As NFL teams address needs in the free agent market, it begins to clarify the draft and make needs more apparent for each franchise.
In the beginning of February, I broke down the biggest needs for the Arizona Cardinals. Now that week one of free agency has basically come to an end, I wanted to go back to the beginning and see if the Cardinals have addressed any of their major needs and if their moves have freed up the team to truly attack the draft in a “best player available” way.
I initially identified the Cardinals main needs as (in order of largest needs):
Quarterback – Drew Stanton signed to compete for the starting job with at least Brian Hoyer, who received a one-year tender offer at the second round level.
Pass Rusher – Lorenzo Alexander was brought in from Washington as a special teams ace. The six-year veteran is looking to break out and get a shot playing outside linebacker.
Guard – No one added.
Offensive tackle – No one added.
Inside linebacker – Jasper Brinkley, the run stopping dynamo from Minnesota, was added.
Other additions included running back Rashard Mendenhall (Pittsburgh), cornerbacks Jerraud Powers (Indianapolis) and Antoine Cason (San Diego), and safety Yeremiah Bell (NY Jets).
If you look at the signings, it is my opinion that the team’s needs haven’t changed at all. My thoughts on Stanton can be seen at tshq.co, and Alexander has never proven to be an effective every-down player.
That moves the needs at guard and tackle up the list following a week of free agency.
While Arians has talked about the offensive line not being as bad as everyone says, I think the combination of need and top talent available will lend to the Cardinals needs come draft day lining up like this:
Offensive guard – In two weeks I will be releasing my Arizona Cardinals big board, a list of the top 50 players that FIT into what the Cardinals will do, but here is a little spoiler — Chance Warmack will be in the top five of my board.
I am not getting my hopes up for the Cardinals breaking from tradition and passing on talent with more value for perhaps a higher rated, by me at least, prospect.
That being said, the Cardinals have the opportunity to solidify the position within the first two rounds with names like Warmack at seven, Larry Warford and Justin Pugh in round two or Kyle Long and Travis Frederick in round three.
If the Cardinals identify the guard position as a need, they’ll have ample opportunity to address the position.
Offensive tackle – I have talked about the likelihood that when the Cardinals step up to the podium that tackles Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher would be gone. But that doesn’t mean the cupboard is bare at that point. Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson is an intriguing, albeit underdeveloped left tackle prospect.
If for some reason Joeckel or Fisher fall to the Cardinals, I hope that they do the right thing. I wouldn’t be opposed to Warmack over either tackle prospect, but I am realistic in my belief that this is unlikely.
The other possibility — something that a lot of fans may not like — is the Cardinals moving down if Fisher or Joeckel fall to seven.
Teams may feel the value there would be like stealing, and they might be willing to part with picks — something the Cardinals could use to their advantage to plug the multiple holes on the roster.
If the Cardinals are unable to draft a left tackle at seven, there is a possibility that they could take Terron Armstead of Arkansas Pine-Bluff in round two. A player I identified early as a late-day two or early-day three guard prospect, Armstead has turned heads. I also was sent some film on him by a helpful agent, which has changed my mind.
Armstead would be a reach at the top of round two, but the reality is he may not make it to round three. So if the Cardinals really want a left tackle, they may have to reach in this draft for Lane Johnson at seven or Terron Armstead in the second round.
Safety – I want to again clarify that this is how I believe the Cardinals will list their needs. If it were up to me, I would still have quarterback and pass rusher ahead of safety, despite the fact I don’t see a starting free safety on the roster.
There is an intriguing thought among the draft community that Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro could sneak into the top ten. I am curious to see as draft day comes closer if the Cardinals are one of the teams interested in his services.
The Cardinals could also benefit from a player like LSU’s Eric Reid in round two, South Caroina’s D.J. Swearinger in round two or three, and maybe a guy like Arizona State’s Keelan Johnson on day three if they don’t make a move on the first day of the draft or in the later stages of free agency.
While the needs may have changed, there is still a chance that the Cardinals could go with a pass rusher early, or maybe even a quarterback (blashphemy, I know). But I would think that the Cardinals would look at their current roster and identify these as the three biggest needs after week one of free agency.