NFL team executive to ESPN: Cardinals ‘could be in a free fall’ this season

Mar 21, 2017, 12:03 PM | Updated: 1:18 pm

Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell (93) celebrates his sack of New Orleans Saints quar...

Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell (93) celebrates his sack of New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

The 2017 Arizona Cardinals are going to look a whole lot different than the 2016 Arizona Cardinals.

Although the team has retained a few key guys, most notably Chandler Jones, they’ve lost quite a few too.

An executive for another NFL team told ESPN that the Cardinals could be in trouble because of their players who walked away.

Led by Calais Campbell and Tony Jefferson, the players Arizona lost during the first couple waves of free agency commanded more than $130 million in new contracts, including nearly $70 million in guarantees. No other team lost players valued so much in the market.

“I think it is kind of clear that Arizona is potentially in a free fall this coming season,” an executive from another team said. “They could be in that, ‘Oh my God, all of a sudden we have to build for the future, we are not really even that competitive right now.'”

Campbell joined the Jacksonville Jaguars while Jefferson signed with the Baltimore Ravens in early March. Both had been vital pieces on Arizona’s defensive unit for years, with Campbell earning two Pro Bowl selections over the last three seasons and Jefferson racking up two fumble recoveries and 74 tackles last year.

Altogether, the Cardinals have lost nine free agents as of Tuesday morning.

Marcus Cooper and D.J. Swearinger, along with Jefferson, are leaving holes in the secondary. Cooper started 13 games and earned four interceptions, taking one of those back for a touchdown. Swearinger started 12 games and tallied three interceptions.

Linebacker Kevin Minter, who started every game for Arizona over the last two seasons and contributed 131 tackles over that span, left for the Bengals over the weekend.

The Cardinals have made signings to try and fill these openings, however.

Karlos Dansby will make his return in Arizona, taking over a linebacker spot, Jarvis Jones comes over from the Pittsburgh Steelers to help stop the run, and Antoine Bethea will bring his experience from the San Francisco 49ers to the Cardinals’ secondary.

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NFL team executive to ESPN: Cardinals ‘could be in a free fall’ this season