The combination of Bruce Arians as head coach and Steve Keim as general manager has been a match made in heaven for Cardinals fans.
Over the past two seasons, the team has won a total of 21 games, a feat which hasn’t been done since the organization was in St. Louis back in the 1970’s. Last year, they barely missed out on the postseason only to redeem themselves and make it this season.
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Unfortunately, in today’s era of the salary cap in the NFL, it’s very difficult to remain competitive on a yearly basis. Teams have to make hard decisions on their personnel and have to move on from players who still play at a high level.
Arians and Keim will have to make some tough decisions to make this offseason. As things stand right now, the Cardinals are anywhere from $9-12 million over the cap, which is expected to be between $138.6-141.8 million.
The first item that the Cards will have to address is Larry Fitzgerald’s contract. His base contract is only $8 million for next season, but his cap number is $23.6 million, which just isn’t sustainable for a guy who has his best years behind him.
Arizona can restructure his contract, meaning that Fitzgerald would still get all the money that he is due, but the Cards can improve his cap number for the upcoming season and push money down the road. They can also cut him or rip up his current contract and give him a new deal, which would pay him significantly less in salary.
It remains to be seen if Fitz is willing to do that though.
Dec 15, 2013; Nashville, TN, USA; Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Daryl Washington (58) lunges for the interception against the Tennessee Titans during the second half at LP Field. Arizona won 37-34. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
They’ll also have to decide on what to do with Daryl Washington. Washington missed the entire 2014 season for abusing the NFL’s substance abuse policy. He will have to be reinstated by the league before he’s even given the chance to step back on the field.
The star linebacker is scheduled to have a base salary of $3.4 million to go along with another $3.1 million in bonuses to bring his cap number to $6.5 million for 2015. Do the Cardinals want to bring back a talented, but a troubled player at that cost? That’s a difficult question to answer.
There will be plenty of other roster decisions that Arians and Keim will have to make, but these two are by far and away the biggest ones that they’ll have to address this summer.
Not only will the front office have to make hard decisions on players on the current roster, they are going to have to make moves via the draft, free agency and trades to make it better. This is a good football team, but there are areas that need to be addressed if they want to remain competitive in a brutally tough NFC West.
By the end of the season, the Cards group of linebackers might have been one of the worst units in the entire league. Even if they bring back Washington, they are going to need to add at least one linebacker and possibly two if Larry Foote decides to retire.
The interior of the offensive line is a question mark. Jonathan Cooper was pretty good when he saw the field, but he wasn’t healthy by the end of the season, the second consecutive year that has happen. This team can definitely do much better than Paul Faniaka at right guard.
There are some other areas of concern. If Antonio Cromartie leaves, the secondary is suddenly in need of a second corner across from Patrick Peterson. If the front office decides to move on from Fitz, another receiver would have to be added. It wouldn’t hurt to improve the tight end position either.
One thing is for certain, this will be a busy offseason ahead for this organization. Fortunately for Cardinals fans, Arians and Keim have a great working relationship as evident by the tremendous moves they have made over the past two years. That’s a far cry from what this organization had for so many years.
Stay with HeadWaved as we will cover all of your Cardinals offseason news.