With free agency due to begin next week, I thought I’d build on Walter’s recent pieces on the Cardinals’ in-house free agents. Per Over the Cap, we have about three dozen free agents to-be. Who should we try to keep, and who should we let go? Let’s group these players into a few tiers: No Matter What, For the Right Price, and Time to Move On.
No Matter What
DE Zach Allen
Allen was a rare draft success for former GM Steve Keim. (Man, it feels great to write that.) He truly broke out in his fourth season with 47 combined tackles, 5.5 sacks, 10 TFLs, and 8 passes defended. With the Cardinals needing to basically rebuild both lines, Allen is a player they can ill afford to lose. He can be a building block on the D-line along with, potentially, Will Anderson or Jalen Carter in the draft. Allen will be due for a raise and new GM Monti Ossenfort should happily sign that check. Otherwise, someone else will snatch him up and we’ll have another Haason Reddick on our hands.
CB Byron Murphy
For the Right Price
OT Kelvin Beachum and OG Will Hernandez
The Cardinals injury woes last season were well documented, but these two played the most snaps of anyone on offense and acquitted themselves well. Like I mentioned above, we have to rebuild both lines, and bringing back guys like Beachum and Hernandez wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world… for the right price, of course. Ideally, neither of them would play as much as they did last season, but if they could help bridge the gap while we develop younger players while providing depth and leadership, that would be just fine with me.
WRs Greg Dortch and Antoine Wesley
Who knows what the Cardinals WR room will look like this season with DeAndre Hopkins’s future with the team very much in doubt, Hollywood Brown in need of an extension, and Rondale Moore yet to really break out. But both Dortch and Wesley have flashed a bit in limited action and would be solid depth pieces… again, for the right price. Dortch especially was productive when he saw the field and would be a solid WR4/5 type.
LBs Zeke Turner and Ben Niemann, CB Antonio Hamilton
These three defenders are maybe a notch above JAG (Just a Guy) status—they’re relatively anonymous but have played well enough when they have seen the field. Again, you don’t want any of these guys starting, but you can never have too many strong veteran backups. They all contribute on special teams as well, especially Turner. These are all players I wouldn’t mind seeing return to the team… for the right price.
K Matt Prater, P Andy Lee, LS Aaron Brewer
I’ll lump these guys together for obvious reasons. I’ll be curious to see what happens with these three, especially since Jonathan Gannon wound up keeping ST Coordinator Jeff Rodgers on his staff. Although the Cardinals could save some money by going younger on special teams, there is also value in continuity. I’d be okay with running it back with these three as long as their new deals are affordable.
Time to Move On
- OGs Justin Pugh, Max Garcia, and Cody Ford: All three of these guys seem to be on the back nine of their careers and should be replaced by younger, cheaper options.
- TE Maxx Williams: Williams had one great half season in the desert but just can’t stay healthy. Trey McBride is the future.
- LB Tanner Vallejo, Ss Chris Banjo and Charles Washington: All solid special teamers but should also be replaced by younger, cheaper options.
- OT Joshua Miles and DE Michael Dogbe: Two late-round Keim draft picks that never really developed. Put them in the tier above if you want, but they’re basically JAGs.
- Offense: QBs David Blough and Trace McSorley, RBs Corey Clement and Darrel Williams, WR Pharoh Cooper, TE Stephen Anderson, Cs Sean Harlow and Billy Price, OT Rashaad Coward
- Defense: DLs Jonathan Ledbetter and Trysten Hill, LBs Kamu Grugier Hill and Nick Vigil, CBs Josh Jackson and Jace Whittaker
Of nearly three dozen free agents, there are only two I think the team needs to bring back: Zach Allen and Byron Murphy. Everyone else could be gone and I wouldn’t bat an eye. I can’t think of a much bigger indictment of the failures of the Keim regime than that. Let’s hope Ossenfort shows a keener eye than Keim for identifying and keeping talent, especially in the draft. It’s not an especially high bar to clear.