Thu, 19 May 2022

Breaking Down The Cardinals' Roster After 2021

Arizona Cardinals
22 Jan 2022, 18:03 GMT+10

GM Steve Keim dealing with 21 unrestricted free agents but larger cap number Darren Urban

Kliff Kingsbury talked about tough decisions to be made this offseason, and frankly, there are usually tough decisions every year when it comes to free agents and roster construction.

But maybe there is truly something to it this time around.

The Cards have fewer unrestricted free-agents-to-be, but with the players attached to some of those UFA markers, it creates a lot of uncertainty around what the Cardinals do if certain players aren't around. With no one is that more apparent than outside linebacker Chandler Jones, who turns 32 next month and had another double-digit sack season. Jones' year was not as prolific as most of his other Arizona seasons -- he had five sacks in the opener and finished with 10.5 -- but if he were to leave, the Cardinals would be faced with a gaping hole at one of the most important positions on the field.

James Conner had a fantastic year with 18 touchdowns, and his pairing with Chase Edmonds seemed perfect. But both players play a position with a short shelf life, and both are free agents looking to get what might be their last big contract.

Christian Kirk and A.J. Green were the two top wideouts after DeAndre Hopkins, and both can leave.

And then there is backup quarterback Colt McCoy, who not only played well and won two of three starts, but served a perfect role as older mentor to Kyler Murray.

The salary cap does jump significantly, up $25.7 million to $208.2M. The Cardinals should have another million or two more than that in total cap space after rolling over what little was left over from 2021. But even before free agency, the Cardinals are facing some big cap number jumps from players like Hopkins (up $13M from 2021), safety Budda Baker ($7M), defensive lineman J.J. Watt ($11M) and center Rodney Hudson ($9.5M). That'll eat up space.

Teams can re-sign their own free agents at any time. Teams can start talking to free agents from other teams on March 14, with free agency (and the new league year) beginning on March 16. Teams can't begin trading until the new league year, although trades can and have been agreed to before then.

With the season coming to a close, writer Darren Urban gives his personal take on the majority of the Cardinals' roster heading into the offseason. UFA is unrestricted free agent. RFA is restricted free agent (and whose movement can be controlled with a tender offer, which gives right of first refusal). ERFA is exclusive rights, meaning a player must accept a tender offer.

Free agency figures to play a big role in how the roster evolves for next season, given all the free-agents-to-be. Comments are for today and the future for any particular player is fluid.

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