SI: Arizona a good landing spot for some of the NFL’s best free agents
Players come and players go, but teams last forever.
Or something like that.
When NFL players are allowed to start talking to teams on March 8, there are bound to be rumors that make sense and some that don’t.
And when they can officially sign contracts three days later, there will likely be some surprising deals handed out.
But sometimes things just make sense, and that’s what SI.com’s Greg Bedard tried to do when he put together his countdown of the top 100 free agents and where he thinks they should go.
The Arizona Cardinals can be found scattered throughout each list, though only one of their free agents — Karlos Dansby — ranked among Bedard’s top 100, and he came in at 34.
Played at an All-Pro level after leaving Miami. Was terrific against the run and pass. Teams will have to figure out when he starts to go downhill. Best fit: Cardinals. Pairing Dansby with Daryl Washington for another season makes too much sense.
Dansby had a banner season for the Cardinals in 2013, tallying 122 total tackles along with 6.5 sacks and four interceptions. The team has maintained a desire to bring the veteran back and Dansby has said he would like to return, but it remains to be seen if the sides will be able to agree on the financial terms.
The only other times the Cardinals are mentioned are for players joining the team.
Bedard ranks Packers linebacker Mike Neal 95th on his list, and says the 27-year-old would be wise to join the Birdgang.
Very intriguing prospect after starting career as 294-pound 3-4 end. Shed 20-plus pounds to convert to a very strong outside linebacker. Could be low cost/high reward for next team. Best fit: Cardinals. They need to get young on the edge.
Neal played in all 16 games for the first time in his career last season, and he responded by making 47 tackles and earning five sacks. He also intercepted one pass.
Bedard then goes on to say that Bengals lineman Anthony Collins would be a good fit in Arizona as well. Collins is ranked 60th on the list.
Career backup got chance to show his potential at LT when Andrew Whitworth battled injuries; proved he can play both sides well and might be too expensive to keep. Best fit: Cardinals. Desperate for a top-flight LT, and Collins could be good bang for the buck.
Collins just finished his sixth NFL season — all of which have been in Cincinnati — and while he played in 15 games, he started just seven. He has never been a full-time starter.
Of course, Bedard notes that Collins could be an attractive option for the Cardinals if they do not want to spend big money on one of the other linemen, though he does believe the top-rated left tackle would be a good fit in Arizona. Branden Albert, who is ranked as the seventh-best free agent on the list, would be leaving the Chiefs.
Is two years older than Monroe and has dealt with some injuries of late, but teams view him as a more proven commodity at this stage. Teams needing a left tackle will be lining up. Best fit: Cardinals. They’ve been looking for a left tackle. It’s time to land one.
Albert has been linked to the Cardinals before, and it would come as no surprise that the team would have interest. A starter since entering the NFL in 2008, Albert has battled injuries but is known to be a very effective tackle.
The idea that the Cardinals would have interest in an offensive linemen makes plenty of sense, and it’s even possible they’ll be willing to pay top dollar to land one of the better options. However, one other guy on Bedard’s list may be the biggest name of all, though he may be a bit of a surprise.
At number 57, there is Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
Showed enough last year after no offseason with a Lisfranc injury to indicate he still has more in the tank. Best fit: Cardinals. With Rashard Mendenhall likely done in Arizona, a healthy Jones-Drew would make a great tandem with speedy Andre Ellington.
MJD is one of the league’s better running backs when healthy, though that has been an issue for the 28-year-old out of UCLA. Last season he rushed for 803 yards and five touchdowns for a bad Jaguars team, though, and could be a change of scenery away from re-establishing himself among the game’s elite.
Cardinals GM Steve Keim has made it known that the team plans on platooning at running back in an effort not to overwhelm Ellington, though the team already has Stepfan Taylor and Ryan Williams on the roster. While neither has the history of someone like Jones-Drew, each is younger and may present a better option, especially for the price.