Around this time last year, I wrote a piece about the Cardinals’ frustrating lack of offseason moves. They had only made a few minor free agent signings and had moved some deck chairs around with their own free agents.
Well, I must be experiencing déjà vu, because that’s basically all they have done so far this year as well. Below is the team’s official transactions page. Read it and weep.
Full disclosure: I cut this off right before all the front office and coaching staff changes. Obviously, those were huge moves—new GM, new front office, new head coach, new coaching staff. We’re in yet another new era for the Cardinals.
But what about, you know, the players? What moves has new GM Monti Ossenfort made to make this team better for new coach Jonathan Gannon in 2023? Does this organization seem to have any sort of plan in place? Does the team even have a pulse right now? Let’s dive into the transaction pool and see if we can find out.
External Free Agents
Cardinals 2023 External Free Agents
|Player||Position||Former Team||Contract Length|
|Player||Position||Former Team||Contract Length|
|L.J. Collier||DE||Seahawks||1 year|
|Dennis Daley||OT||Titans||2 years|
|Hjalte Froholdt||G/C||Browns||2 years|
|Zach Pascal||WR||Eagles||2 years|
|Kevin Strong||DE||Titans||1 year|
|Kyzir White||LB||Eagles||2 years|
I’m seeing a theme: two former Eagles and two former Titans who have followed Gannon and Ossenfort to the desert. But… yeah, this free agent crop isn’t exactly moving the needle so far. (Note that I’m not tracking practice squad–type guys like Hayden Howerton.) Other than probably White, these guys are all depth additions, nothing more. A few brief notes on each:
- Kyzir White: As Walter discussed, the hope here is that we plug White in as one of the starting linebackers in Gannon’s 4-3 defense. That will allow Isaiah Simmons to do… whatever it is that Gannon and new DC Nick Rallis have in mind for the enigmatic 4th-year player. (Pass rusher? Slot corner? Safety?)
- Dennis Daley and Hjalte Froholdt: We obviously need O-linemen, but I’m not sure either of these guys project as starters. Daley has much more starting experience (36 starts compared to just 6 for Froholdt), but Froholdt graded better per PFF last season (61.4 compared to 46.1 for Daley). Daley seems like a swing tackle while maybe Froholdt has a chance to start on the interior.
- L.J. Collier and Kevin Strong: We also need D-linemen, and these guys look like a couple depth plays. Collier was once a 1st-round pick—perhaps he still has some untapped potential if he can stay healthy. Strong looks like a rotational D-lineman (he has played about 30%-40% of his teams’ defensive snaps). We need bodies, but I doubt we’ll be looking back at either of these signings with anything other than a shrug.
- WR Zach Pascal: Same here—another shrug. Pascal barely played last year for the Eagles (just 15 receptions), but he does have a shiny Super Bowl ring to show for it. He was a WR3/4 type in Indianapolis before last year but the Cardinals have to hope they can do better than the likes of Pascal even that far down the depth chart. At least he can play special teams.
Internal Free Agents
Cardinals 2023 Internal Free Agents
|Kelvin Beachum||OT||2 years|
|David Blough||QB||1 year|
|Corey Clement||RB||1 year|
|Greg Dortch||WR||1 year|
|Antonio Hamilton||CB||1 year|
|Will Hernandez||OG||2 years|
|Jonathan Ledbetter||DE||1 year|
|Matt Prater||K||2 years|
|Ezekiel Turner||OLB||1 year|
I won’t spend as much time on these guys since they’re all familiar names, but I will offer some brief analysis on each group. First, good riddance to Anderson and Green—every route they ran last season was an affront to the likes of Rondale Moore, Greg Dortch, and Antoine Wesley. I was a big fan of Golden but his production really fell off last season. Hudson never worked out quite like anyone wanted in the desert. Banjo was a solid special teamer.
As for the guys coming back, I’m glad we resigned Beachum—he’s a solid player, and I’d love to see the first time he runs into Kyler in the locker room at training camp. Hernandez is another solid O-lineman who might start on the interior again. Really happy to see Dortch back—he’s a total gamer. I’m not sure what the team’s plan at backup QB is, but it better not be Blough. Not sure why we brought Clement back—why not grab a UFDA type or two instead? Hamilton is perhaps a little underappreciated, but you don’t want him as one of your starters. Ledbetter is another depth D-lineman. Prater is a solid kicker but you wonder about his range as he ages.
Ossenfort has yet to make his first trade as Cardinals GM… but you know at least two big ones are coming. It seems like a foregone conclusion that DeAndre Hopkins will be traded, hopefully for at least a 2nd-rounder. With the free agent WR market almost nonexistent, Ossenfort should be in a good position to move the future Hall of Famer. But he doesn’t need to do anything right now—better to wait and see if he can get a little bidding war started.
The other domino to fall will be what he decides to do with the #3 overall pick. If you listen to local sports radio at all, you know that speculation is rampant right now. Several teams are (supposedly) considering trading up to grab either Anthony Richardson or Will Levis at the Cardinals’ spot. Again, Ossenfort is in a good position—either he can stay put and grab a possible stud pass rusher in Will Anderson, or move back a bit to pick up some extra premium picks. Of course, the ideal scenario would be to move back AND still get Anderson. Can Ossenfort convince the Colts to move up one spot? That is the biggest question of the rest of the offseason for the Cardinals.
It seems that big moves are coming… but there have been none yet. So what gives? Why have the Cardinals shown a lack of a pulse in the free agent market so far?
Walter explored this very question a bit last week. There are a lot of factors at play here, but I think it comes down to two things:
- There’s no sugarcoating it: The Cardinals just aren’t a desirable free agent destination right now. (Although… have we ever been?) We’re on our third head coach in five years, our big-money QB is coming off a torn ACL, and we seem to be entering a full rebuild. Then there’s also the damning results of the NFLPA survey that ranked the Cardinals 31st out of 32 teams by the players.
- That said… I’m actually on board with what Ossenfort is doing (or, rather, not doing) so far. Unlike former GM Steve Keim (still feels great to write that), he’s not trying to chase years of bad drafting with ill-advised free agent signings. He’s not trying to put lipstick on a pig by spending money on free agents when he should be gathering resources and looking to the future. Notice all the contract lengths of our signings/resignings: only one or two years. We need bodies this season, yes, but these are stopgap solutions while Ossenfort cleans up our cap situation, replenishes our draft assets, and, hopefully, starts to build a strong foundation for 2024 and beyond.
So: Yes, the 2023 season is looking like it will be a rough one. But at least Ossenfort understands the state of the roster and is honest with Michael Bidwill about what needs to be done. I look at this offseason as a stark contrast to 2018, when the Cardinals were moving on from Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer. Instead of initiating a rebuild, Keim spent a ton of money on veterans trying to pretend the team could still contend. That cost Steve Wilks his job, perhaps Josh Rosen his career, and Cardinals fans countless hours of anguish.
I see this lack of big spending as progress. The time will come to make flashy free agent signings, but that time isn’t now. It’s time to embrace the rebuild. And in the NFL, you can rebuild in just a year or two if the people in charge know what they’re doing.
Steve Keim didn’t. Let’s hope Monti Ossenfort does.
Your turn. Are you on board with what Ossenfort is doing, RotBers? Vote in the poll below and do your thing in the comments.
Are you on board with Monti Ossenfort’s offseason approach so far (frugal free agent spending, waiting on trades)?
This poll is closed