After narrowly missing out on Super Bowl 50, the Arizona Cardinals have some work to do this offseason.
ESPN.com’s Bill Barnwell looked at five moves the Cardinals should make this offseason in order to make that jump to another Super Bowl appearance.
Unsurprisingly, four of Barnwell’s five priorities are on defense.
The first is Tyrann Mathieu’s extension, which has become the main focus surrounding the Cardinals offseason. Barnwell also lists the Cardinals pass rush and the need for a veteran cornerback.
The spotlight on Mathieu’s extension has Rashad Johnson flying under the radar a bit, but don’t forget about the 2009 third-round pick’s value.
Nobody uses their defensive backs more than the Cardinals, and while they’ve already re-signed veteran Chris Clemons, they also should bring back the 30-year-old Johnson, who played 72.2 percent of the snaps for Arizona last season. They don’t have a like-for-like replacement for Johnson on the roster unless the Cards have faith that they’ll be the ones to turn around D.J. Swearinger. And hey, given that they revitalized Freeney and Chris Johnson last year, stranger things have happened.
In seven seasons with the Cardinals, Johnson has 282 tackles, 15 interceptions and three touchdowns.
Seen as a Pro Bowl snub by his teammates, Johnson has been the much needed security blanket in the secondary alongside the two stars, Mathieu and Patrick Peterson.
Another long-term option the Cardinals should look into according to Barnwell is at center.
The pivot was such a problem for the Cardinals in training camp that they re-signed Lyle Sendlein, whom the organization appeared to be moving on from after the 2014 season. They could go after Sendlein again, but the Cards would be better off investing in a long-term option. It would be tough for the Cardinals to spend heavily on another interior lineman after using a high pick on Jonathan Cooper and spending big money on Mike Iupati, which might rule them out if Alex Mack hits the market, but they could look at somebody like Stefen Wisniewski of the Jaguars or Ryan Wendell of the Patriots.
As Barnwell notes, Sendlein was brought back to the team and is a free agent once again.
With two first-round picks on the right side and two big money free agents on the left side, the Cardinals are seemingly left with only one more position to address on the offensive line.
That does present the issue Barnwell goes over, though, with so much money already spent on that unit.
There are challenges aplenty for GM Steve Keim in 2016 despite how well he has done in building this team.
NFL free agency starts on March 1 and the NFL Draft begins on April 28.
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