The Bruce Arians era is over in Arizona which means the Cardinals will need to find and establish a brand new identity this season under new head coach Steve Wilks and fast. With quarterback Carson Palmer also retiring this season, it’s generally accepted that the Cardinals will be looking to draft their signal caller of the future but with several teams ahead of them also heavily scouting this year’s quarterback draft class, they will likely have to trade up in the first round to land a reliable QB from the 2018 draft.
Further complicating matters for the red birds is their recent decision to release Tyrann Mathieu after the big-name safety refused to take a pay cut. Mathieu has reportedly agreed to terms with the Houston Texans on a one-year contract. Running back Adrian Peterson was also released in a much less surprising move, though it does reignite concern about the depth of the Arizona backfield which was devastated by injury last year.
The Cardinals have attempted to reinforce their ranks in what has been a very exciting offseason, but they will face an NFC West that has been extraordinarily active in the free agency market. So we take a look and grade the Arizona Cardinals free agency moves.
QB Sam Bradford
In maybe their most significant offseason move, the Cardinals signed Sam Bradford who played briefly for the Minnesota Vikings in 2017. Bradford has shown flashes of brilliance throughout his tumultuous career but injuries have continued to plague his pro career since being an early draft pick for the Rams. There is plenty of upside to signing Bradford, if and when he reaches the potential he had coming out of college, but now on the wrong side of thirty, it may be too much to hope for that Bradford can stay healthy for 16 games, particularly in a division as ruthless on quarterbacks as the NFC West. Not to mention the Cards’ history of trouble protecting their quarterbacks.
QB Mike Glennon
It’s kind of hard to have a feeding frenzy in a talent pool this shallow but the Cardinals are trying nonetheless. Glennon has proven to be a reliable backup in the NFL over the course of his four-year career. He has never been anyone’s first choice but has proven himself reliable (if unimpressive) in relief. This is especially evident after he signed a $45 million contract with the Bears but was benched just five weeks into the season. His rookie season in 2013, he was called in to start 13 games but hasn’t started more than five games in a season since then. Who Glennon is now and what he can really do leading an offense is anyone’s guess. With Bradford’s injury history, however, the Cardinals may need to find out sooner than later.
OG Justin Pugh
In arguably the best offseason move by the Cardinals, they signed offensive lineman Justin Pugh from the New York Giants. In addition to somehow re-signing Mike Iupati for a pay cut, the Cardinals are reinforcing their offensive line through free agency. Pugh’s signing was the big indicator the team’s intention to offload fellow big-name guard Jared Veldheer to free up around $10 million in cap space after trading him to the Broncos. Either way, Pugh comes with his own set of question marks around his injury history. Pugh hasn’t played a full season since 2013, his rookie year.
OT Andre Smith
Depth along the offensive line is very important, as the Cardinals found last season when the unit played miserably and was the main source of struggles for Arizona’s offense. Like most of the players the Cardinals have brought in, Smith carries a dubious injury history having finished the 2017 season on the Cincinnati Bengals’ injured reserve but if he can get back to 100 percent, he’ll add some much-needed depth along that Arizona offensive line.
LB Josh Bynes
Hardly a household name, the Cardinals evidently liked what they saw from Bynes last season and are expected to re-sign the linebacker, leading some to speculate that he might compete with or even overtake Karlos Dansby as the head signal-caller of the defense. Bynes has obviously demonstrated to the coaching staff an ability to thrive within their defensive scheme and must expect him to play a larger role in the 2018 season.
There are still a lot of questions about what the Cardinals are going to look like when the starters take the field in 2018 and it’s not totally clear even what their identity will be under the revised coaching staff. In a tough division that is getting tougher all the time, they’d better be ready to make some big moves in the draft, as they seem poised to do.