Monday marks the beginning of the second week of NFL’s free agency. The first hours were a whirlwind which lasted nearly 24 hours. Then came the predictable lull as money began to get tight and teams filtered past the first tier of free agents. The Arizona Cardinals started rather quietly when free agency kicked off, but have closed the week strongly. Today we take a look at the moves made by general manager Steve Keim during the first week of free agency and what we can look forward to.
The Cardinals made headlines and angered some fans when they chose to release safety Tyrann Mathieu. Arizona attempted to reach an agreement with Mathieu on a pay cut. The Cardinals were looking at a $14.1 million dollar cap number for 2018 with Mathieu on the roster. The release allowed the team to lower that amount to $9.3 million, but completely remove Mathieu’s salary from the roster next season.
The biggest loss for Arizona after Mathieu is arguably Kareem Martin going to the Giants. The young linebacker had made a positive transition from defensive end into outside linebacker. Martin had been receiving more and more playing time while placing his stamp on the defense in 2017. Martin is reunited in New York with former Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher.
The Cardinals have their quarterback for 2018. Anything beyond that is a bit unclear. The splash that many Arizona fans were waiting for occurred when it was announced that Sam Bradford agreed on a two-year contract worth an average $20 million a year. Bradford is likely a bridge quarterback for the franchise with Glennon being the affordable backup.
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Joining Bradford are Pugh and Smith, brought in to shore up the offensive line issues experienced in 2017. The two linemen provide not only depth but will likely find starting spots to help protect Bradford and open holes for running back David Johnson. The four free agents took care of two of the biggest holes on the roster, quarterback and offensive line.
Aaron Brewer, LS – UDFA; resigned
Josh Bynes, LB – UDFA; resigned
Vinston Painter, OL – RFA; resigned
C.J. Goodwin, CB – ERFA; tendered
Elijhaa Penny, RB – ERFA; tendered
Olsen Pierre, DL – ERFA; tendered
John Wetzel, OL – ERFA; tendered
The Cardinals tendered an offer to four of their six exclusive rights free agents. These players are waived if not offered a tender by the team. Wetzel, Painter, and Munyer saw time along the offensive line during the 2017 due to injuries. They will compete for the remaining backup positions. Penny became the second running back towards the end of the season behind Kerwynn Williams. The pair started the year as special teams contributors until injuries to the backfield pushed them into a larger role.
Brewer was a major bright spot in the kicking game as he solidified the long snapper position, something the Cardinals struggled with the last two seasons. Bynes saw time in the starting lineup at linebacker after Markus Golden went down with an injury. The young linebacker will likely see an increased role in 2018 with the loss of Martin.
The Cardinals have roughly $17.8 million in cap space according to OverTheCap. As the wide receiver position is rather thin, expect the Cardinals to take the second week of free agency to kick tires on the remaining options. While the top options are no longer off the market, second tier receivers like Jordan Matthews, Terrelle Pryor and Eric Decker remain available. The Cardinals have the ability to make a few more moves before the draft. Stay with Full Press Coverage for all Cardinals news.