PFF: Arizona Cardinals’ biggest needs are WR, D-line and TE
Priorities for the Arizona Cardinals this offseason aren’t cut and dried.
A large chunk of the roster enters free agency and the Cardinals haven’t hit enough in the NFL Draft. There is concerning depth at a number of positions where Arizona wouldn’t survive too many free agent losses.
In fact, they have the largest share of snaps from 2020 taken by players who enter free agency this offseason, according to OverTheCap.com’s Jason Fitzgerald. Forty-four percent of the team’s total snaps in 2020 were by players who could sign with other teams.
2021 Salary cap space vs 2021 free agent snaps
Top right- Above Avg. Cap Space/Many Free Agents
Top Left- No Cap Space/Many Free Agents
Bottom right- Above Avg. Cap Space/Few Free Agents
Bottom left- No cap space/Few Free Agents pic.twitter.com/nkIecu1tNz
— Jason_OTC (@Jason_OTC) January 19, 2021
So identifying priorities by position isn’t easy.
Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson gave it a shot. He writes that wide receiver, tight end and the interior of the defensive line need to be addressed first.
The Arizona Cardinals are entering a make-or-break season in many ways in 2021. Things started brightly this season before fading down the stretch and casting some doubt about the direction the team is headed in. With Kyler Murray’s play hitting a plateau and Kliff Kingsbury struggling to take this offense to the moon, this is a team that needs to add weaponry even after the trade for DeAndre Hopkins last offseason.
This is a league where one threat is nice, but two or more is where the big gains are. Hopkins drew 154 targets in his first season with the team, but nobody else was even within half of that. The team is crying out for a legitimate secondary threat.
Again, that’s one man’s thoughts, though Monson’s not wrong that the team needs to find other threats to help Murray lead the passing attack.
At receiver, the Cardinals do have Christian Kirk entering his fourth season. He has 1,000-yard potential, and maybe it’s the way he was used last year that can be altered to increase his involvement.
The Cardinals did, after all, move on from receiver coach David Raih, a sign they think it may not be personnel that led to a disappointing year for the receivers not named Hopkins. If Andy Isabella and/or KeeSean Johnson break out in 2021, the concerns lessen there, especially if Larry Fitzgerald opts for retirement this offseason.
Arizona also could bring back free agent tight ends Dan Arnold and Darrell Daniels, who they believe have potential to grow alongside veteran Maxx Williams. Arnold, who is still growing as a run-blocking tight end, did record 438 receiving yards and four touchdowns last year.
At defensive line, there are at least bodies.
Jordan Phillips must live up to his big contract signed last offseason, and youngsters Zach Allen, Leki Fotu and Rashard Lawrence flashed in 2020. There’s obviously a decision to make with nose tackle Corey Peters, a leader who enters free agency coming off a season-ending knee injury.
Other position groups can make the case to be prioritized above receiver, the defensive line and tight end.
The Cardinals have little depth at inside linebacker after returning players Jordan Hicks and Isaiah Simmons. A number of outside linebackers are also reaching free agency, including Haason Reddick, Dennis Gardeck and Markus Golden.
And in the backend, cornerback could have two openings depending on if Patrick Peterson and Dre Kirkpatrick depart — if Robert Alford can be relied upon having missed the last two years with different injuries is another question.
There are a lot of moving parts in all this, of course.
It depends which free agents or draft picks the Cardinals think they can legitimately land and which of their many free agents can return without commanding exorbitant contracts.