With training camp on the horizon, it’s time to take stock of the Cardinals roster. To do so, I’m using a system based on pocket change: pennies, nickels, dimes, and up to quarters. Here’s a quick description of each category:
- Pennies: These are the guys at the bottom of the roster: camp invites, UDFAs, practice squad types, JAGs, special teamers. Replacement-level players, essentially. There are going to be a lot of pennies since the roster size is increased in the offseason.
- Nickels: These are average or below-average starters and solid backups/rotational players. They’re not gonna make or break a roster, but you’re never mad to find a nickel on the ground, right? These guys are the middle of the 53-man roster.
- Dimes: These guys are above-average starters and/or team leaders. They’re not quite elite but are important players near the top of the roster. There are comparatively fewer dimes than nickels, especially on a roster like the Cardinals’.
- Quarters: These are elite players/assets, simple as that—premium recent draft picks, high-end starters, and/or Pro Bowl–caliber players. Super Bowl contenders usually have several of these guys, while rebuilding teams like the Cardinals might only have a handful, if that.
- Note that an asterisk (*) indicates a “shiny” penny, nickel, dime, or quarter. These are players that are borderline between two categories, guys that have a decent chance of moving up to the next tier in the near future.
So which Cardinals players fit in which category? How many quarters does this roster have? And how much is the Cardinals roster worth in dollars and cents? Let’s dive in and find out.
- Daniel Arias, Andre Baccellia, Eric Banks, Krys Barnes, Jackson Barton, David Blough, Kris Boyd, Kendell Brooks, Andre Chachere, Kei’Trel Clark*, Corey Clement, Brian Cobbs, L.J. Collier*, Nolan Cooney*, Emari Demercado, Victor Dimukeje*, Jeff Driskel, Hjalte Froholdt*, Matt Haack*, Nate Hairston, Marquis Hayes, Matt Hembrough, Joel Honigford, Hayden Howerton, JuJu Hughes, Keaontay Ingram*, Jonathan Ledbetter*, Jesse Luketa, Dylan Mabin, Christian Matthew, Kyler McMichael, Jovante Moffatt, Owen Pappoe*, Zach Pascal, Chris Pierce, Bobby Price, Bernhard Seikovits, Lachavious Simmons, Jacob Slade, Brandon Smith, Lecitus Smith, Kyle Soelle, Ben Stille, Dante Stills*, Kevin Strong*, Noah Togiai, Badara Traore, Clayton Tune*, Ezekiel Turner*, Carlos Watkins, Quavian White, Blake Whiteheart, Elijah Wilkinson, Ty’Son Williams, Josh Woods
I’m not going to spend much time talking about these guys. I’ve picked out a few players that are “shiny” pennies who might be worth a nickel or more at this time next year. But right now these guys are all low-end assets who could be easily replaced. Most of these guys will be released before the regular season as the team churns the bottom of the roster.
Note that you might see some of these guys higher up on the depth chart than you’d expect, but that’s more a reflection of the quality of the overall roster than these individual players. Just because a player is projected to play a lot doesn’t necessarily mean they’re inherently good/valuable.
- Kelvin Beachum, Aaron Brewer, Dennis Daley, Greg Dortch*, Rashad Fenton, Leki Fotu, Jon Gaines II, Dennis Gardeck, Antonio Hamilton Sr., Will Hernandez*, Josh Jones*, Rashard Lawrence, Trey McBride*, Rondale Moore*, BJ Ojulari*, Matt Prater, Myjai Sanders*, Isaiah Simmons*, Cameron Thomas*, Garrett Williams*, Michael Wilson*
Here we have a mix of veterans with starting experience and promising young players. Oh, and core special teamers like Brewer and Prater, who have value. (About a nickel’s worth in this exercise, obviously.) Guys like Beachum, Daley, and Hernandez are capable of starting on the O-line; ditto Fotu and Lawrence on the D-line. Fenton and Hamilton have proven themselves capable CBs and should see plenty of snaps. Moore, Dortch, and McBride both have a great opportunity to gobble up WR targets behind Hollywood Brown and Zach Ertz. And Gardeck has value both as a pass rusher and core special teamer. They won’t bowl you over, but you’re not mad to have any of these guys on your roster.
Then we have the youngsters. Sanders and Thomas are 2nd-year players who should be solid situational pass rushers this year and will have every opportunity to prove they are capable of more. Ojulari might be a starter right off the bat; he’ll play a ton either way. Williams’s ceiling is the team’s CB2 as soon as this year, health permitting. Wilson’s stock went way up with the release of DeAndre Hopkins, while Gaines could easily figure into the team’s plans for the interior O-line this season. These are some solid young players.
Finally, we have two complete enigmas from the 2020 draft class. As my colleague Andy Kwong talked about a few weeks ago, Jones’s status with the team is up in the air. There doesn’t seem to be a starting tackle position open, and he hasn’t acquitted himself well at guard. And the saga of Simmons is well documented—he still hasn’t found a position going into his fourth season in the league, and now a new coaching staff is taking over. Both of these players have a lot to prove—they could be cast aside like rusty pennies after the season or they could make themselves some nice coin if they can find a way to break out.
- Marquise Brown*, Zaven Collins*, James Conner, Zach Ertz, D.J. Humphries, Colt McCoy, Jalen Thompson*, Kyzir White, Marco Wilson
The Cardinals’ dimes are an interesting mix of players at very different points in their careers. Guys like Ertz and McCoy are likely near the end of their careers, but can both still be productive and provide strong leadership. Hump and Conner are at or near the end of their primes but are valuable starters and leaders themselves. The team will need to lean on these guys heavily this year with Kyler Murray’s health situation unresolved and the new coaching staff installing a brand-new offense. Brown doesn’t have quite the experience of the other guys here, but he should be the team’s WR1. He has flashed Pro Bowl potential before but has never put together a full season of elite production. Can a new offense unlock that potential?
Switching to the defensive side of the ball, these guys are a bit younger and have plenty of potential left—hence many of them have the “shiny” asterisk denoting the potential to become elite players. Some might argue that Thompson is already there with his leadership and tackle numbers, but his playmaking leaves something to be desired (he has only one season with multiple INTs and has never sacked the QB or forced a fumble in his career). Maybe that will change in the new defense. Many are already projecting that breakout for Collins, who might become the elite pass rusher this team desperately needs. Finally, White and Wilson should both be productive starters in the new defense, but I’m not sure they have the ceiling of Collins and Thompson.
We’ll start with the obvious—Budda Baker has been to five Pro Bowls, has been named to three All-Pro teams (including 1st-team twice), and was recently named the 4th-best safety in the league by NFL insiders. He’s the best player on the roster, the fieriest leader, and the heart and soul of the defense, if not the entire team. New GM Monti Ossenfort has done a fine job in his first few months on the job, but the one fly in the ointment is the ongoing situation with Baker’s contract. He should be paid like a premier player, and soon.
Paris Johnson Jr.
Johnson, the #6 pick in this year’s draft, is already one of the best players on the roster and a franchise building block. He’ll be helping to protect our QB—whether it be the guy below or someone else entirely—for, hopefully, the next decade or more. The only question right now is where he’ll play during his rookie season. The Cardinals actually have a surplus of tackles with Hump, Beachum, Jones, and Daley, so his services might not be needed there in 2023. But is playing him at guard best for his development? That’s something new coach Jonathan Gannon and his staff will have to decide in the next couple months. Either way, he’s one of the most valuable assets on the roster.
We’ll end with another enigma, the team’s supposed franchise QB, Kyler Murray. He’s being paid like a franchise QB (he’ll be counting ~$50M against the cap starting next season), and he has the accolades of one (OROY, two Pro Bowls). He’s even played like a franchise QB at times. But he has yet to lead the team to a division title or a playoff win, and the questions about his leadership have only grown louder and more pointed as he has advanced in his career. And then there’s his ongoing rehab from his late-season ACL tear. There are a lot of things about Kyler that say he should be valued like a quarter. It’s now up to him to prove that he’s that elite kind of player—whether for the Cardinals or another team if they wind up with the #1 pick and elect to trade him.
If you add up all the pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters, the Cardinals roster is worth about $3.25. I obviously haven’t done the math for the other teams in the division, much less the league, but that seems on the low end, doesn’t it? That sounds right for a rebuilding team, though.
Thoughts, RotBers? Anyone valued too low or too high? Feel free to do your own math and drop your valuation in the comments.