When you win 13 games and reach the NFC Championship Game, it’s fair to say your roster is probably pretty good.
When you lose said NFC Championship Game by a score of 49-15, it’s fair to say you still have some work to do.
It was with that in mind that the Arizona Cardinals went into their offseason having identified a few areas in need of upgrades, and according to NFL.com’s Gil Brandt, the team did a nice job of addressing them.
In a piece listing the teams that had the best offseasons, Brandt ranked the Cardinals fourth overall.
Arizona won 13 games in 2015 behind a stellar point differential of 176. The fact that the Cards still managed to improve has made their offseason that much more impressive.
Trading for Chandler Jones was a great move. Arizona gave up a second-round pick and a player (Jonathan Cooper) who probably wasn’t going to ever be anything more than an average starter. In return, the Cards received a stud who should be able to give a major shot in the arm to their pass rush. (Arizona tied for 20th in sacks last season with 36.) I also liked their draft picks, including the selections of Robert Nkemdiche — a hit-or-miss proposition that I think will turn into a home run — cornerback Brandon Williams and center Evan Boehm.
One of the risks in the Jones trade is that he’ll split town when he hits free agency after this season, but the Cardinals are good at retaining talent. Re-signing backup Drew Stanton might not have made many headlines, but the veteran quarterback can win games if need be. And the team appears to be on the verge of extending Tyrann Mathieu. Locking up a defensive difference maker whose impact is hard to overstate would just be another feather in Arizona’s cap this offseason.
Indeed, landing a Pro Bowler in Jones, who had 12.5 sacks for the New England Patriots last season, seemed like a real coup for the team. Meanwhile, their work in the draft, where they landed potential immediate impact players in Nkemdiche and Boehm, helped fortify a couple other areas of need.
And yes, having Stanton behind Carson Palmer brings a level of comfort should the starter go down.
Funny thing is, based on GM Steve Keim’s history, it would not be wise to assume he is done adding to the roster.
Just last season, Chris Johnson and Jermaine Gresham were brought in around training camp, and the former player went on to lead the team in rushing.
But as Brandt notes, one of the next things on the team’s to-do list appears to be an extension for Mathieu, a dynamic talent who is coming off a torn ACL.
In an offeseason that seems to have treated the Cardinals pretty well, that would be the icing on the cake.