Analysis

Arizona Cardinals Free Agency Outlook

Arizona Cardinals Free Agency Preview

The Arizona Cardinals saw their season end by a crushing 34-11 loss in the Wild Card round to the eventual Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams. Arizona fell behind 28-0 just two minutes into the third quarter as third-year quarterback Kyler Murray completed just 19 of 34 passes for 137 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions in the Cardinals’ first playoff game since 2015. Arizona began the season as one of the hottest teams in the league, sitting at 10-2 and as the first seed in the NFC entering Week 14. They faltered down the stretch and lost four of their last five games, including a 30-12 loss to the Lions who recorded just one more victory during the season.

Arizona came into 2021 with the oldest roster in the league and has lots of work to do to keep pace in the cutthroat NFC West which sent three teams to the playoffs. Headed into 2022, the Cardinals project to be around $813,000 over the cap and will have to replenish their roster as they have numerous free agents at key positions on both sides of the ball.

Update: The Cardinals now have $5,487,186 available in cap space.

Arizona’s Impending Free Agents

  • WR Christian Kirk
  • WR A.J. Green
  • EGE Chandler Jones
  • LB Jordan Hicks
  • TE Zach Ertz
  • LG Max Garcia
  • RB James Conner
  • CB Robert Alford
  • RB Chase Edmonds
  • IDL Corey Peters
  • CB Antonio Hamilton
  • P Andy Lee
  • LS Aaron Brewer
  • TE Darrell Daniels
  • TE Maxx Williams
  • TE Demetrius Harris
  • QB Colt McCoy
  • EDGE Dennis Gardeck
  • S Chris Banjo
  • LB Zeke Turner
  • S Charles Washington
  • IDL Jack Crawford
  • IDL Michael Dogbe (RFA)
  • EDGE Kylie Fitts (RFA)

The most notable free agent for the Cardinals is edge rusher Chandler Jones, who has racked up 71.5 sacks over the past six seasons for Arizona including 10.5 in 2021. He will turn 32 before the 2022 season starts but will likely have plenty of suitors in free agency. On the other side of the ball, wide receivers Christian Kirk & A.J. Green, tight end Zach Ertz, and running backs James Conner and Chase Edmonds are Arizona’s most significant free agents.

Kirk, Green, and Ertz represent 48% of the team’s target share, 45% of receptions, 52% of receiving yards, and accounted for 11 of the team’s 27 passing touchdowns in 2021 as DeAndre Hopkins played in just 10 games. Ertz was acquired him midseason from the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for cornerback Tay Gowan & a 2022 fifth round pick and finished strong with 50 receptions for 275 yards in his last five games.

Conner signed a one-year, $1.75 million contract last offseason and proceeded to rank second in the league in rushing touchdowns. He and Edmonds were responsible for 65% of Arizona’s rushing production in 2021 and each had over 300 receiving yards. In total, 74% of Arizona’s yardage from skill positions in 2021 was produced by players who are now free agents.

Franchise Tag 

The Cardinals do not have any candidates that would make sense for the franchise tag. Edge rusher Chandler Jones has already been the recipient of the franchise tag (from the Cardinals in 2017), meaning that a second tag would be a prohibitive 120% of the 2022 franchise tag cost for defensive ends which. This would amount to an exorbitant $24,223,200, ranking fourth in AAV among all edge rushers.

Update: The Cardinals elected to not use their franchise tag this offseason.

Team Needs

  1. Edge
  2. Wide Receiver
  3. Cornerback
  4. Running Back
  5. Tight End
  6. Defensive Line Depth

With Jones a free agent, the Cardinals lack reliable options across from edge rusher Markus Golden who had 11 sacks in 2021 and is under contract for another season. J.J. Watt, signed to a two-year, $28 million contract in the offseason, played in just seven games this past season and has participated in more than eight regular season games in a year just twice since 2016.

The Cardinals have minimal depth at wide receiver under contract for 2022, particularly after Hopkins and Rondale Moore. Four tight end are free agents, including Ertz and Maxx Williams, which further adds to the concern regarding Arizona’s receiving corps.
Byron Murphy Jr. has proven to be a capable player at one of the Cardinals’ starting cornerback spots but the other side remains a question mark with Marco Wilson receiving significant playing time in 2021 with the Cardinals losing additional depth thanks to Alford being a free agent.

In the backfield, Eno Benjamin and Jonathan Ward are next in line behind Conner & Edmonds and have yet to prove much, combining for just 45 career carries. Behind Zach Allen, the Cardinals lack depth on the interior of their defensive line and the expiration of Corey Peters’ contract adds to this issue.