides of the ball. I would make a point to find a legitimate anchor in the interior of the DL. Rankins may not be all he was expected to be when he came out in the draft, but he fits the bill.
Ben Powers felt like a better fit with his pass blocking efficiency at OG. He's an adequate run blocker (he did play for Baltimore), but his 86.5 pass blocking grade is just what we need in the middle of our OL. I address additional OL help in the draft. Spoiler: we finally end our years long search for the anchor at Center we've all been waiting for.
I love the idea of Brissett and Chark to come in to provide stability while waiting for Kyler to recover, and the eventual loss of Hopkins. Those are two solid alternatives. Brissett makes even more sense with the addition of his former QB coach as OC.
As you can see, I listed Humphries as a potential trade option. Full disclosure, I didn't really make Tackle a priority in the draft since the concept of trading him came after the fact. As part of the youth movement, I would try to get a 2nd or 3rd round pick for him and use that pick on a future replacement. Josh Jones did more than enough to allow us to feel comfortable without Humphries. Just settle on who will play RT and add depth we can develop for the future.
As far as special teams are concerned, I would basically try to raid the Rams. All three of their specialists are free agents and they're all in the top-tier of their positions. They're also much younger than what we had. Since we're starting a youth movement, it would be nice to have a younger core of special teams guys to add stability while we develop. Plus, it would also gut one of our main rivals.
For the draft, I would love to see us capitalize on our top three draft position to acquire more picks. I understand the desire to get one of the top two prospects, Anderson Jr or Carter. So, in this scenario, I worked out a way to have our cake and eat it too.
For what it's worth, I was thinking of this scenario before I noticed Walt had a similar idea. I think mine is different enough it's worth mentioning.
I also don't think the distinction with the top two is quite as glaring as others do. I'm personally not so sure that Myles Murphy out of Clemson may not have the most impact at the next level. He's got a great motor and he's sneaky fast, especially for his size. I get the feeling he'll be very disruptive. He can also likely be had within the top 10, certainly the top 5 - 8. So, I wouldn't be completely apposed to trading a little further down to gain even more assets.
I think it's established the Colts (at #4) would very much like to get one of the top three QBs. The common thinking is they trade with the Bears at #1.
In my scenario, I try to sweeten the pot by not only dangling the promise of a shiny new top-three QB, but I also provide an instant security blanket for their new QB with one of the best WRs in the league, DeAndre Hopkins. I'm hoping that would be a combo they can't resist. The Colts have a strong enough roster that they don't need their QB to save them. They just need him to be efficient. I can't think of a better way to help a young QB be efficient than providing Hopkins as his primary target.
It would all be predicated on believing the Bears will trade out of the top spot to a team seeking a QB. We would then convince the Colts we will trade our pick to another QB-needy team as well (like we did with San Diego in '98).
That would likely take the top three QBs off the board in the first three picks. So, the Colts would have to move into the top three to secure a QB. The X Factor in trading with us over the Bears is adding Hopkins to the deal.
So, as we did in '98, we drop down one spot and get the guy we wanted all along. We also accumulate several more picks to bolster the roster.
Of course, it can be debated what the proper compensation should be. But I think I went with a reasonable scenario. It wouldn't be unfathomable to actually get even more from them, depending on who they covet and how things play out.
I really like how the rest of my mock draft unfolded. I traded back again in the second round and still got my favorite Center in the draft. John Michael Schmitz just has the feel of that prototypical Center that can anchor the O-Line and dominate for years to come. Pair him with (FA) Powers and the road grader I got in the top of the 2nd, O'Cyrus Torrence, and our O-Line would instantly be on a path to elite status.
If our off-season played out anything like this, I would be happy.
I look forward to reading the comments.