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USA Today writer: Cardinals had eighth-best offseason in NFL

Mississippi’s Robert Nkemdiche poses for photos with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected by the Arizona Cardinals as the 29th pick in the first round of the 2016 NFL football draft, Thursday, April 28, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

The Arizona Cardinals were oh-so-close to reaching Super Bowl 50 last January, at least in that they were one win away from getting to the big game.

Their 48-15 loss to the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship Game was a bitter way for what had been a magical season to end, and while it certainly stung, from there the goal was to try and improve.

Really, though, how much better can a team that won 13 games be?

The hope for the Cardinals is a lot, and after the offseason they’ve had, it might be mission accomplished.

According to USA Today’s Nate Davis — in a piece ranking all of the NFL teams’ offseasons — the Cardinals come in at No. 8.

GM Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians don’t shy from risk and have assumed plenty. If pass rusher Chandler Jones signs an extension and avoids trouble, the low second rounder Arizona spent to acquire him looks like a bargain. The Cards used the draft’s 29th pick on DL Robert Nkemdiche, whose baggage dropped him to that point even though his talent warranted a far higher selection. Veteran G Evan Mathis was a great pickup – assuming he can stay healthy at age 34.

Following their loss in Carolina, the Cardinals identified upgrading their pass rush as a priority, and the belief is they’ve addressed the issue with Jones and even Nkemdiche. As for Mathis, he will fill a hole at right guard created when Arizona traded Jonathan Cooper to New England to land Jones.

Of the teams ranked ahead of the Cardinals, only the Minnesota Vikings (6) and Houston Texans (2) made the playoffs in 2015. The Jacksonville Jaguars were ranked atop the list, while the Los Angeles Rams came in at No. 4.

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