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