2019 NFL Offseason: Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals (Last Year: 3-13)

2019 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
QB Brett Hundley, TE Charles Clay, OT Marcus Gilbert, G J.R. Sweezy, C Max Garcia, DE Brooks Reed, DT Darius Philon, DT Terrell McClain, DE/OLB Terrell Suggs, ILB Jordan Hicks, CB Robert Alford.
Early Draft Picks:
QB Kyler Murray, CB Byron Murphy, WR Andy Isabella, DE/DT Zach Allen, WR Hakeem Butler, S Deionte Thompson. Cardinals Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
QB Mike Glennon, G Mike Iupati, DE/DT Rodney Gunter, DE/DT Olsen Pierre, DE/OLB Markus Golden, LB Josh Bynes, LB Deone Bucannon, LB Gerald Hodges, S Tre Boston, S Antoine Bethea, K Phil Dawson.

2019 Arizona Cardinals Offense:
The Cardinals made a very controversial move atop the 2019 NFL Draft when they opted to select Kyler Murray. They became the first team in the modern era to use consecutive first-round picks on quarterbacks without trading the second one they chose. Though some criticized this decision, it was the correct choice. The incumbent, Josh Rosen, doesn’t care about football very much and turned off some teammates in the locker room. He’d rather party than become a successful NFL quarterback, much like Blake Bortles. Murray, on the other hand, loves football so much that he turned down guaranteed money from baseball when it wasn’t initially clear that he would be the first-overall pick. Murray’s combine measurements sealed the deal, as Arizona became comfortable with him after learning that he was 5-foot-10 rather than the expected 5-foot-8.

Murray is a dual-threat quarterback, which is important for the Cardinals, given their woes on the offensive line. Though Rosen’s future is dubious, he never really had a chance behind Arizona’s poor offensive front. The Cardinals had the worst blocking unit in the NFL last year, so there aren’t many non-mobile quarterbacks who could’ve succeeded in that situation. Murray’s running ability will at least give him a shot to win several games if the line doesn’t improve.

There is, however, hope for Arizona’s front. The team acquired right tackle Marcus Gilbert from the Steelers for a sixth-round pick. Gilbert hasn’t been healthy very often over the past couple of years – he has played in just 12 of 32 possible games in 2017 and 2018 – but he’ll be a massive upgrade if he can stay on the field. The same applies to left tackle D.J. Humphries, who has been on the field for 14 of 32 possible contests in the same span. Humphries is a talented blind-side protector, but he needs to overcome his injury woes.

Speaking of injured offensive linemen, the interior is ridden with them. Center A.Q. Shipley missed all of 2018 because of a torn ACL he suffered in training camp. Newly signed Max Garcia, who will compete with Shipley for the job, is also coming off a torn ACL. Guard Justin Pugh played just seven games in 2018 because of a knee problem. The only healthy blocker is guard J.R. Sweezy, who was one of the worst players at his position in 2018.

Arizona’s blocking will be fine if all of the injury-prone linemen can stay healthy. If not, both the pass protection and run blocking will be horrendous once again. The latter caused David Johnson to struggle last year, but the dynamic back will at least have Murray in the backfield with him to take attention away from opposing defenses. Johnson is expected to have a rebound campaign as a result.

As for Murray’s downfield targets, Larry Fitzgerald will be back for another year. Fitzgerald posted a career-worst 734 yards in 2018, but Rosen was simply too incompetent to consistently deliver passes to the future first-ballot Hall of Famer. Fitzgerald figures to bounce back a bit, while 2018 second-rounder Christian Kirk should continue to develop. One of the rookies – Andy Isabella and Hakeem Butler – figures to contribute as well.

2019 Arizona Cardinals Defense:
It was a mixed offseason for Arizona’s defense, as the team added a future Hall of Famer to the roster, while also seeing one of their top players slapped with a suspension that will cause him to miss nearly half of 2019.

The impending Hall of Famer is Terrell Suggs, who will be playing for a team not named the Ravens for the first time in his illustrious career. Suggs, who has 132 sacks since 2003, added seven to his total in 2018. He still performed at a high level, though age is obviously a concern because he turns 37 in October. Still, for the first time in a very long while, he won’t be the primary pass rusher opponents will be trying to block. That obviously is Chandler Jones, who has accumulated 30 sacks in the past two seasons. Jones is still in his 20s, so he’s not expected to regress. On the contrary, he could have his best year yet because of Suggs’ presence.

The player serving the suspension, meanwhile, is cornerback Patrick Peterson, one of the top players at his position in the entire NFL. Peterson has been given a six-game ban because of a PED violation. Luckily for the Cardinals, they used their second-round pick on cornerback Byron Murphy after signing former Falcon Robert Alford in free agency, so their cornerback group won’t be in shambles during Peterson’s absence.

It also helps that the cornerbacks will have a pair of talented safeties to aid them. Arizona effectively obtained a safety in free agency when it claimed D.J. Swearinger off waivers from the Redskins on Christmas. Swearinger is a skilled safety, but was cut loose because he criticized the coaching staff. His presence will be an upgrade to the defensive backfield. He’ll start next to Budda Baker, a second-round pick from the 2017 NFL Draft who played multiple positions last year. Baker will move back to safety at a full-time basis for 2019, which seems like a good thing.

Perhaps the best move the Cardinals made in free agency was signing Jordan Hicks away from the Eagles. Hicks, like many of Arizona’s offensive linemen, has a dubious injury history – he has played in only 43 of 64 possible games over the past four years – but he’s a tremendous presence when healthy. He’s excellent in all regards, particularly coverage, and he’ll be great to have in the locker room. He’ll start next to Haason Reddick, who has never lived up to his first-round billing. Reddick had a mediocre 2018 campaign, but more was expected out of him.

Rounding out the stop unit, the Cardinals still haven’t found a clear-cut replacement for Calais Campbell, but new addition Darius Philon has great upside. Only 25, Philon is stout against the run and can generate some pressure on opposing quarterbacks. He’ll play alongside Rodney Gunter and Corey Peters, both of whom are mediocre. Peters is a force versus ground attacks, but offers zero pass-rushing ability.

2019 Arizona Cardinals Schedule and Intangibles:
Something that was apparent during Arizona’s run to the Super Bowl in 2008 was the home-field advantage the team unceremoniously established. Including the playoffs and excluding 2018 because that was a lost season, the Cardinals are 56-27-1 as hosts the past nine years.

Losing Ted Ginn four offseasons ago continues to haunt the Cardinals’ special teams unit. They’ve been outgained on both punts and kickoff returns as a result ever since.

New Arizona kicker was notorious for his missed field goals in clutch moments with the Browns, but he drilled 7-of-9 tries when he joined the Cardinals late last year.

Andy Lee finished 25th in net punting average in 2017, but improved his ranking to fifth in 2018.

Arizona has some winnable games to start the year, hosting the Lions, Panthers and Seahawks in the first four weeks. Their first three road games are against the Ravens, Bengals and Giants, which could also result in victories.

2019 Arizona Cardinals Rookies:
Go here for the Cardinals Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2019 Arizona Cardinals Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2019 Arizona Cardinals Analysis: Unless the Cardinals suffer a barrage of injuries, they won’t be the worst team in the NFL this year. They’ve upgraded almost every area of their team this offseason, including quarterback. If some of the injury-prone offensive linemen remain healthy, and Kyler Murray isn’t a huge disappointment, the offense should be solid in 2019. The defense, meanwhile, is the strength of the team and will allow Arizona to be very competitive in most games.

Projection: 5-11 (4th in NFC West)

2018 Projection: 5-11. 2018 Actual Result: 3-13.
2017 Projection: 8-8. 2017 Actual Result: 8-8.
2016 Projection: 13-3. 2016 Actual Result: 7-8-1.

NFL Draft Team Grade: B+ Grade

Goals Entering the 2019 NFL Draft: The Cardinals have to either trade the first-overall pick or select Kyler Murray. The latter isn’t an option just because Josh Rosen doesn’t care about football. It’s because the Cardinals would be losing out on a valuable asset by selecting Nick Bosa. If they choose Murray, they can turn Rosen into a second-round pick. They won’t acquire that extra selection by going with Bosa. Once Arizona drafts Murray, it’ll have to protect him and give him some weapons, as last year’s supporting cast was lackluster.

2019 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Though there were some reports leading up to the 2019 NFL Draft that the Cardinals wouldn’t select Murray, they ultimately made the right decision and found a huge upgrade over last year’s first-round draft bust. And as speculated, they turned that bust into a second-round selection, giving themselves an extra asset to build around their new franchise signal-caller.

The Cardinals added some receivers to complement Murray, making sure the cupboard won’t be bare aside from Christian Kirk once Larry Fitzgerald retires. Arizona drafted Andy Isabella for the slot, then selected Hakeem Butler, who was a big-time steal in the fourth round. However, the offensive line wasn’t addressed until late, which was a disappointment. The Cardinals will have better blocking next year because of the Marcus Gilbert signing, but it’ll still be an issue.

Despite not adding an appropriate number of blockers, the Cardinals’ draft haul can still be considered a success. They’ve given themselves a new, better offensive identity, and they also acquired a couple of new pieces to their defense (Byron Murphy, Zach Allen), which should be much better in 2019.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

1. Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma B+ Grade
I think the Cardinals are making the correct decision for multiple reasons. First, it’s quite apparent that Josh Rosen is a sunk cost. This should’ve been obvious leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft when it was revealed that Rosen didn’t have a strong passion for football and just wanted to party instead. Rosen predictably struggled as a rookie. Granted, he had very little help around him, but the same could be said for Josh Allen and Sam Darnold, both of whom showed signs of life in their first seasons. Rosen did not. Second, Murray loves football. Unlike Rosen, he has a passion for the game. He even gave up a very promising baseball career to be an NFL quarterback. He’ll give it his all, and he won’t alienate teammates like Rosen has. Third, by selecting Murray, the Cardinals have given themselves an extra asset, as they’ll be able to trade Rosen for a second-round pick.

All of these factors earn the Cardinals a high grade. I don’t think I can give them anything in the “A” range, as this is their second-consecutive first-round quarterback pick, but I believe they’re doing the right thing, so a B+ is in order.

33. Byron Murphy, CB, Washington A Grade
I had this in my 2019 NFL Mock Re-Draft, so I have to like this, right? I do. Murphy is a steal atop Round 2. Charlie Campbell spoke to some teams that had Murphy as a top-20 prospect, thanks to his great instincts. The Cardinals have needed a solid starter across from Patrick Peterson for quite some time, and now they finally have one in Murphy.

62. Andy Isabella, WR, UMass B+ Grade
The Cardinals just acquired this pick from the Dolphins after shipping first-round bust Josh Rosen to Miami. The Cardinals are finally moving on from Rosen and his drama, and they’re giving Kyler Murray a nice weapon to work with. Isabella was expected to be chosen here, as he’s a talented slot receiver who fits well into Arizona’s new offense.

65. Zach Allen, DE/DT, Boston College B+ Grade
I once considered Zach Allen to be a first-round prospect, but dropped him after he tested poorly during the pre-draft process. However, Allen is a good player who gives tremendous effort. He should be a quality pro for the Cardinals, who needed to find a replacement for Calais Campbell. This is a solid pick.

103. Hakeem Butler, WR, Iowa State A Grade
It’s crazy that some thought Hakeem Butler was a first-round prospect. Butler was expected to go late in the second round or early in the third frame, so this is great value for Arizona. Butler has tremendous height, but he fell because there are concerns about his ability to separate.

139. Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama A- Grade
Remember when we thought Deionte Thompson could be a first-round prospect? He had an amazing start to his 2018 campaign, but fell off as the year progressed. He was constantly torched toward the end, looking utterly helpless. He has good upside though, so I like this gamble atop Round 5.

174. Keesean Johnson, WR, Fresno State B+ Grade
Keesean Johnson was one of the worst-testing receivers at the combine, indicating that he doesn’t have much upside. However, Keesean Johnson played better on tape with positive route-running skills. He was also a two-time team captain, so he’ll be giving his full effort for the Cardinals. Johnson makes sense atop Round 6.

179. Lamont Gaillard, C/G, Georgia B+ Grade
Lamont Gaillard was a dependable lineman for Georgia, failing to miss a single game over the past three years. He played both center and guard, so the Cardinals surely like his versatility as a projected backup. I don’t think it’s out of the question that Gaillard will become a starter, but he needs to improve his technique. I like the range for Gaillard, as I had him being selected two picks earlier in my mock.

248. Joshua Miles, OT, Morgan State B+ Grade
Joshua Miles helped himself with a solid East-West Shrine Week, which may have been the primary reason he was drafted. Miles performed then well, presumably giving the Cardinals some hope that Miles could meet his potential. Miles is very raw right now, but Arizona might be able to develop him into a capable blocker.

249. Michael Dogbe, DE/DT, Temple A- Grade
Michael Dogbe was one of the winners from the pro day circuit, posting some terrific workout numbers. This undoubtedly got him noticed, as Dogbe was already known as a high-effort player. He’s a bit raw, but doesn’t seem too far off from being a viable rotational player on a three-man front. I mocked Dogbe in the sixth round, so I like the bit of value Arizona is getting with this pick.

254. Caleb Wilson, TE, UCLA C+ Grade
Caleb Wilson appeared in my mock draft at times, but didn’t make the final cut. He’s a mediocre athlete who dropped way too many passes at UCLA. He doesn’t offer much upside, so the Cardinals could’ve made a better Mr. Irrelevant pick.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
The Cardinals drafted Josh Rosen, whom they believed to be their quarterback of the future, with the No. 10 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Rosen, however, was the worst of the five first-round quarterbacks. Arizona needs to find a sharp, offensive coaching mind to help Rosen’s development before he turns into a sure-fire bust.

Offseason Moves:
  • Cardinals sign CB Tramaine Brock
  • Cardinals sign DT Darius Philon
  • Cardinals sign C Max Garcia
  • Cardinals sign QB Brett Hundley
  • Cardinals sign G J.R. Sweezy
  • Cardinals sign ILB Jordan Hicks
  • Cardinals sign DE/OLB Terrell Suggs
  • Cardinals acquire OT OT Marcus Gilbert from Steelers for 6th-round pick
  • Cardinals sign TE Charles Clay
  • Cardinals sign CB Robert Alford

    Team Needs:
    1. Right Tackle: Arizona had the worst offensive line in the NFL this past season. Josh Rosen has been terrible, but he’s had no chance with his terrible blocking. This is something Arizona absolutely must address, first and foremost, this offseason. Traded for Marcus Gilbert

    2. Guard: The interior of the Cardinals’ offensive line has to be addressed as well. Justin Pugh was a major free-agent signing bust. Signed J.R. Sweezy and Max Garcia

    3. Defensive Tackle: Arizona’s defense hasn’t been the same since losing Calais Campbell. Luckily for the Cardinals, there are plenty of talented defensive tackles available in the 2019 NFL Draft. Signed Darius Philon

    4. Defensive End: Here’s another area of the defensive line that must be addressed. Chandler Jones was Arizona’s only viable edge rusher in 2018. Signed Terrell Suggs and Brooks Reed

    5. Cornerback: The Cardinals have needed a talented cornerback to start across from Patrick Peterson for years. Signed Robert Alford and Tramaine Brock

    6. Wide Receiver: Larry Fitzgerald’s contract is up. The Cardinals will likely retain him, but he could always retire. If so, Arizona will need a new receiver to pair with Christian Kirk. Re-signed Larry Fitzgerald

    7. Tight End: Ricky Seals-Jones was expected to take the next step this year, but he’s been a big disappointment. The Cardinals need a new tight end. Signed Charles Clay

    8. Safety: Arizona had a nice pair of safeties in Tre Boston and Antoine Bethea this season, but Boston happens to be a free agent. He’ll need to be replaced if he’s not re-signed.

    9. Kicker: Phil Dawson is a 44-year-old free agent this offseason.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2019 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Jordan Hicks, ILB, Eagles. Age: 27.
      Signed with Cardinals (4 years, $36 million; $20 million guaranteed)

      The Eagles have plenty of big-name free agents this offseason. If there’s one player they must re-sign, it’s Jordan Hicks. He’s the heart and soul of the defense, which absolutely falls apart if he’s ever out of the lineup. Hicks is entering his prime as well, so he’ll continue to improve.

    2. Darius Philon, DT, Chargers. Age: 25.
      Signed with Cardinals (2 years, $10 million)

      Darius Philon, a former sixth-round pick, has developed into a solid starter. He stuffed the run very well last year and also notched four sacks. He’s only 25, so he should continue to improve.

    3. Terrell Suggs, DE/OLB, Ravens. Age: 36.
      Signed with Cardinals

      Terrell Suggs somehow continues to be very productive despite his age. He racked up seven sacks in 2018 after logging 11 sacks the year before. Suggs has shown no signs of slowing down, but he’ll turn 37 in October, so the end has to be near.

    4. Robert Alford, CB, Falcons. Age: 30.
      Signed with Cardinals (3 years, $22.5 million)

      Robert Alford played well in 2017, but struggled mightily last year. That could be a byproduct of the Falcons’ diminished pass rush, but Alford’s age (31 in November) is beginning to become a factor.

    5. Brooks Reed, DE, Falcons. Age: 32.
      Signed with Cardinals (1 year, $2 million)

      Brooks Reed, 32 in February, has lost some of his pass-rushing skills recently, but he’s still a very solid player in run support.

    6. Charles Clay, TE, Bills. Age: 30. — Signed with Cardinals
    7. J.R. Sweezy, G, Seahawks. Age: 30. — Signed with Cardinals (2 years)
    8. Max Garcia, C, Broncos. Age: 27. — Signed with Cardinals
    9. Tramaine Brock, CB, Broncos. Age: 31. — Signed with Cardinals
    10. Kevin White, WR, Bears. Age: 27. — Signed with Cardinals
    11. Josh Shaw, S, Buccaneers. Age: 27. — Signed with Cardinals
    12. Brett Hundley, QB, Seahawks. Age: 26. — Signed with Cardinals (1 year)

    Arizona Cardinals Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals. Age: 36.
      Re-signed with Cardinals (1 year)

      Larry Fitzgerald turns 36 in August, but he can still be a dynamic downfield threat. Unfortunately, thanks to the incompetence of Josh Rosen and Sam Bradford, Fitzgerald had his first sub-1,000-yard season since 2014. Don’t blame that on him, though.

    2. Tre Boston, S, Cardinals. Age: 27.
      Tre Boston misses some tackles, but he’s excellent in coverage. Aside from Patrick Peterson, he’s been one of the primary reasons why the Cardinals were ranked so highly in pass coverage this past season.

    3. Markus Golden, DE/OLB, Cardinals. Age: 28.
      Signed with Giants (1 year)

      Markus Golden collected 12.5 sacks two years ago, but hasn’t been productive since. Perhaps he needs more time to recover from the knee injury that had him sidelined for 12 games in 2017. The change to the 4-3 could’ve impacted him as well. Golden should be better in a 3-4 once he’s healthier in 2019.

    4. Josh Bynes, LB, Cardinals. Age: 30.
      Josh Bynes is a late bloomer, as he’s coming off his best season. Unfortunately, he turns 30 in August, so he may not play at a high level for very long.

    5. Rodney Gunter, DE/DT, Cardinals. Age: 27.
      Rodney Gunter is a solid run defender who can get to the quarterback on occasion. He can play in both the 4-3 and 3-4.

    6. Olsen Pierre, DE/DT, Cardinals. Age: 27.
      Signed with Giants

      Olsen Pierre logged 5.5 sacks in 2017, but has barely played in 2018 because he’s not a good fit for the 4-3. Pierre should be a solid contributor in another 3-4 next year.

    7. Mike Iupati, G, Cardinals. Age: 32.
      Signed with Seahawks (1 year)

      Mike Iupati used to be a solid guard, but injuries have sapped his talents over the years. He’s now 32 (in May) and will likely continue to regress. There’s a chance he could bounce back with better health, but that’s unlikely to happen.

    8. Antoine Bethea, S, Cardinals. Age: 35.
      Signed with Giants (2 years)

      Antoine Bethea used to be a solid player, but his play took a dip last year. He still covered well, but missed too many tackles.

    9. Deone Bucannon, LB, Cardinals. Age: 27.
      Signed with Buccaneers (1 year)

      Deone Bucannon was beyond atrocious last season. However, he’s a former first-round pick and should perform better in a 3-4 again.

    10. Phil Dawson, K, Cardinals. Age: 44.
      Phil Dawson was just 5-of-8 in 2018 before suffering a hip injury. He was 32-of-40 the before, however, so he could rebound. Then again, he’s 44, so perhaps he’ll retire.

    11. Mike Glennon, QB, Cardinals. Age: 29.
      Signed with Raiders

      Mike Glennon failed as a full-time starter in Chicago, but he’s still a top-tier backup and a capable spot starter. Glennon turns 30 in December.

    12. Benson Mayowa, DE, Cardinals. Age: 28. — Signed with Raiders
    13. J.J. Nelson, WR, Cardinals. Age: 27. — Signed with Raiders
    14. David Amerson, CB, Cardinals. Age: 27.
    15. John Wetzel (RFA), OT, Cardinals. Age: 28.
    16. Jermaine Gresham, TE, Cardinals. Age: 31.
    17. Jeremy Vujnovich (RFA), OT, Cardinals. Age: 28.
    18. Jeremy Cash (RFA), ILB, Cardinals. Age: 26.
    19. D.J. Foster (RFA), RB, Cardinals. Age: 25. — Re-signed with Cardinals
    20. Bryson Albright (RFA), ILB, Cardinals. Age: 25.

    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors

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