PFF ranks 4 Cardinals among top 100 free agents entering 2021

Jan 7, 2021, 2:16 PM | Updated: 11:14 pm
Cornerback Patrick Peterson #21 of the Arizona Cardinals is tackled after making an interception du...
Cornerback Patrick Peterson #21 of the Arizona Cardinals is tackled after making an interception during the second half against the Buffalo Bills at State Farm Stadium on November 15, 2020 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Arizona Cardinals have a handful of decisions regarding who to keep and who to let walk in free agency this offseason.

Of the team’s free agents, four made the cut in Pro Football Focus’ top 100 free agents entering the offseason.

Ranking the highest among Cardinals free agents is cornerback Patrick Peterson at No. 71.

Peterson enters free agency after recording 61 tackles, three interceptions and eight passes defensed.

The No. 5 overall pick from 2011 hadn’t shown any signs of slowing down through the 2018 season — his eighth consecutive year playing in all 16 games — but a six-game suspension to start the 2019 season may have provided one explanation. Peterson has struggled against good route-runners, and 2020 has seen him post his worst coverage grade since 2011 to go with a league-high 11 penalties. Recent play shows a below-average corner in both man and zone coverage.

PFF adds that Peterson is still a serviceable veteran that can make quarterbacks think twice before throwing.

With that being said, PFF predicts the Cardinals re-sign the CB to a two-year, $25 million deal ($15 million guaranteed).

Coming in at No. 75 is offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum.

Beachum signed with the Cardinals on a veteran’s minimum deal this past offseason.

The consistent tackle started all 16 games last season for Arizona.

He’s better in pass protection than he is as a run blocker, where he hasn’t graded above 60.0 since 2015 while ranking in just the 15th percentile in positively graded play percentage. It’s all about setting proper expectations for Beachum, as he will provide above-average pass blocking and below-average run blocking.

While the value is there for the Cardinals, PFF predicts Beachum signs a one-year, $4.5 million contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Starting running back Kenyan Drake also cracked the top 100 at No. 77.

Drake entered the 2020 season on a transition tag after being traded to Arizona in the middle of 2019. He burst on the scene with Arizona, recording 643 yards and eight touchdowns on 123 carries over those final eight games. He averaged 5.2 yards per rush.

The same type of production didn’t translate in 2020.

Kenyan Drake was expected to have a huge year in 2020 given what we had seen from him within Arizona’s offense after his arrival the year before, but it never quite happened. Drake ended the season with a 60.9 overall PFF grade, the lowest mark of his career. And his 4.0 yards per carry was a full half-yard lower than any other season of his career. It wasn’t all Drake’s fault, however, and he still generated 2.5 yards per carry after contact and broke 31 tackles, but the lack of dominant production in a No. 1 role will immediately scare off plenty of teams.

Despite the downturn, however, PFF predicts the Cardinals re-sign the running back to a three-year, $20 million deal ($11 million total guaranteed, $8.5 million fully guaranteed at signing).

Last but certainly not least is outside linebacker Haason Reddick at No. 87.

Reddick compiled his best season as a pro, recording team highs in tackles for loss (20) and sacks (12.5). He added four pass deflections and made 63 tackles.

In his three seasons prior to 2020, Reddick combined for 7.5 sacks, 18 tackles for loss and 11 pass deflections to go along with 118 tackles.

Reddick’s strong finish to 2020 has looked nothing like the first 3 ½ years of his career, clouding his free-agent evaluation. Reddick was clearly out of place as a traditional linebacker, grading at just 35.4 in coverage in his first three NFL seasons — the third-worst mark among linebackers during that time. However, Reddick’s move back to his college position on the edge has rejuvenated his career, as his burst has been an asset when he rushes the passer.

With the Cardinals declining the linebacker’s fifth-year option this past offseason, Reddick hits free agency with a lot more buzz than initially projected.

PFF predicts Reddick will take his talents to Carolina, signing a one-year, $8.5 million fully guaranteed contract with the Panthers.

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PFF ranks 4 Cardinals among top 100 free agents entering 2021