Cardinals offseason
Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury have formed a solid connection, but more weapons must be added this Cardinals offseason to truly succeed. (Norm Hall/Getty Images)

After a one-sided trade dealt DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona, Kyler Murray took a step forward in his sophomore season. The offensive line was much improved as Murray was sacked 21 fewer times compared to his rookie year. The defense was exceptional at getting after the quarterback forcing 48 sacks. Kliff Kingsbury is forming something special in Arizona despite an 8-8 season saying otherwise. This Cardinals offseason can put them over the hump and into the playoffs.

Roster Needs: CB, RB, WR, EDGE, TE, IDL

Offense

Cardinals offseason
DeAndre Hopkins remained one of the elite wideouts in the league, amassing 1,407 yards in 2020. (Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Arizona needs more skill positions across the offense. The offensive line is solid in both pass and run blocking. The departure of tackle Kelvin Beachum will not be a huge loss as the talented, rookie Josh Jones now has a year of experience under his belt. Expect a seamless transition from Beachum to Jones. The running game needs a new face. Kyler Murray was 100 yards away from being Arizona’s leading rusher. Running back Kenyan Drake and the Cardinals have not come to terms on a new contract, leaving a hole at running back. Chase Edmonds is a solid pass-catcher, but he has shown he cannot be the bell cow of this offense.

History has shown us that paying up for a running back is not the way to go. Instead, Arizona should go after one of the top four running backs in this year’s draft class. One of Travis Etienne, Najee Harris, Javonte Williams, or Michael Carter would force defenses to play the run more honestly. The UNC backs, Williams and Carter, will likely be available at Arizona’s second-round pick and the front office should not hesitate to take either of them. They are both tackle-breaking machines and hit the holes hard with their burst.

$20 million in cap space means this Cardinals offseason will include going after a more polished pass-catcher. DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Kirk are great on the outside, but with the absence of Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona needs someone who specializes in the slot. Arizona does not need to go after an alpha with Hopkins as the target hog of the offense. Free agents Nelson Agholor and Marvin Jones are not the sexiest names but would pay massive dividends for Kyler. Agholor flashed in his role as a complementary slot receiver in Philly and Vegas. Last season he was the top receiver for Derek Carr garnering a career-high 896 yards and 8 touchdowns with a ridiculous 17.9 yards per reception.

Marvin Jones is about to turn 31 without showing a loss in his step. He has been one of the few bright spots on a porous Detroit team for several years now. While originally an outside threat, he has played more and more out of the slot for the Lions. The reliable Jones has dropped 4 passes once in a season and would provide great value to Kingsbury’s air raid.

If Arizona wants to pay up for a slot guy, then JuJu Smith-Schuster is their guy. Questions remain as to whether Smith-Schuster can be a true number one in an offense, but his talent is unquestioned. Playing alongside Hopkins, Smith-Schuster will fill a role like when he played second fiddle to Antonio Brown when he accumulated 1,426 yards on 111 receptions. He can read defenses well finding holes in zone coverage as well as breaking tackles and racking up yards after the catch.

The Cardinals have shown the propensity to run 12 personnel at a high rate. Thus, the impending free agency of Dan Arnold means adding another tight end is needed to play alongside Maxx Williams. Williams dealt with a nagging ankle injury all year, but when healthy has been a massive help in the run game. Williams had a Net Yards over Average of 241 in 2019, by far the best among any tight end in the league. A more dynamic pass-catching tight end could help Kyler out more in the passing game. Gerald Everett from the Rams is an intriguing option. The athletic tight end has broken 30 tackles on 130 career receptions. The production is not there, but the upside is.

Defense

Cardinals offseason
Edge rusher Chandler Jones is on the wrong side of thirty and this Cardinals offseason must include acquiring new pass-rushers. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The defense also has a few holes to fill this offseason. Patrick Peterson will likely hit the open market as father time has taken his toll on the 31-year-old. The secondary struggled to pick off quarterbacks in 2020, intercepting the ball 11 times (22nd in the league). Byron Murphy is solid in the slot, but a true boundary corner who can lockdown in man coverage is ideal. South Carolina corner Jaycee Horn has been speculated to be taken by Arizona at the 16th pick. Horn is a physical athletic corner with all the tools to succeed at the next level. Horn put opposing number one SEC receivers on an island in 2020 and will look to do the same next year.

Free agency brings Xavier Rhodes as a proven defensive back. While his career had seemingly fizzled out in Minnesota, Rhodes came back with a vengeance for Indianapolis. Rhodes stifled the opponents to a ridiculous 50% catch rate last season. While on the wrong side of 30, Rhodes has shown he can still perform at a high level.

Cutting cornerback Robert Alford and defensive lineman Devon Kennard will give the Cardinals a total of $34 million in cap space. Most of that money should be used to keep up the dominant play on the defensive line. Sacking quarterbacks, the 4th most is something Arizona should want to retain going into next year. Edge rushers Markus Golden and Hasson Reddick are free agents and Chandler Jones is not getting any younger.

Reddick should be a priority re-sign this Cardinals offseason. The athletic prospect out of Temple finally put it together this year racking up 13 sacks, tied for 3rd most in 2020. He is only 26 years old and still has room to grow. Reddick’s lack of production outside of 2020 will make him less expensive than the premium pass rushers on the market.

With more cap space to spend, the recently released JJ Watt should be on the Cardinals’ radar. He can play on the inside of the line if needed, especially with the likely cut of Devon Kennard. Watt put injury concerns to rest after playing over 1,000 snaps last year. The recently turned 32-year-old is a do-it-all lineman, plugging holes in the run game and collapsing the pocket around the quarterback.

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