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A chronicle of off-season buzz for Arizona Cardinals the last 11 years

What kind of buzz can GM Monti Ossenfort create for the Cardinals this off-season?

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Syndication: Arizona Republic Patrick Breen/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

I had some fun today going back through the last 11 Lindy’s Pro Football Reviews. I wanted to do this because I aimed to track how well the Cardinals have performed when the pre-season buzz for the team was at its highest and lowest.

We Cardinals’ fans know very well how the team has a pattern of getting into playoff contention for 2-3 years and then, seemingly without fail, fall right back into the NFL doldrums.

What I appreciate about Lindy’s is how for each team they list:

  • Key Additions
  • Key Losses (via free agency, trade or release)
  • Draft profiles on all draft picks
  • Draft grades

Here are charts of what Lindy’s listed:

Lindy’s Arizona Cardinals’ Preview Titles (writer) —- tone and did the tone turn out to be prophetic? In my opinion.

  • 2013: Cardinals Supposedly Reloading, Not Rebuilding (Bob McManaman) -skeptical-no
  • 2014: Cardinals Figure More Than 10 Wins is Necessary (Bob McManaman) -hopeful-yes
  • 2015: Arians Bullish on Cardinals Hopes for 2015 (Bob McManaman) -excited-yes
  • 2016: Cardinals Loaded for Super Bowl Run (Bob McManaman) -super hopeful-no
  • 2017: “Bounce Back” Used a Lot to Describe Cardinals in 2017 (Mike Jurecki) -guarded-yes
  • 2018: Wilks Must Prove He Was Right Choice as Head Coach (Mike Jurecki) -skeptical-yes
  • 2019: Kingsbury and Murray Mere Neophytes (Vince Marotta) -super skeptical-no
  • 2020: Cardinals Appear to be a Phoenix Rising (Vince Marotta) -hopeful-yes
  • 2021: If Kingsbury’s Seat Isn’t Hot, it’s Certainly Warm (Kevin Zimmerman) -skeptical-no
  • 2022: Cardinals Hope to Continue Two-Year Improvement (Tyler Drake) -optimistic-no
  • 2023: Trying to Pick Up the Pieces (Tyler Drake) -wary-yes

Personnel additions that, at the time in which they were signed or drafted, created an added excitement about the direction of the team:

  • Carson Palmer —- 2013
  • Tyrann Mathieu —- 2013
  • Jared Veldheer —- 2014
  • Mike Iupati —- 2015
  • Chandler Jones —- 2016
  • Haason Reddick —- 2017
  • Budda Baker —- 2017
  • Justin Pugh —- 2018
  • Josh Rosen —- 2018
  • Kyler Murray —- 2019
  • Byron Murphy —- 2019
  • DeAndre Hopkins —- 2020
  • Isaiah Simmons —- 2020
  • JJ Watt —- 2021
  • James Conner —- 2021
  • Rodney Hudson —- 2021
  • Zaven Collins —- 2021
  • Marquise Brown —- 2022
  • Paris Johnson, Jr. —- 2023
  • B.J. Ojulari —- 2023

Commentary:

To me, the most exciting addition the Cardinals made throughout this 11-year stretch was DE JJ Watt. Not only had the Cardinals been a significantly surprising choice for JJ Watt, seeing as most pundits and fans believed he would sign with the Packers or Steelers, Watt made it clear how he believed that Cardinals could be immediate Super Bowl contenders because of his faith in new teammates like Kyler Murray and Budda Baker.

JJ Watt’s impact on the organization, by virtue of his extraordinary work ethic and passion —- aided and abetted by James Conner having a profound impact on the offense —- plus, the surprise acquisition of Pro Bowl C Rodney Hudson that seem to fall in their lap —- felt like the Cardinals had won a thrilling trifecta.

The positive buzz, energy and instant credibility that JJ Watt brought to the building was perhaps the #1 reason why the Cardinals started the 2021 season 7-0.

Alas, the week 7 freak injury that JJ Watt suffered was bound to have a domino effect. The Cardinals won 4 more games without JJ, but by the time he miraculously returned for the playoff game in LA, the team had lost its mojo and confidence.

The JJ Watt-like addition for the 49ers was Christian McCaffrey. Prior to McCaffrey settling in to the team following his blockbuster trade from the Panters, the 49ers were 3-4 and reeling. From that point forward, the 49ers won their last 10 regular season games, plus two more in the playoffs, before losing to the Eagles in the NFC Championship game.

There is no way that Brock Purdy, as a 7th round rookie, would have had kind of meteoric middle-of-the-season success that would lead to winning 11 games in a row without him being able to lean on Christian McCaffrey.

The amazing thing about McCaffrey is how he has been able to lead the 49ers in yards and TDs without losing any significant time to injuries. Like JJ Watt, the one real concern about McCaffrey was a propensity to incur injuries.

Since week 8 last year, the 49ers have won 25 of 31 games and McCaffrey has been the offensive star.

Obviously, the 49ers have a star-studded roster, but sometimes it takes a special bell cow to lead the herd out of the barn.

I believe the Cardinals currently have three bell cows on the roster:

  • Budda Baker
  • James Conner
  • Dennis Gardeck

The question is —- is there a free agent (or two?) this off-season who can create a significant amount of buzz for the Cardinals as they approach the 2024 season?

Possible Candidates:

  • DT Chris Jones, 29, KC
  • ED Brian Burns, 25, CAR
  • ED Josh Allen, 26, JACK
  • CB Jaylon Johnson, 24, CHI
  • DT Justin Madibuike, 26, BAL
  • DT Christian Wilkins, 28, MIA
  • CB L’Jarius Sneed, 26, KC
  • WR Michael Pittman Jr., 26, IND
  • WR Mike Evans, 30, TB
  • DE Danielle Hunter, 29, MIN
  • DT Leonard Williams, 29, SEA
  • DT D.J. Reader, 29, CIN (rehabbing from a torn quad injury)
  • T Mike Onwenu, 26, NE
  • G Robert Hunt, 27, MIA
  • LB Frankie Luvu, 27, CAR
  • LB Patrick Queen, 24, BAL

Here are the PFF rankings with contract projections:

NFL Free Agent Rankings | PFF

ROTB Questions:

  1. Identify 3 free agents whom you think would raise the roof in terms of team buzz for the Arizona Cardinals.
  2. For UFAs who might get tagged, which ones would you be eager and willing to see the Cardinals trade the #27 pick in order to acquire?