Frankie Luvu viewed as best free agent fit for Cardinals by ESPN’s Bowen

Feb 21, 2024, 6:15 PM

Frankie Luvu takes the field...

Frankie Luvu #49 of the Carolina Panthers takes the field prior to the game against the Green Bay Packers at Bank of America Stadium on December 24, 2023 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Free agency serves as one avenue for Arizona Cardinals general manager Monti Ossenfort to use when it comes to revamping the roster.

Cornerback, both sides of the line, pass rusher and wide receiver stand out as the biggest needs for the Cardinals heading into Year 2 under Ossenfort and head coach Jonathan Gannon.

ESPN’s Matt Bowen, however, believes inside linebacker Frankie Luvu is the best free agent fit for Arizona.

The Cardinals need more production at the linebacker spot in Jonathan Gannon’s defense, and they’ll get the opportunity with Luvu headed to free agency. Luvu posted career-best numbers with the Panthers last season. … He fits here as an off-ball linebacker who can track the edges in the run game and get home on schemed blitzes.

Luvu, who Bowen ranks as the 42nd best free agent this offseason, was busy last season behind 125 tackles, 10 of which were for losses, 5.5 sacks, five passes defensed, two forced fumbles and 11 QB hits across 17 games played for the Carolina Panthers last season.

Pairing a player of Luvu’s caliber alongside Kyzir White would be a huge boost for the defense. The question is, do the Cardinals want to tie up money at a position that isn’t among the most glaring needs?

Per Pro Football Focus, Luvu is projected to command a contract in the three-year, $30 million range with $17 million guaranteed.

Currently, the Cardinals have around $41.7 million range but must allocate nearly $19 million for their 2024 rookie pool, $11.2 million of that will end up counting against the salary cap, per OverTheCap.

And on top of looking to fill holes via outside hires, the Cardinals are also going to be looking to re-sign players from last year’s squad, further shrinking Arizona’s cap space.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals know they have a proven commodity with White at starting MIKE backer. Despite seeing his season cut short due to a torn bicep, the veteran still paced the team in tackles (90) and tackles for loss (nine). He also recorded two sacks, an interception and three passes defensed in his first year in the desert.

As for who is going to command the spot next to him in defensive coordinator Nick Rallis’ defense, that’s up in the air with both Josh Woods and Krys Barnes hitting free agency this offseason.

Currently, second-year pro Owen Pappoe is the only other inside linebacker on the roster for Arizona.

Seeing more time as a special teamer for most of his rookie season, the 2023 fifth-round pick recorded 11 tackles, a pass defensed and a QB hit across 16 appearances (one start).

He did, however, see more time defensively — racking up 101 of his 114 defensive snaps in 2023 — during the course of the final three games of the season due to injuries to White and others.

Pappoe has the speed necessary to compete at the NFL level. If he can take the necessary steps forward in Year 2, he would be an intriguing option for Rallis to consider.

There’s also Zaven Collins if need be.

While he served primarily as an outside linebacker last year, most of Collins’ time in the desert was spent patrolling the middle of the defense.

Given the time the coaching staff put into Collins’ transition outside in 2023, it’s unclear just how open it would be to moving him back. But then again, he could end up being the best option on the roster.

Tennessee Titans viewed as best fit for Arizona Cardinals free agent Hollywood Brown

Move up 14 spots from Luvu in Bowen’s free agent ranking and you’ll find Cardinals free agent wide receiver Hollywood Brown at No. 28.

And in Bowen’s eyes, the Tennessee Titans present the best fit for the unrestricted free agent.

Brown would add a different element to the Titans’ wide receivers room because of his vertical stretch ability and open-field speed after the catch on in-breakers. Brown has 28 touchdowns in his career (four with the Cardinals in 2023), with 10 of them coming on throws of 20 or more air yards. In coach Brian Callahan’s offense, Brown would work with DeAndre Hopkins and Treylon Burks to give quarterback Will Levis a versatile group of pass-catchers.

Injuries and inconsistency plagued Brown in a contract year last season as he finished with 51 catches on 101 targets for 574 yards and four touchdowns (team high) in 14 games before being placed on injured reserve with a heel injury.

The door is still open for Brown to re-sign with Arizona, though the Cardinals could look to the NFL Draft where three No. 1 WR prospects — Marvin Harrison Jr., Malik Nabers and Rome Odunze — could be available for the team at No. 4 overall.

Scouring names in free agency is another option for Ossenfort and Co.

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Frankie Luvu viewed as best free agent fit for Cardinals by ESPN’s Bowen