clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Making dollars and ‘cents’ out of the Arizona Cardinals roster after the season

Now that the season is over, it’s time to assess the roster’s value, again using a system of dollars and cents.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals
James Conner has proved himself to be one of the Cardinals’ franchise players.
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Before the season began, I did a little exercise where I took stock of the Cardinals roster using a system based on pocket change: pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters. Based on my back-of-the-envelope math, I determined that the Cardinals roster was worth about $3.25.

Well, now that the season is over, it’s time for an update. Has the roster depreciated or appreciated? Let’s find out! As a reminder, here is 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. You’ll see several guys who played a lot of snaps this season in this category. Just because a player played a bunch doesn’t mean they’re better than replacement level.
  • Nickels: These are 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 promising young players, above-average starters, and/or team leaders. They’re not 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.

Two things to note before we jump in:

  • An asterisk (*) indicates a “shiny” penny, nickel, or dime. 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.
  • Bold text indicates an impending free agent. These players may or may not be back next season.

Time to see which players fit in which category. Let’s sift through the pennies and nickels to see how many dimes and quarters the team has in its pocket. We can then figure out how much this roster is worth in dollars and cents and compare that figure to the preseason value.

Pennies (total value: $0.52)

  • Andre Baccellia, Andre Chachere*, Austen Pleasants, Ben Stille, Bernhard Seikovits, Blake Whiteheart, Bobby Price, Cameron Thomas*, Carlos Watkins, Carter O’Donnell, Clayton Tune, Daniel Arias, Darren Hall, Dennis Daley, Divaad Wilson, Elijah Higgins, Elijah Wilkinson, Ezekiel Turner, Garrett Williams*, Geoff Swaim, Jackson Barton, Jeff Smith, Jesse Luketa, Joey Blount, Jon Gaines II*, Jonathan Ledbetter, Josh Woods, Kaden Davis, Keith Ismael, Kei’Trel Clark*, L.J. Collier, Leki Fotu, Marlon Mack, Marquis Hayes, Matt Hembrough, Michael Carter, Naquan Jones, Owen Pappoe*, Pat Elflein, Phil Hoskins, Quavian White, Qwuantrezz Knight, Rashad Fenton, Rondale Moore*, Starling Thomas V, Tony Jones, Travis Vokolek, Trevor Nowaske, Trystan Colon*, Tyreek Maddox-Williams, Tyreke Smith, Verone McKinley III, Zach Pascal

While most of these guys are on the practice squad or street free agent pickups, you’ll see some familiar names here. On offense, you’ve got O-linemen like Elijah Wilkinson, Trystan Colon, Carter O’Donnell, and Dennis Daley, who played a decent number of snaps. They just didn’t do much with those snaps (with the possible exception of Colon, hence the *). You’ve also got several backups at the skill positions, former future Pro Bowler Clayton Tune, and… Rondale Moore. Moore played a whopping 755 snaps on offense but who completely failed to make an impact at WR with the exception of the one long TD against the Texans. He did make more of an impact as a runner, but he just seems to be a gadget player, nothing more.

On defense, you’ve got just about everyone who played on the D-line and at corner. Those positions need a complete overhaul this offseason… if not the next couple of offseasons. Most of the D-linemen are completely anonymous with sub-50 PFF grades, which is… not good. The guy who played the most, Jonathan Ledbetter, had one of the lowest grades on the entire roster. (Same with Josh Woods at LB.) No one at CB had a grade that low, but you would have hoped that rookies Garrett Williams and Kei’Trel Clark would have played a bit better. They still have promise (hence the *) but you can’t say their rookie years were a success.

Nickels (total value: $0.75)

  • Aaron Brewer, Andre Chachere, Antonio Hamilton Sr., Blake Gillikin*, Dante Stills, Dennis Gardeck*, Emari Demercado*, Greg Dortch, Hjalte Froholdt*, Kelvin Beachum, Krys Barnes, Kyzir White, Roy Lopez, Victor Dimukeje, Will Hernandez*

While none of these guys necessarily blew anyone away this season, they were all steady contributors in their own way. There are only a few offensive players in this category. Three of them are O-linemen in Froholdt, Hernandez, and Beachum. Froholdt played 1,100+ snaps and mostly held his own. He was a pleasant surprise at a position of need. Hernandez was probably our best O-linemen and played 1,100+ snaps himself at guard. Beachum didn’t play much and could very well retire, but he’s a veteran and versatile linemen who still has value. Then you’ve got Dortch, an above-average slot receiver and solid return man, and Demercado, a nice UDFA find at RB who should be James Conner’s backup next season and could be his heir apparent.

On defense, you’ve got the only two D-linemen who distinguished themselves from the trash heap that was the rest of the line in Stills (coming off a solid rookie season for a 7th-round rookie) and Ray Lopez (a nice waiver wire find by Monti Ossenfort). I don’t know if either of them will ever be more than rotational cogs, but that still has value. Then you’ve got a couple league-average ILBs in Barnes and White. White came to the team with more pedigree and starting experience but was mostly outplayed by Barnes. You’ve also got some solid pass rushers in Gardeck and Dimukeje. You don’t want either of them to be your main pass rusher, but they’re nice complementary pieces. Finally, you’ve got what passes for the top two CBs this season in Hamilton (led the team in snaps, steady enough) and Chachere (the highest coverage grade of any DB on the team). Again, you don’t want either of them to be your CB1 (or probably even CB2), but they’re valuable contributors.

Oh, and let’s not forget special teams. Brewer is the team’s longtime longsnapper and Gillikin came out of nowhere to have a really good season at punter.

Dimes (total value: $0.60)

  • BJ Ojulari, D.J. Humphries, Marquise Brown, Matt Prater, Michael Wilson, Zaven Collins

As you can see, we have fewer and fewer higher-value players on this rebuilding roster. In fact, I struggled a bit with this category. The only player I’m truly confident belongs is Matt Prater, who was absolutely nails all season (until a couple of… fortuitous? misses against the Seahawks in Week 18). Otherwise, on offense, we have the longest-tenured (but maybe not for long?) player on the team in Humphries. He wasn’t great this season, but he’s still a solid tackle and strong team leader. Then there are the two receivers, the possibly departing in free agency Brown (who wasn’t all that impressive this year anyway) and the very promising Wilson, who at times looked like the team’s best WR. I’m fine with letting Brown leave and drafting one of the studs to be Wilson’s running mate next season and beyond.

There are just two defenders here: rookie Ojulari, who finished tied for second on the team in sacks (albeit with just four), and former 1st-round pick Collins, who never really became an impactful pass rusher but was stout in the run game and was actually the team’s highest-graded defender overall. They’re both nice young pieces on a defense that’s severely lacking in young talent.

Quarters (total value: $1.50)

  • Budda Baker, Jalen Thompson, James Conner, Kyler Murray, Paris Johnson Jr., Trey McBride

That brings us to our quarters, our franchise players. I have us at six quarters, up three from the preseason, with James Conner, Trey McBride, and Jalen Thompson joining holdovers Kyler Murray, Paris Johnson Jr., and Budda Baker. Starting with the offense, Kyler is an obvious inclusion as the team’s starting QB. He looks all the way back from his torn ACL; he played well upon his return and should be even better next season with upgraded talent around him. Conner was an easy inclusion here—he’s the heart and soul of the offense and one of, if not the, strongest leaders on the team. Then there’s McBride, who was the single biggest and best breakout of the season. He might literally already be the best TE in the franchise’s history in Arizona. He had a Pro Bowl–type season and could make it as an alternate if George Kittle and the Niners make the Super Bowl.

On defense, it’s just the two safeties, Baker and Thompson. Budda didn’t have his best statistical season, but he’s a fiery leader and well respected around the league—enough so to be named to his sixth Pro Bowl. But Thompson was probably the best safety, if not overall defender, on the team this season and was worthy of Pro Bowl consideration himself. Budda’s future with the team is still somewhat up in the air, but if he returns, the Cardinals will once again have one of the best safety duos in the league next season.

Final Thoughts

So what does all these Cardinals coins add up to? Let me pull out my calculator. The total is… $3.37, up a whopping twelve cents from the preseason. That’s to be expected—a team’s roster value doesn’t really increase much during the season. But I feel confident that Ossenfort will build on that value this offseason with another great draft and hopefully a few smart free agent additions. Plus hopefully getting rid of a bunch of pennies and bringing in more nickels and dimes. He should get that value over $3.50 and hopefully close to four smackaroos.

That’s my math, anyway. How about yours? Do you see anyone you feel is valued too low or too high? Do you have any favorite shiny pennies or nickels? Let’s see your math and values in the comments.