DAN BICKLEY

Arizona Cardinals target availability and love for the game in free agency

Mar 12, 2024, 2:26 PM

Monti Ossenfort and Jonathan Gannon chat at rookie minicamp...

Arizona Cardinals GM Monti Ossenfort and head coach Jonathan Gannon chat during rookie minicamp on Friday, May 13, 2023. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

The best football players are wired different. They mistake pain for love. They need struggle to survive. Their greatest strength is found between their ears.

The Cardinals are trying to build a football team with a certain breed of competitor, overhauling the entire roster from the ground up and the inside out. They are trying to assemble a group of men who cannot function without the sport of football.

It’s an admirable strategy and a difficult task. College players are prepped and professionally trained for the interview process ahead, from the NFL Combine to individual pro days. They all profess an undying love for football. Many of them are lying.

Arizona’s former general manager once said he missed more on the person than he did the player. Current GM Monti Ossenfort has taken the opposite approach. He finds the players first, the ones who exhibit relentless fury and full commitment between the lines, on the playing field. Then he makes sure their answers match the tape.

Ossenfort has certainly been active in the NFL’s early free agency period, addressing many needs on defense. He added two defensive tackles; a starting cornerback; and a two-way linebacker who can hit and cover. He did not overspend for marquee names meant to splash and distract. He recruited young, hungry football players that show up every weekend.

For Ossenfort, there is a statistic that clearly measure an athlete’s love of football: Games played. Because those who truly love football yearn to perform 17 times a year. It’s like a Purple Heart, a badge of honor, a special fraternity.

The newly acquired Justin Jones, Bilal Nichols and Mack Wilson haven’t missed a game in two seasons.

Head coach Jonathan Gannon has his own way to measure love of football. During his combine interview with Alabama cornerback Terrion Arnold, he staged a conversation that sounded like this:

“Show me your technique on press coverage,” Gannon said.

“Excuse me?” the player replied.

“Yeah, I used to play receiver back in the day,” Gannon said. “Try and jam me.”

“Coach, do you want me to hit you for real?” the player said.

“Yeah, hit me for real,” Gannon said.

That’s impressive.

Ultimately, the Cardinals’ playoff hopes in 2024 rest on Kyler Murray, and if a reborn/rehabbed quarterback can rediscover his MVP status. But the Cardinals’ new regime deserves a little blind faith and a lot of credit for their hardcore approach.

In their first attempt, they engineered a four-win football team that flashed in December. They were an underfunded, undermanned team that nobody wanted to play because they never stopped fighting, hitting or competing. Because they never stopped showing up. And it’s true what they say about the NFL:

The best ability is availability. Because that takes real love of the game.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. on Arizona Sports.

Presented By
Western Governors University

Dan Bickley

The Arizona Coyotes...

Dan Bickley

Arizona Coyotes relocation not our fault, it’s on the owner and local politics

Arizona is a very good hockey market and Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo and local politicians should be blamed for their relocation.

1 day ago

...

Arizona Sports Video

Video: Bickley Blast: Something feels very different with Devin Booker and the Suns

On the latest Bickley Blast, Dan Bickley asks if a Devin Booker trade request is in the near future.

3 days ago

...

Arizona Sports Video

Video: Bickley Blast: Can a Phoenix Suns playoff run can force this team to reconcile its issues?

Despite the bad vibes surrounding the Phoenix Suns, Dan Bickley debates if an NBA playoff run can be the determining factor in what makes or breaks this team's underlying issues.

4 days ago

...

Arizona Sports Video

Video: Bickley Blast: Is a Devin Booker trade request near after Suns fall flat vs. the Clippers?

After Phoenix's loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday with a poor performance from Devin Booker and the Suns' Big 3, Dan Bickley can't help but ponder the possibilities of what could be ahead for this franchise moving forward.

5 days ago

...

Arizona Sports Video

Video: Bickley Blast: Now is the time for Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns to go full throttle

With six games left in the regular season, Dan Bickley breaks down why the guard Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns need to go full throttle to the finish line if they want to secure a playoff spot and avoid the play-in game.

6 days ago

...

Arizona Sports Video

Video: Bickley Blast: Still reason to doubt Suns ‘Super team’ is built for playoff grind

Dan Bickley says in his Bickley Blast that there is still doubt the Suns can turn it on in the playoffs. Video/Photo: Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports and Phoenix Suns/NBA Arizona Sports has the permission and the rights to shoot video from the NBA and the Phoenix Suns. Subscribe to the Arizona Sports daily newsletter: https://bit.ly/3QWcj1x Read articles from Arizona Sports: https://arizonasports.com/ Download the Arizona Sports app: https://arizonasports.com/the-arizona-sports-98-7-fm-app/ Sign up for texts from Arizona Sports: https://arizonasports.com/text-alerts/ Listen live to Arizona Sports: https://arizonasports.com/listen-live/ Follow the team: https://bit.ly/3R0PIAJ ARIZONA SPORTS SOCIAL MEDIA Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ArizonaSports/ X: https://x.com/azsports TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@arizonasports987 Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/arizsports/ ARIZONA SPORTS PODCASTS: https://arizonasports.com/category/podcasts/

7 days ago

Arizona Cardinals target availability and love for the game in free agency