The Arizona Cardinals had no business making the playoffs in a season where they had to start 3 different quarterbacks. HC Bruce Arians did a great job of holding the roster together absent a running game, multiple quarterbacks and the loss of the best linebacker on his team due to suspension. What is in store for the Cardinals come 2015?
This time of the year, being in salary cap jail is not a lonely place. The list is long in respects of teams needing to restructure, resign, extend or release players all in the name of the salary cap limbo. After making several early moves in shifting cap space around, the release of WR Ted Ginn and DE Darnell Dockett as well as the restructuring of WR Larry Fitzgerald did get them about $10 million on the estimate of a $143 million cap. As cliché as this may sound, this is a team getting older who is going to be the definition of "win now".
It would be obvious to point to the contracts of QB Carson Palmer, CB Patrick Peterson, LB Daryl Washington, and DE Calais Cambell in regard to players in need of restructuring their contracts, this is not something that would make a lot of sense. Washington is coming off losing season to suspension. Palmer missed the second half of the season and required offseason surgery. Pushing money down the line for either of these players makes no sense as they are much closer to the end of their career, meaning the team will have to face these contracts at some point.
Addressing and restructuring the contract of T Jared Veldheer would give near $4 million in additional cap space. The team may continue to purge the marginal contracts releasing C Lyle Sendlein, TE John Carlson, G Ted Larson, and S Rashad Johnson. All these players should be replaceable on the free agent market while saving cap space.
QB Drew Stanton, unless he restructures (which he shouldn't) will be cut. His cap hit isn't gigantic but paying a backup quarterback anything over $1.5 million when you are in cap trouble is an issue.
CB Antonio Cromartie had a great bounce back season after being a cap casualty with the Jets. Arizona will offer him a contract but his return to the Jets seems inevitable. NT Dan Williams could be a hot commodity on the open market. Arizona needs to lock him down with the Cardinals as soon as possible.
Arizona will be in play for the best available tight end (which hype appears to indicate to be Maxx Williams (Minnesota)), if available. They also have pressing needs at linebacker because of the uncertainty with Washington. While LB Kevin Minter has been a solid addition, the outside will need depth and this draft will be full of it in the first 3 rounds. They could take a swing at running back. The team has been supportive of RB Andre Ellington being the feature back but he has just been too inconsistent to count on. They could also look for guard play. Cutting ties via release with veteran players will create this need but I wouldn't say this is a definite for the top 3 rounds. Wide receiver will be pretty depleted this late in the 1st round. While this is a great draft for that position, it will take the team falling in love with someone to pull the trigger in the first.
News Flash: No bidding wars for free agents will happen in Arizona. The team will most likely look to fill the need at defensive tackle first, followed by value quarterback depth. They will also dig for a veteran safety to play. The players they sign might not make the bottom ticker of Sportscenter but it will be the only way the team will be able to stay competitive. Coach Arians has established an amazing reputation for getting the most out of a player, something that will allow them to be selective in the market.
Quick Guide to the Rookie Wage Scale (First Round Breakdown)