When ranking the best NFL free agents on the Cardinals, nobody agrees
On one hand, the Arizona Cardinals aren’t worried about losing any of their stars.
The list of free agents that could depart includes several key players, however, and general manager Steve Keim will navigate who to re-sign, who to let go and how that fits as he attempts to fill in holes by bringing in outside free agents at quarterback and beyond.
All that’s known heading into the new league year, which begins on March 14, is that valuing Arizona’s free agents is complicated.
Quite simply, it depends on who you ask.
Here is a look at various websites’ lists of the top NFL free agents, where few agree about where the Cardinals players stand.
ESPN’s Kevin Seifert has an interesting few takes. He ranks backup cornerback Justin Bethel as Arizona’s best free agent despite Bethel losing his starting job to veteran Tramon Williams, who played well down the stretch run of the year.
Williams, a free agent himself, could be a value signing for the Cardinals, as he will turn 35 on March 16. Bethel, who had 41 tackles, one interception and four passes defensed last season, may hold more value in the longterm due to his age (28 years old) and ability as a special teams player.
56. CB Justin Bethel
Bethel failed to hold down the starting job opposite Patrick Peterson after five years of grooming, albeit with some unfortunate injuries along the way. But he could prove valuable from a depth perspective given his experience.
Others Cardinals ranked: WR John Brown (66), DE/LB Kareem Martin (75)
Seifert cites Arizona’s overall offensive woes as a possible reason for Brown’s decreasing production the last two years, but so too were Brown’s injury problems and limitations from dealing with a sickle cell trait.
Martin is an intriguing pick. He received limited snaps the past two years playing behind Chandler Jones and Markus Golden.
The folks at Pro Football Talk have another Cardinals receiver on their list.
They have Jaron Brown coming in as the highest-rated Arizona free agent at No. 62. Brown caught 31 balls for 477 yards and four touchdowns in 2017, easily out-producing John Brown’s 299 yards on 21 catches.
62. WR Jaron Brown
Others Cardinals ranked: S Tyvon Branch (93), CB Justin Bethel (94)
Branch earned a hefty bit of praise from former head coach Bruce Arians and compiled 69 tackles to go with a forced fumble and six passes defensed before tearing his ACL on Nov. 9. Harry Lyles Jr. of SB Nation has him ranked way up there, just after quarterback Sam Bradford and before defensive lineman Mo Wilkerson.
27. S Tyvon Branch
Others Cardinals ranked: CB Justin Bethel (65), CB Tramon Williams (82)
NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal and Chris Wesseling are pretty complimentary of John Brown, ranking him 48th on their list of the top free agents.
But they also do some safe hedging.
48. WR John Brown
Like so many intriguing free agents, Brown has a history of injuries that makes him a boom-or-bust option. He hasn’t been quite right since his 1,000-yard season in 2015.
Others Cardinals ranked: S Tyvon Branch (68)
Branch is tops for the Cardinals on Walter Cherepinsky’s list.
51. S Tyvon Branch
Others Cardinals ranked: CB Tramon Williams (92)
Tramon Williams surprisingly played extremely well for the Cardinals this past season. Unfortunately for Williams, he may not be able to repeat that in 2018, as he’ll be 35.