Remaining priorities and projected starters for the Cardinals
Behind general manager Steve Keim, the Arizona Cardinals have gotten out to an aggressive start as NFL free agency began.
They transition-tagged running back Kenyan Drake and then agreed to trade for receiver DeAndre Hopkins when the negotiating window opened. Arizona then filled in holes along the front seven and brought back several rotation players and backups.
What starting roles have yet to be addressed? Below, you can find a list of projected starters along with remaining roster priorities addressed in more detail.
We’ll keep this list updated as more signings are announced. Asterisks designate players acquired since the free agency negotiation window opened who have not officially inked their deals due to coronavirus-caused restrictions.
QB: Kyler Murray — Backup Brett Hundley is also back. Drew Anderson and the versatile Chris Streveler, who played in the CFL last year, will fight for a scout team spot or even a spot on the roster.
RB: Kenyan Drake — He signed his transition tag tender, and D.J. Foster was re-signed to join Drake and Chase Edmonds in the backfield.
WR: DeAndre Hopkins*
WR: Larry Fitzgerald
WR: Christian Kirk
TE: Maxx Williams
LT: D.J. Humphries
LG: Justin Pugh — Arizona also re-signed Max Garcia, who returned from a knee injury midseason in 2019, to play at either backup guard spot.
C: The Cardinals could re-sign A.Q. Shipley, the 33-year-old locker room leader who produced in 2019 after coming off an ACL injury that robbed him of 2018. Shipley said he wants to be back, and one would think retaining the same O-line would be beneficial. However, any contract negotiations on the team’s end will come with this is mind: Mason Cole, who started as a rookie in 2018, is a capable fallback option. However, it’s a luxury to have Cole available as a backup at guard, center and even tackle.
RG: J.R. Sweezy
RT: Tendering exclusive rights free agent Justin Murray at least gave Arizona one player capable of starting 2020 at right tackle. Veteran Marcus Gilbert joins him after Arizona re-signed him as well, but Gilbert hasn’t played more than seven games over a season since 2016. He missed last year with a knee injury that struck just before the regular season began. Is Gilbert healthy?
In his place, Murray performed admirably last year and is only 26 years old. It looked like the Cardinals would target OT with their No. 8 NFL Draft pick, and there will be a handful of OTs available. But Arizona has opened up its options (defensive line, maybe?) by betting on Murray and Gilbert.
DT: Corey Peters
DT: Jordan Phillips* — Trevon Coley, formerly of the Colts, was also added as a reserve tackle.
DE: The Cardinals re-signed fifth-year pro Jonathan Bullard a week into free agency. He played just above 50% of the snaps last year before he went to the IR with a hamstring injury. Two second-year pros, Zach Allen and Michael Dogbe, could have a chance to earn playing time as well. Allen was thrust into a key role probably too early as a rookie and played four games with eight tackles before a neck injury ended his debut season prematurely. A third-round draft pick, Allen didn’t record a sack but did have three quarterback hits.
The third starting interior defensive lineman position appears to be a wide open competition, likely between Bullard and Allen, as of now. In any case, both will be used as defensive coordinator Vance Joseph tends to heavily rotate that group.
OLB: Chandler Jones
OLB: Devon Kennard
ILB: Jordan Hicks
ILB: De’Vondre Campbell* — A strong tackler, he adds athleticism that the Cardinals hope is part of an antidote to cover opposing tight ends better than last season.
S: Budda Baker
S: Jalen Thompson settled in toward the end of 2019 after he was added to the team via the supplemental draft. That was just before camp started. He caught up and then showed enough to believe Arizona views him as a starting safety, and 2019 fifth-round pick Deionte Thompson should give the Cardinals depth. The free agent market hasn’t been kind to safeties of late, so Keim could also wait this position out to add depth. As it stands, it looks like they trust Jalen Thompson.
CB: Patrick Peterson
CB: Robert Alford
K: Zane Gonzalez was extended a tender offer as a restricted free agent. Arizona placed a second-round tender on him, putting his salary at $3.3 million if that’s the deal he’s on in 2020. It’s likely but not locked-in that he’s back, as the Cardinals can match any other offer given to Gonzalez.
LS: Aaron Brewer
P: Andy Lee