2022 NFL Offseason: Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals (Last Year: 11-6)

2022 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
WR Marquise Brown, G Will Hernandez, LB Nick Vigil.
Early Draft Picks:
TE Trey McBride, DE Cameron Thomas, DE Myjai Sanders. Cardinals Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
RB Chase Edmonds, WR Christian Kirk, DE Chandler Jones, DE Kylie Fitts, DT Corey Peters, CB Robert Alford, P Andy Lee.

2022 Arizona Cardinals Offense:
Much has changed since the Cardinals were the final undefeated team in 2021 with their 7-0 record. In a span of four days, they lost Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins and J.J. Watt to injury. Things have only gotten worse since then. This offseason has been mired in controversy, with questions emerging about Murray’s locker room attitude, and Hopkins being suspended for six games.

Things aren’t all bad, however. Murray hasn’t been traded, so he could put the offseason controversy behind him by playing well. Also, while Hopkins will be missed for six games, he’ll be available for the final 11. In his absence, the Cardinals will at least have Marquise Brown, whom Arizona traded for in the 2022 NFL Draft. Brown is a dynamic downfield threat who will complement Hopkins well when everyone is on the field. In the meantime, Brown can serve as a No. 1 receiver during Hopkins’ absence. He’ll join A.J. Green, Rondale Moore and Zach Ertz as Murray’s primary targets.

It’ll be interesting to see if the Cardinals manage to involve the versatile Moore at a higher rate in the offense. His services will be needed in the wake of Chase Edmonds’ departure. James Conner remains at running back, but he has a dubious injury history and isn’t nearly the receiving threat Edmonds was. Moore figures to take some of Edmonds’ touches. Sixth-round rookie Keontay Ingram could get some looks as well, as could Eno Benjamin.

Another apparent positive for Arizona to negate some of the offseason misfortune is that the offensive line could return entirely intact. That may not happen, however, in the wake of the possibility that center Rodney Hudson could retire. Nothing is official yet, but Hudson has hinted that he could be finished, which would really hurt the interior blocking. Justin Pugh would have to move to center, creating an enormous void at guard. This area was also an issue, with Josh Jones serving as one of the starters after being a liability last season.

The Cardinals are in much better shape at tackle. D.J. Humphries is the best player in the group, and he’ll continue to man the blind side. Humphries was also once known as an injury-prone player, but he has missed just one game in the past three years. Kelvin Beachum, meanwhile, has been solid for Arizona the past two years.

2022 Arizona Cardinals Defense:
Kyler Murray’s locker room problems and DeAndre Hopkins’ suspension weren’t the only disastrous events for Arizona this offseason. The loss of Chandler Jones qualifies as a part of that group as well. Jones has been one of the top edge rushers in the NFL, and he’ll be missed.

Jones was one of two Cardinals who logged more than four sacks in 2021. The other was Markus Golden, who will return as the team’s top pure edge rusher. However, Jones drew so much attention from opposing offenses, which allowed Golden to register 11 sacks. Golden will still produce, but it might be difficult for him to replicate his 2021 production, even with J.J. Watt still on the front. Watt played well last year when he was healthy, but he injured his shoulder in Week 7 and was out the rest of the year. Joining Golden and Watt will be a pair of third-round rookies, Cameron Thomas and Mjayi Sanders.

Watt, of course, will play in the interior at times as well. Rashard Lawrence and Zach Allen will be the other primary defensive linemen, but both are just mediocre talents. Lawrence is fine against the run, but offers nothing as a pass rusher. Allen is a jack of all trades, master of none.

The Cardinals may also use Zaven Collins on the edge. Collins, chosen No. 16 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, was enjoying a solid rookie year when he, like Murray, Hopkins and Watt, suffered an injury during that dreaded four-day stretch. Collins can be used all over the field, and Arizona may keep him at linebacker most times. He’ll play next to Isaiah Simmons, a former top-10 selection who is looking like a complete bust. Nick Vigil was signed to add depth at linebacker. He may start if Collins is moved to the edge frequently.

Arizona’s excellent pass rush masked some of the problems they had at cornerback last year, so those will only be magnified in 2022 because the team did nothing to fix this problem. Byron Murphy is the only viable starting cornerback on Arizona’s roster, and he’s a tremendous player. The cornerback talent is otherwise severely lacking. Marco Wilson was miserable as a fourth-round rookie last year, but Arizona will be hoping that he makes a big leap in his second season. Breon Borders, a pedestrian player, was signed over from Tennessee last season. Jeff Gladney was supposed to provide some help, but he unfortunately passed away in a car accident on Memorial Day weekend.

While the Cardinals’ cornerback group is a mess, the safety situation is at least resolved. Budda Baker is one of the top players at his position, and he’ll return for his sixth year. He’ll start next to Jalen Thompson, who performed well in coverage during his third season in 2021.

2022 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. They have not maintained that with Kyler Murray. Arizona is 9-14-1 as a host with Murray at the helm.

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

The Cardinals signed Matt Prater to be their new kicker last spring. He went 30-of-37, which includes a remarkable 7-of-10 from 50-plus.

Andy Lee is coming off a great year, finishing second in net average.

Excluding the divisional games, the Cardinals have a tough schedule. They have to battle the Chiefs, Chargers, Broncos, Raiders and Buccaneers.

2022 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.

2022 Arizona Cardinals Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2022 Arizona Cardinals Analysis: The Cardinals were picked to advance to the Super Bowl in this space last year. Things looked very promising Arizona until a four-day stretch in which they lost three of their best players to injury. Things have not improved since, as Arizona’s disastrous offseason should have repercussions for how the team finishes in 2022.

Projection: 6-11 (3rd in NFC West)

2021 Projection: 12-5. 2021 Actual Result: 11-6.
2020 Projection: 9-7. 2020 Actual Result: 8-8.
2019 Projection: 5-11. 2019 Actual Result: 5-10-1.
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: C+ Grade

Goals Entering the 2022 NFL Draft: The Cardinals have way more holes now than they did last year at this time, thanks to some key players leaving via free agency. They’ll need to replace Chandler Jones, Christian Kirk and Chase Edmonds. They also have their regular weak spots that must be filled, including guard and cornerback.

2022 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Would you rather have Marquise Brown or Tyler Linderbaum? That’s a legitimate question, and it’s one Arizona was faced with when it discussed a trade with Baltimore. Brown is a proven, talented receiver, while Linderbaum is an unknown commodity. Brown, however, is very expensive, especially for a team with a quarterback who will need to be paid a large sum of money in the near future. Linderbaum, conversely, will protect this quarterback, and he’ll be incredibly cheap for four years.

I would have picked Linderbaum at No. 23 rather than trading the pick for Brown, but it’s an interesting debate. Regardless, something that can’t be debated was how bad Arizona’s second-round pick was. It was wasted on a tight end when the Cardinals already have Zach Ertz and Maxx Williams on the roster. This was a wasted selection, and it could have been used on a blocker for Murray.

On the bright side, Arizona had seven other picks, and six of them scored a B+ or higher. The team added Cameron Thomas and Myjai Sanders to help the pass rush, while Keontay Ingram could end up being a nice replacement for Chase Edmonds.

This was a mixed draft for the Cardinals. I loved their picks from the third round onward, but hurting the team’s salary cap, wasting a pick on a tight end, and eschewing a blocker until the end of the sixth round were all mistakes.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

55. Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State – D Grade
I don’t understand this pick. The Cardinals just re-signed Zach Ertz and Maxx Williams. Tight end was not a need at all, so why are the Cardinals using a premium pick on a tight end. Plus, it’s not like Trey McBride provides great value, or anything. This is probably his natural range. Offensive line and edge-rushing help would’ve been better.

87. Cameron Thomas, DE, San Diego State – B+ Grade
Cameron Thomas was a love/hate prospect, or maybe a kinda like/hate prospect because some teams didn’t think he was twitchy enough. However, he’s a solid value pick in this range, and he’ll potentially fill a big need with Chandler Jones gone.

100. Myjai Sanders, DE, Cincinnati – B+ Grade
Myjai Sanders makes sense in this range as a late third-round pick. He also can help fill a need along with Cameron Thomas on the edge in the wake of Chandler Jones’ departure. Sanders was better than his numbers indicated at Cincinnati.

201. Keontay Ingram, RB, USC – A- Grade
I had Keontay Ingram a round earlier than this, so I like the value. Ingram is a nice receiving back, which is crucial because Arizona lost Chase Edmonds this offseason.

215. Lecitus Smith, G, Virginia Tech – B+ Grade
I mocked Lecitus Smith to the Cardinals at No. 201, so I like the fit. It’s a nice touch of value, and this pick potentially fills a need. Arizona needed as many blockers as possible to make sure Kyler Murray lasts a full season for once.

244. Christian Matthew, CB, Valdosta State – B- Grade
Christian Matthew was a productive player at Valdosta State, but I didn’t think he would be drafted. It’s never a bad idea to add a cornerback when needing to battle the Rams twice per year though.

256. Jesse Luketa, DE/OLB, Penn State – A Grade
This is another great value pick in the seventh round. I had Jesse Luketa pegged in the fifth frame. He potentially fills a need as well, given that Chandler Jones departed this offseason.

257. Marquis Hayes, G, Oklaoma – A Grade
The Cardinals are dominating the compensatory portion of the seventh round! Marquis Hayes, like Jesse Luketa, is someone I had in the fourth round, so I’m loving the value. Like Luketa, he fills a need as a blocker for Kyler Murray.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
The Cardinals were the final undefeated team, but injuries capsized them late in the year. Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins and J.J. Watt all missed major chunks of action. Murray and Watt returned by the playoff game, but that turned out to be a lopsided defeat against the Rams.

Offseason Moves:
  • Cardinals sign TE Stephen Anderson
  • Cardinals sign G Will Hernandez
  • Cardinals sign LB Nick Vigil
  • Cardinals sign CB Jeff Gladney

    Team Needs:
    1. Two Cornerbacks: The weakest spot on the Cardinals’ roster is cornerback. Aside from Byron Murphy, Arizona has nothing at the position. Signed Jeff Gladney

    2. Guard: Kyler Murray was hounded by the Rams in the playoff loss. The Cardinals need to bolster their front, and they have a weakness at guard. Signed Will Hernandez

    3. Defensive Tackle: The Cardinals struggled against the run last year, as evidenced by what the Rams did in the playoffs. An upgrade is needed up front.

    4. Defensive End: Chandler Jones is Arizona’s top free agent, so he’ll have to be replaced somehow if he leaves.

    5. Running Back: Both James Conner and Chase Edmonds have expiring contracts this spring. Re-signed James Conner

    6. Wide Receiver: Christian Kirk and A.J. Green are set to hit free agency, so one should be re-signed (preferrably Kirk).

    7. Tight End: Arizona also has two soon-to-be free agents at this position, with Zach Ertz and Maxx Williams entering free agency. One will need to be retained. Re-signed Zach Ertz and Maxx Williams

    8. Punter: Andy Lee is a 40-year-old free agent.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2022 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Nick Vigil, LB, Vikings. Age: 29. — Signed with Cardinals
    2. Will Hernandez, G, Giants. Age: 26. — Signed with Cardinals
    3. Stephen Anderson, TE, Chargers. Age: 29. — Signed with Cardinals (1 year)

    Arizona Cardinals Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Chandler Jones, DE/OLB, Cardinals. Age: 32.
      Signed with Raiders

      Chandler Jones returned from an injury-plagued 2020 campaign to log 10.5 sacks last year. He’s still a top pass rusher, but at 32, he could be in decline soon.

    2. Christian Kirk, WR, Cardinals. Age: 25.
      Signed with Jaguars

      Christian Kirk just posted the best number of his career; he caught 77 passes for 982 yards in 2021. He’s an explosive deep threat, and he’s only 25.

    3. James Conner, RB, Cardinals. Age: 27.
      Re-signed with Cardinals

      James Conner proved that his struggles in Pittsburgh had to do with the poor offensive line. He did well in his first season in Arizona, rushing for 752 yards and scoring 15 touchdowns.

    4. Chase Edmonds, RB, Cardinals. Age: 26.
      Signed with Dolphins

      Chase Edmonds is an excellent receiver out of the backfield who can handle a substantial workload. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry last yar and caught 43 passes despite missing five games.

    5. Zach Ertz, TE, Cardinals. Age: 31.
      Re-signed with Cardinals (3 years)

      Zach Ertz had a great rapport with Kyler Murray right away, catching 56 passes for 574 yards in 11 games. He’s 31, so a decline is coming soon.

    6. Andy Lee, P, Cardinals. Age: 40.
      Andy Lee was 12th in net punting average last year, but he turns 40 this offseason.

    7. A.J. Green, WR, Cardinals. Age: 34.
      A.J, Green caught 54 passes for 848 yards in his first season with the Cardinals. He was solid at times, but he and Kyler Murray had some chemistry issues at times.

    8. Maxx Williams, TE, Cardinals. Age: 28.
      Re-signed with Cardinals

      Maxx Williams had a great start to the 2021 season before suffering a knee injury that knocked him out for the year. It remains to be seen if he’ll be 100 percent in 2022.

    9. Robert Alford, CB, Cardinals. Age: 33.
      Robert Alford was Arizona’s second-best cornerback last year, but he’s been an inconsistent performer throughout his career. He also will turn 34 right after Halloween.

    10. Colt McCoy, QB, Cardinals. Age: 35.
      Re-signed with Cardinals (2 years, $7.5 million)

      Colt McCoy proved to be one of the best backup quarterbacks in the NFL last year, winning multiple games against quality competition.

    11. Jordan Hicks, LB, Cardinals. Age: 30. — Signed with Vikings (2 years, $10 million)
    12. Jordan Phillips, DT, Cardinals. Age: 29. — Signed with Bills (1 year)
    13. Corey Peters, DT, Cardinals. Age: 34.
    14. Max Garcia, G, Cardinals. Age: 30. — Signed with Giants
    15. Chris Banjo, S, Cardinals. Age: 32.
    16. Antonio Hamilton, CB, Cardinals. Age: 29.
    17. Dennis Gardeck, DE/OLB, Cardinals. Age: 28. — Re-signed with Cardinals (3 years, $12 million)
    18. Darrell Daniels, TE, Cardinals. Age: 27. — Signed with Texans
    19. Demetrius Harris, TE, Cardinals. Age: 31.
    20. Kevin Peterson, CB, Cardinals. Age: 28.
    21. Ezekiel Turner, LB, Cardinals. Age: 26. — Re-signed with Cardinals
    22. Charles Washington, S, Cardinals. Age: 29.
    23. Kylie Fitts, DE/OLB, Cardinals. Age: 27.
    24. Jack Crawford, DE, Cardinals. Age: 33.

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

    2024 NFL Mock Draft - April 9

    NFL Power Rankings - Feb. 22

    Fantasy Football Rankings - Feb. 19

    NFL Picks - Feb. 12