PFF: Cardinals land 2 Top-50 free agents with big offseason contracts

Feb 21, 2022, 3:00 PM
ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 19: Cole Beasley #11 of the Buffalo Bills carries the ball after ...
ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 19: Cole Beasley #11 of the Buffalo Bills carries the ball after a catch against Stephon Gilmore #9 of the Carolina Panthers in the second quarter of the game at Highmark Stadium on December 19, 2021 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images)

Arizona Cardinals fans may see faces from last year’s team in different uniforms next season, but the 2022 free agency carousel could bring new players donning the white and red.

Pro Football Focus’ Arjun Menon sees two Cardinals players, Chandler Jones (No. 5) and Christian Kirk (No. 50), in the Top-50 free agents both finding new homes in the offseason.

He also predicts that Arizona will not look to replace those positions, but rather target cornerback Stephon Gilmore (No. 15) and guard Connor Williams (No. 38).

Gilmore only played in nine games last season due to injury but finished with 16 tackles and two interceptions with the Carolina Panthers.

Menon predicts Arizona signs Gilmore to a two year, $28 million ($20 million guaranteed) contract.

Gilmore returned from his injury in Week 8 and gave the Panthers some much needed reinforcements at cornerback. He finished the year with a 79.4 coverage grade while allowing an 80.7 passer rating and only two touchdowns (both in one game). Gilmore thrives in a man-heavy scheme where he can press and get his hands on receivers. The Cardinals are a great fit, as Vance Joseph’s attacking defense could use a lockdown corner such as Gilmore. Though he could see some regression with age, he’s an upgrade over Marco Wilson.

Corner Robert Alford will also be a 33-year-old free agent decision this offseason for Arizona, while the team will look to pair a third corner with Byron Murphy Jr. and Wilson.

Williams is 24 years old with four years of experience with the Dallas Cowboys.

Menon predicts the Cardinals lock up the left guard with a three year, $20 million ($12.5 million guaranteed) contract.

Williams has improved each year he’s played for the Cowboys. In 2021, Williams recorded a 75.2 PFF grade — his highest since entering the league — and only allowed 22 pressures, which is a career-low. The Cardinals need help at guard, and Williams can stabilize a unit that looked shaky to end the year, especially with the type of interior rushers in the NFC West.

Left guard Justin Pugh has one year left on his contract with Arizona worth over $8 million, but also played other positions on the offensive line in his career.

One of Arizona’s biggest offseason decisions lies with pass-rusher Chandler Jones, the Cardinals all-time leader in sacks with 71.5.

Jones finished with 10.5 sacks last season and may demand one last big deal as he will be 32 years old when the next season kicks off.

Menon predicts Jones heads north and signs a two year, $33.5 million ($24 million guaranteed) contract with the Denver Broncos.

Jones is still a premier pass-rusher at this point in his career, but other facets of his game have dropped off. Though a reunion with the Cardinals could be in the mix, the two sides have failed to terms on an extension or new contract up to this point despite making an effort, which is why the Broncos are a viable landing spot. Denver is also expected to play the Staley 3-4 scheme after hiring Rams secondary coach Ejiro Evero, which fits Jones’ skill set.

Chandler recorded an 87.3 pass-rushing grade, 10.5 sacks and 47 pressures in 2021 but also generated a 42.5 run defense grade. His run-defense grade has steadily declined since 2019. The Broncos need a premier pass-rusher opposite of Bradley Chubb following the Von Miller trade, and Jones can be that guy.

Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk rounds out PFF’s list at No. 50.

He saw the best season of his career in 2021 with Arizona catching 77 balls for 982 yards and five touchdowns.

Menon sees Kirk signing a three year, $35 million ($24 million guaranteed) contract with the Cleveland Browns.

The Browns have not been able to find a deep threat for Baker Mayfield. Anthony Schwartz was drafted to be that guy, but he had an underwhelming rookie year, leaving the Browns wide receiver room looking pretty bleak. Kirk can help open the offense up more, and if Mayfield’s shoulder is healthy, he can make the over-the-top throws following a play-action. Kirk recorded a 97.0 receiving grade when targeted receiver on deep throws (throws of 20-plus air yards).

Life Changer Loans

Arizona Cardinals

Head coach Kliff Kingbury of the Arizona Cardinals participants in a team training camp at State Fa...
Dan Bickley

Kliff Kingsbury biggest winner of Cardinals’ start to preseason

Dan Bickley writes that Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury is the biggest winner out of the team's preseason win over the Bengals.
1 day ago
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Greg Dortch (83) runs in the first quarter against the Arizona Card...
Tyler Drake

Arizona Cardinals’ Greg Dortch determined to prove he belongs in NFL

After a murky start to his NFL career, Cardinals WR Greg Dortch is making the most of his opportunities this offseason.
1 day ago
Arizona Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins looks on during training camp on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022, in Gle...
Tyler Drake

Back in black: Cardinals get 1st glimpse of 4-receiver arsenal, new helmet

After an offseason of waiting, head coach Kliff Kingsbury got to see what he'll be working with offensively starting in Week 7.
1 day ago
Budda Baker #3 and Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals walk off the field following the NFL ga...
Arizona Sports

NFL Top 100: Kyler Murray gets comped, Rams have Budda Baker rule

Cardinals Kyler Murray and Budda Baker joined teammate James Conner in the NFL Network's Top 100 list of players, as ranked by their peers.
1 day ago
Running back James Conner #6 of the Arizona Cardinals rushes the football against Leonard Floyd #54...
Sam Graveline

Cardinals RB James Conner comes in at No. 80 in NFL Top 100

After scoring 18 touchdowns in his first season with the Cardinals, running back James Conner got some recognition from his peers in the NFL.
2 days ago
Kendric Pryor #19 of the Cincinnati Bengals makes a catch past Breon Borders #21 of the Arizona Car...
Arizona Sports

Arizona Cardinals release DL Kingsley Keke, CB Breon Borders among 5 cuts

The Cardinals cut DL Kingsley Keke, OL Haggai Ndubuisi, OL Greg Long, RB Ronnie Rivers and CB Breon Borders, the team announced. 
2 days ago
PFF: Cardinals land 2 Top-50 free agents with big offseason contracts