Two Cardinals make ESPN’s list of the top-50 NFL free agents

Feb 4, 2023, 10:45 AM

Zach Allen did not fly under the radar for NFL analysts during his breakout 2022 season on a 4-13 Arizona Cardinals team.

The defensive end is well-regarded and consistently regarded, too. After Pro Football Focus listed him as the 23rd-best free agent of the 2023 offseason, ESPN’s Matt Bowen did the same in a story published Wednesday.

Allen is a player who can be moved around in sub packages to generate interior pressure. He had 5.5 sacks and 26 pressures from various alignments in the Arizona defensive front this season. He also had a run stop win rate of 37.9%, which ranked in the top 40 among all NFL defenders. The arrow is pointing up on the 6-foot-4, 280-pound Allen.

Allen, Arizona’s third-round pick in 2019, is one of two Cardinals who appears on Bowen’s list of the top available players.

Cornerback Byron Murphy is the other. While PFF left him off its list of the top 50 freee agents, the 2019 second-round pick ranks 37th on ESPN’s rankings.

Murphy intercepted four passes and had 12 pass breakups in 2021, but his production took a hit this season. He had just four breakups and didn’t pick off a pass. Even with the drop in on-ball production, he has the man-coverage traits to play inside or outside the numbers, and his youth will be intriguing for teams.

PFF likely left off Murphy because he played in nine games as he battled injuries this past year.

There is good reason for the Cardinals to want both players back.

Losing J.J. Watt to retirement leaves a void along the defensive front that already leaned heavily on the duo. Whether it was due to injury or production, there was no regularly impactful third player alongside them in 2022.

Murphy, regardless of his ups and downs, was the No. 1 cornerback who gave Arizona depth with his ability to swing into slot coverage.

Of course, how those two players are valued likely changes this offseason with a to-be-determined head coach replacing Kliff Kingsbury and general manager Monti Ossenfort taking over the front office.

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Two Cardinals make ESPN’s list of the top-50 NFL free agents