ESPN’s Barnwell: Arizona Cardinals had one of NFL’s worst offseasons
The Arizona Cardinals’ biggest splash this offseason has been the acquisition of wideout Marquise Brown from the Baltimore Ravens during the first day of the 2022 NFL Draft.
The trade has since received mixed reviews following the suspension of DeAndre Hopkins for the first six games due to the league’s performance enhancing drug policy.
After a few draft selections and minor moves, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell believes the Cardinals had the third-worst offseason out of the 32 teams in the NFL so far.
What went right: Not a ton. I’m more optimistic about Marquise Brown than most analysts, and I think his numbers could see a bump by moving from a slow, run-first offense to one that plays fast and throws at one of the higher rates in football. I’m not blaming the Cardinals for DeAndre Hopkins’ suspension, and while I would have preferred just drafting a wide receiver, trading for Brown was a reasonable Plan B.
There were a couple of moves on the margins that I liked. Guard Will Hernandez probably isn’t going to live up to his status as the 34th pick in the 2018 draft (where he was taken immediately ahead of Nick Chubb, Darius Leonard and Braden Smith), but getting him on a one-year deal for just under $1.2 million was solid value. Dennis Gardeck had seven sacks in 2020, and while he couldn’t repeat the feat in 2021, re-signing the former undrafted free agent to a three-year, $10 million deal was reasonable enough.
He also went on to mention how the Cardinals were able to pick up two compensation picks for the likes of Christian Kirk and Chandler Jones, lessening the burden of the Brown trade.
A lot of what Arizona’s offseason grade will look like depends on Brown’s production, especially in Hopkins’ absence over the first six games.
But Barnwell did not hold back when talking about where he felt the Cardinals have faltered so far, recommending that the Cardinals should have gone the cheaper route of drafting a wideout or getting a cheaper option than Brown and drafting a corner or edge rusher.
What went wrong: The Cardinals just aren’t very good at valuing players within the context of the league, and they get too attached to the recent past. Even if Brown does pan out, trading a first-round pick for the former Ravens wideout basically prices the Cardinals into extending their new receiver, meaning they’ll be investing more than $40 million between Hopkins and Brown. That’s before getting into the second-round picks they’ve used on Andy Isabella, Rondale Moore and tight end Trey McBride — and the new deal the Cards gave Zach Ertz to keep the longtime Eagles tight end around.
Barnwell says signing Ertz to an extension locks the Cardinals with a player in his 30s who wasn’t getting much interest in the trade market elsewhere.
After swapping the first-rounder for Brown, Arizona used its second-round selection on tight end Trey McBride from Colorado State. The Cardinals also re-signed tight end Maxx Williams in the offseason.
Barnwell said the re-signing of James Conner was a small reach because he was fantastic for fantasy football owners in 2021 but was mostly average outside a few show-stopping catches. He cited that Conner “averaged 3.7 yards per carry and gained 53 fewer yards than an average back would have on his carries by the NFL Next Gen Stats model.”
The running back will also make close to $16 million over the next two years.
Barnwell criticized that Arizona did not do much to address the cornerback room and loss of Jones on the edge.
Arizona signed corner Jeff Gladney, a player who was out of the league in 2021, and also went after edge rushers with two third-round selections in San Diego State’s Cam Thomas and Cincinnati’s Myjai Sanders.
On top of it all, the relationship between the organization and quarterback Kyler Murray is still an unknown.
Lastly, Barnwell believes Arizona needs to bite the bullet and get the deal done with Murray. Although the deal could be “something in the ballpark of four years and $170 million.” the organization has committed to a relationship with the quarterback.