Arizona Cardinals Roundtable: Free Agency Edition


With the NFL today, there’s never an offseason. Just a few weeks after the league’s Combine in Indianapolis, free agency is about to get under way.

Teams across the league can begin negotiating with free agents as soon as Saturday with players being able to sign a few days later on March 10.

What should we expect from the Arizona Cardinals over the weeks ahead? We take a look with another edition of Cardinals Roundtable.

"Nov 23, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back Andre Ellington (38) carries the ball against the Seattle Seahawks during the second half at CenturyLink Field. Seattle defeated Arizona 19-3. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY SportsHeatWaved: Heading into free agency, what position do you think the Cardinals need to address first?"

Kevin Bonneville: It’s pretty easy. Adding a pass rusher at some point this offseason is crucial if this defense wants to remain at a near elite level.

Alex Okafor had a nice year in 2014, but he’s not going to put a lot of fear in opposing offensive lines and  the futures of Daryl Washington and John Abraham remain uncertain. This is a huge need that needs to be addressed.

Guillermo Salcido: Running Back. The Cardinals might need to invest in some running depth. Andre Ellington has plenty of potential for Arizona to be excited about, but he may still need to share the workload.

The Cardinals ended the season 31st in rushing yards and their lack of depth was only amplified one Ellington was lost with injury.

Brendan Kennealy: With Darnell Dockett heading to San Francisco I believe the number one position that must be addressed is a defensive tackle. I say this for two reasons…

1. It’s one of the most deep positions in free agency.

2. Even though Dockett missed all of last year it will pay off to have some sort of veteran presence for the younger defensive linemen to look up to.

Tony DeLorenzi: Outside linebacker.

Richard: Dulfo: I’d like to see them go after a RB first to strengthen that offense. The lack of depth there hurt them.

Tony Fischer:  Running Back – Ellington is talented but can’t handle the full load. The Cardinals need an inside ground and pound runner to compliment Ellington.  There are a few cost-efficient options out there without having to fork over major cash for one of the big names.

"Nov 2, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Arizona Cardinals nose tackle Dan Williams (92) celebrates his second quarter sack with defensive end Calais Campbell (93) and defensive tackle Frostee Rucker (98) against Dallas Cowboys quarterback Brnadon Weeden (3) at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY SportsHW: Out of their own free agents, who is the guy they need to bring back the most?"

KB: Antonio Cromartie without question. With Patrick Peterson having a down season, he was arguably the Cardinals best player on defense along with Calais Campbell the entire year.

If you lose ‘Cro, you are down Justin Bethel and Jerraud Powers across from Peterson. Bringing Cromartie would be huge for this defense.

GS: Dan Williams. Finding a true nose tackle in a 3-4 defense is difficult to find and when one becomes available, there’s certain to be plenty of interest.

The Cardinals did a good job of containing the running game on most weeks and having a force in the trenches like Williams was definitely an aid.

BK: Cromartie is by far the most important free agent for the Cardinals to retain on the roster. He stepped up huge in the playoff game against Carolina last year and has shown time and time again that he is worthy of a semi-large contract as one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL.

TD: Williams.

RD:  I’d have to say, Cromartie. With Peterson’s inconsistent year, he was there to pick up the slack. He’s still a very good corner and bringing him back only helps the Cards.

TF: Williams – With Dockett on his way out of town, the Cardinals must sign Willimas or risk a complete rebuild along the defensive line.

"Dec 28, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Arizona Cardinals cornerback Antonio Cromartie (31) looks on before the game against the San Francisco 49ers at LeviHW: Will Cromartie return? If not, where do you think he’ll end up?"

KB: If I was a betting man, I would say he won’t be back in a Cardinals uniform next year. I think the Cardinals want to bring Cromartie back, but he will be a very popular guy once free agency officially opens up.

My guess is that he goes back to the New York Jets. He’s said that he’s open to returning to New York and with Todd Bowles there, he can play for a head coach who he’s familiar with.

GS: I’m sure that the tandem of Peterson and Cromartie have been on the minds of opposing offensive coordinators when they draw up their game plan. I believe that Arizona will be able to keep Cromartie in Glendale but if not, I expect the annually atrocious New Orleans secondary to make a run at him.

BK: I personally believe that Cromartie will return to the Arizona Cardinals in 2015. I could see them agreeing on either a two or three-year deal (30 years old now) with more money available to him through his performance on the field instead of guaranteed money.

TD: Only if Adrian Peterson goes somewhere else  (If not, then the Jets)

RD:   It’s tough to say. I think there is a good chance he’d be willing to return, but if not, I could see him going back to the Jets.

TF: No – Cromartie loved playing in New York and the prodigal son would love nothing more than to retrun to the big apple. With entirely new leadership at the Jets, look for Cromartie to wear green in 2015.

"Dec 28, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola (80) runs the ball against Buffalo Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes (55) in the second half at Gillette Stadium. Buffalo Bills defeated the Patriots 17-9. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY SportsHW: Who are possible targets that you would like to see them go after?"

KB: With pass rusher being such a big need, I would love for this team to go after either Jerry Hughes or Brian Orakpo. Both guys are right in the middle of their primes and you probably won’t have to break the bank to get either player.

To address the interior of the line, one of the top guys the Cards should target is Mike Iupati. Him and a healthy Jonathan Cooper would form one heck of a guard combo.

Orlando Franklin is another guy to look at as well.

GS: In a perfect world, I’d like the Cardinals to inquire about linebackers David HarrisBrandon Spikes and Rolando McClain. The optimist in me would hope that Julius Thomas gets a call from the Arizona Cardinals as well.

BK: First off, I think the Cardinals should get an insurance piece for Carson Palmer and pick up a back-up quarterback. University of Washington alum Jake Locker wouldn’t be a bad option and although it’s a stretch I think having Michael Vick on the team would be a fun twist to the offense as well.

Obviously the running game has been a constant struggle for years and there are PLENTY of big name guys available in free agency. I don’t think the Cardinals should spend top-dollar for a running back in a “Quarterback League”, but guys like Mark Ingram and Justin Forsett could be great fits in the Cardinals’ offensive schemes as both are great pass catchers.

Also, Jordan Cameron could be a significant improvement at the tight end position and after Cameron missed the majority of the 2014 season, he could be less of a hit in the front office’s wallet.

TD: Trent Cole and Justin Houston. 

RD: I’d love to see them make a run at Peterson or Murray. Either of them would take pressure off Palmer. If he gets injured again, things wouldn’t be as bad they were if one of them were here.

TF: Nick Fairley – Some in Detroit think the Fairley is actually more talented than Ndamukong Suh. However, his level of dedication has failed to rise to his high ceiling leading the Lions to reject his team option of 2015. That seemed to motivate Fairley who was one of the best defensive tackles in football last season before going down with a knee injury in week 8.

If healthy and in the right frame of mind Fairley could be a steal for the Cardinals at 4-5 million a season.

Justin Forsett –  The Ravens running back had a very productive season in place of Ray Rice last season.  With all the attention on Murray and Peterson, Forsett might be an affordable way to solve the Cardinals running back woes.

"Sep 7, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (28) looks on during the second half against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome. The Vikings defeated the Rams 34-6. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY SportsHW: What is your take on the Adrian Peterson/DeMarco Murray rumors? Should the Cardinals go after one of these guys or should they address the running back position in a different way?"

KB: I’ve actually addressed this topic just recently. I just don’t think they’ll make a move for either player.

In case of Peterson, it will cost you draft picks and with Murray, it’s going to cost you a pretty penny. Plus, I think the organization is still high on Ellington and adding either player to the roster would seriously jeopardize his future.

The Cardinals will address running back at some point this offseason, but it won’t be with bringing in either of these two guys.

GS: Both these players are have exceptional talents that are sure to garner attention, but I’m not 100 percent sure that Arizona should throw their name in the hat.

I’m a huge believer in Ellington and do think that they need to add a running back to their arsenal. Veterans such as Ahmad Bradshaw, Reggie Bush and Roy Helu would be much more cost-efficient options.

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BK: I don’t think the Cards should go for either AP or Murray. They will demand top-dollar and although it would so nice to have one of the top running backs in recent years, it’s not the best solution for the Cardinals at this time.

With needs on the defensive front and the possible potential of Ellington if he’s ever healthy, it would not be worth it for them to go after one of those studs.

TD: Arizona should give AP an offer to come and play for a championship, since the Vikings already paid him elite money.

RD: I think addressing their RB need with one of them would be perfect. Adding either of them only strengthens that offense. They can’t wait forever on the Vikings deciding what to do with AP, though.

Hopefully that decision comes quickly.

TF: Ellington is still a talent and despite getting banged up last season could be effective as part of a tandem.  If the Cardinals were to bring in Murray or Peterson the money would likely dictate a significant reduction in role the incumbent running back.

With a thin margin for error under this years cap, the Cardinals might be better off getting more bang for the buck with free agents like Forsett and Shane Vereen.

Next: Palmer Restructures Deal