Steve Keim: Cardinals looking to re-sign ‘four or five’ free agents
The Arizona Cardinals hope to retain a handful of the team’s free agents, general manager Steve Keim said at the NFL Combine on Wednesday.
“There are a number of guys, four or five that we’d certainly like to have back and feel like are a core part of the team,” he said.
Keim did not elaborate on which players or positions were of priority, but here’s a look at the free agents-to-be who were significant contributors on the 2017 team.
Defensive line: Frostee Rucker started all 16 games last season for the first time since 2012. Though he only had 1.5 sacks, his 29 total tackles were the most he’s compiled in his five-year Arizona career.
Cornerback: The Cardinals found a temporary patch for their cornerback issues last season in veteran Tramon Williams, who took the starting reins halfway through the season. As a team that has struggled to retain productive corners opposite of Patrick Peterson, Williams could be an inexpensive veteran option. Williams said in December he would like to return.
Safety: Tyvon Branch lost much of his season to a knee injury in November, but if the Cardinals think the 31-year-old can return to form, he could be a target. Branch only played 15 games in his two-year stint in Arizona. Last year, he finished with the fifth-most tackles (69) on the team despite missing seven games.
Linebacker: Karlos Dansby led the Cardinals with 95 total tackles last season. However, at 36 years old, Arizona might hesitate to re-sign the 14-year veteran. If not, the door will open to a potential return for Josh Bynes, who shined in limited action last year.
Other potential losses
Running back: While Kerwynn Williams may not be the ideal backup to David Johnson, he has proven a key depth option over the last two seasons. Thrust into the starting role in December, he averaged almost 3.9 yards per carry over the five-game finish to the season.
Linebacker: Though Bynes only started one game in 2017, he forced two fumbles, intercepted a pass and had 24 tackles. Outside Deone Bucannon, the Cardinals don’t have many options at ILB. Bynes, 28, is a younger choice than Dansby, if that’s what the Cardinals are looking for.
Wide receiver: John Brown only caught 21 passes in 2017. However, in his first two seasons, he recorded 1,699 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. If Arizona thinks he can rebound from health issues the past two seasons, he could return to try to prove he’s still a deep threat.
The third-leading receiver for the Cardinals last season — after Larry Fitzgerald and J.J. Nelson — Jaron Brown caught 31 balls for 477 yards and four touchdowns. He could be brought back on a reasonable contract.
Cornerback: Justin Bethel was replaced by Williams as the starting cornerback midway through 2017, but he is a three-time special teams Pro Bowler. If the Cardinals think he can still add depth to the cornerback group, they could look at him for the right price.
Offensive line: Injuries to others forced guard Alex Boone and tackle/guard John Wetzel into starting 13 and 11 games, respectively, in 2017. If the Cardinals are worried that they’ll run into similar injury and depth issues in the coming season, they could look to either or both.