CARDINALS CORNER

Free agent re-signings the Cardinals should make in 2024

Jan 18, 2024, 7:30 AM

Greg Dortch celebrates a first down...

Wide receiver Greg Dortch #83 of the Arizona Cardinals reacts to a first-down reception against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the NFL game at State Farm Stadium on December 25, 2022 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Arizona Cardinals head into Year 2 under general manager Monti Ossenfort and head coach Jonathan Gannon needing to stock talent.

Most of that will be by adding outside through the draft and free agency.

But there are also a handful of 2023 Cardinals who could make a lot of sense for Ossenfort and Gannon to re-sign.

A look at the five players Arizona should seriously consider bringing back in 2024:

Greg Dortch, WR

Status: Exclusive rights free agent

Dortchbearers, assemble!

For yet another season, Dortch produced when his number was called due to injuries or poor play within the wide receivers room.

Seeing 38% (397) of the available offensive snaps in 2023, Dortch finished fifth on the team in receiving yards (280) and tied for fourth in touchdowns (two) on 24 catches across 16 games played.

The biggest issue for Dortch has been his usage offensively. Despite turning in good tape, he still found himself lower on the totem pole than he would have liked. It’s more a matter of if he plays rather than if he will perform.

Dortch also played a big role on special teams, averaging 21.2 yards per kick return and 9.5 yards per punt return.

As an exclusive rights free agent, Dortch cannot negotiate with other teams if Arizona offers him a one-year deal (league minimum).

Josh Woods, ILB

Status: Unrestricted free agent

You could argue the inside linebackers room was the deepest position on the team last season. Woods was a big part of that.

Not only did he complete the 1-2 punch in the middle alongside starting MIKE backer Kyzir White, Woods filled in admirably for the leader when he went down with a torn bicep in Week 11.

In the four games Woods took on a bigger role, he amassed 29 tackles, nearly half of his season total of 61.

That included a season-high 12 tackles in his first full game rocking the green dot in place of White, who would end up getting placed on injured reserve.

The only big knock on Woods was the way his season came to a close in the form of an injured reserve stint due to a reported core muscle injury.

Blake Gillikin, P

Status: Unrestricted free agent

The only midseason addition of the bunch, Gillikin garnered a lot of trust from the coaching staff and players behind a powerful leg after signing with Arizona in October.

In 13 games played, Gillikin booted 51 punts for an average of 50.6 yards per attempt, good enough for third in the NFL among punters with at least 12 games played. He also posted the eighth best average for net yardage leaguewide at 42.9.

Both of those marks are single-season records for the franchise.

“My closet has some more Arizona Cardinals red in it now, and I’m forever indebted to the team for believing in me at a time I was starting to lose belief in myself,” Gillikin said in a recent Instagram post. “Very thankful for my family and friends (and) anyone who uplifted me during that time and throughout the season.

“All I wanted to prove was that I still belonged as one of the best 32 at my job. Can’t wait for the future, whether that’s in Arizona or elsewhere! Go Cards!”

On top of his ability to flip the field, the punter also got valuable reps holding for kicker Matt Prater. Familiarity is key when it comes to special teams operations and Andy Lee isn’t walking through that door anytime soon.

The biggest area Gillikin can improve upon next season comes from inside the 20-yard line.

While he was close to the top of the list for average yardage, he was next to last in punts inside the 20-yard line with 11. Six of those came across four of the final five games of the season.

It’s not entirely on him, as the offense dictates where he gets the ball, but it’s certainly a number that can see an uptick.

Jonathan Ledbetter, DL

Status: Exclusive rights free agent

It was another step in the right direction for Ledbetter in his second season with the Cardinals.

Setting career marks in tackles (46), sacks (1.5) and QB hits (four) in 12 games played, Ledbetter helped lead a rotation of defensive linemen for most of the season.

His work didn’t stop when he stepped off the field, either, with Ledbetter lending a helping hand to those in need through his Led a Better Way Foundation. For his efforts, he was named the Cardinals’ Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.

Like some of the other players on this list, the big thing for Ledbetter will be getting back to 100% after going down with a season-ending knee injury in Week 16.

As an exclusive rights free agent, Ledbetter cannot negotiate with other teams if Arizona offers him a one-year deal (league minimum).

Geoff Swaim, TE

Status: Unrestricted free agent

Even when Zach Ertz was still a member of the Cardinals, Swaim was the unquestioned veteran voice in the TEs room.

That factor along with his ability as a blocker in an offense predicated on running the rock make him a no-brainer re-signing for the Cardinals.

“He’s been invaluable since Day 1 that he got here,” TEs coach Ben Steele said in November. “He’s a guy that’s going to help coach the young guys in the room. … He’s a guy that takes time and you’ll see him pre-practice. He’s already coaching guys on footwork, technique.

“It’s huge to have a vet like that to show young guys what a pro is. … He’s such a key aspect for our room for sure.”

For Swaim, it’s all about getting back to full strength this offseason after watching his season come to an end due to a calf injury.

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