Monday opens the “legal tampering” period in the National Football League. This period allows teams to contact free agents and begin the process of negotiating contracts. Teams can officially sign a player at 4:01 PM EST on March 13th. At that point, the NFL enters the 2019 league year. Players and teams can agree in principle to a deal prior to then, but signings and trades are not made official until the new year begins. Today we take a look at the biggest needs on the offensive side of the roster for the Arizona Cardinals.
Behind Josh Rosen, the Cardinals have Charles Kanoff. Arizona released Mike Glennon before the tampering period began. Glennon had been signed last offseason along with Sam Bradford. The Cardinals need to find depth at the position regardless of whether they select Kyler Murray or stick with Rosen. The smart thing would be to supplement the quarterback room with a veteran backup to stabilize what looks to be a young group if Kanoff remains. A bold move would be to pick up a quarterback later in the draft.
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Short-Yardage Running Back
Yes, Kliff Kingsbury has primarily operated out of a spread formation. However, goal line and short yardage situation will arise. Arizona needs an option in the backfield to get the tough yards and to provide a change of pace from David Johnson and Chase Edmonds. The running back market in free agency isn’t quite as appeasing in the respect. Keeping an eye on which draft prospects the Cardinals bring in for workouts would be a good indication on the scope of their search.
The offensive line as a whole needs to be upgraded. Relying on rookies to supplement the unit is dangerous. It can be said that three of the five spots have been filled with right guard Justin Pugh, center Mason Cole, and left tackle D.J. Humphries. However, both Pugh and Humphries have been plagued by injuries in recent years, while Cole is entering his second season. The bulk of the backups are made up of cast-offs (Joe Barksdale) or late-round youngsters (Korey Cunningham). There is some talent on the bench, but nothing to get excited about over a full schedule. The draft holds some upgrades along the line, but expect a veteran or two to be brought in. Of course, it’s important to remember that last season’s veteran lineman was Andre Smith. Arizona released the tackle midway through the system.
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Quality Wide Receiver Depth
Arizona attempted to add quality last offseason with the signing of receiver Brice Butler. However, the Cardinals released Butler prior to the start of the season as he failed to make an impact. That left Larry Fitzgerald, rookie Christian Kirk, and a host of unproven players. Kirk flashed at times during the season, showing he could be an explosive playmaker. Unfortunately, Kirk missed the final four games of the season due to injury. Fitzgerald led the team in receptions with 69, a definite down year for the future Canton inductee. The second leading receiver was running back David Johnson with 50. Part of the issue with the receiving corps was the putrid production by the offense as a whole. Kirk finished with 43 receptions and 3 scores. There isn’t much assistance available in free agency, at least in terms of impact players. The draft is the likely avenue for Arizona, although general manager Steve Keim has not proven to be an astute evaluator of offensive prospects.
Kliff is Key
At the end of the day, the role Kingsbury plays in shaping the roster is unknown. It is also the biggest wild card in how the Cardinals approach free agency and the draft. Keim is fighting for his job and is under intense scrutiny. The Cardinals have about $40 million in cap space (according to OverTheCap.com). Finding impact players in free agency and the draft will be tough. Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the areas of need along the defensive side of the football.