The Arizona Cardinals will begin training camp in a couple of weeks, and unlike last season, they do not really do so with Super Bowl expectations.
That’s what happens when you go from winning 13 games in 2015 to seven in 2016 before losing some key players to free agency.
NFL insider John Clayton told Doug and Wolf on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station, that he felt Calais Campbell was the biggest loss, but added it hurt to lose Tony Jefferson, D.J. Swearinger and Marcus Cooper.
“The good thing is the defense, which was No. 2 last year, is going to drop, but is it going to drop to No. 5, is it going to drop to No. 10?” he asked. “I think it can drop to No. 10, but still, the offense can generate enough points to kind of compensate for that.”
That’s the trick, and though Clayton believes the Cardinals have the talent to persevere, he said the challenge of making it back to the playoffs is tougher now than before.
But as Clayton said, even with the defections it is not as if the Cardinals are completely devoid of talent. Carson Palmer is still the quarterback and Larry Fitzgerald is still around to catch passes, while David Johnson, Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, Chandler Jones and Markus Golden are set for big seasons.
Add it all up and you have an interesting squad who you could see being very good, but also taking another step back.
Time will tell what happens but regardless of which direction things go, a certain theme will accompany 2017. With Palmer and Fitzgerald both having pondered retirement, this may be the Cardinals’ last legitimate shot at a deep postseason run for a while.
“I think so, yeah,” NFL insider John Clayton told Doug and Wolf on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station Friday. “Because when you look at the losses from last year — that’s the sad part, because if this is going to be it — you’ll have to make a quarterback transition, you lose a Hall of Fame-caliber wide receiver, and maybe, who knows, I think it’s year-to-year with the health of Bruce Arians and you hope he stays on.
“But if he does make a quarterback transition, you’d love to have him as the one that’s doing that. Yeah, I think it does say that the window is this year.”
Clayton noted that is what made this offseason so unfortunate for the Cardinals, given that they parted with starters in Calais Campbell, Tony Jefferson, Kevin Minter and Marcus Cooper, while also saying goodbye to D.J. Swearinger, Evan Mathis and Earl Watford.
According Jason Fitzgerald of the website OvertheCap.com, the Cardinals lost more quality snaps than any other team. He wrote that Campbell, Jefferson, Minter and Cooper combined to play more than 800 snaps last season, which will understandably be tough to replace.
They will be replacing them with age in Antoine Bethea and Karlos Dansby which is generally not going to work out. I said going into last year that the Cardinals window may have closed with that playoff loss and they were the ultimate boom or bust team and barring a terrific season for Carson Palmer its hard to really see that changing while the team is doing what it can to fill in the pieces within their cap situation.
Clayton pointed to that statistic, and said it will likely lead to Cardinals GM Steve Keim going “on a big spree” to sign as many useful veterans on cheaper deals as he can when he gets back from vacation.
“Just to try to fill the roster and get them as good as they can, because this year, I think, is it,” he said.
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