For the second straight season, Bruce Arians and the Cardinals were surprise contenders, but unlike in the 2013 season, when Arizona won 10 games only to finish outside the playoff picture, the 2014 Cardinals managed 11 wins, earning a postseason berth via a wild card spot. Arians won Coach of the Year for the second time in three years, but the Cardinals had a quick exit from the playoffs, thanks in large part to the absence of a viable quarterback. Arizona thrived on the other side of the ball, however, and there’s reason to believe the team can do big things in 2015 with better luck on its side.
- Mike Iupati, G: Five years, $40MM. $15.75MM guaranteed.
- Corey Peters, DL: Three years, $9MM. $4MM guaranteed.
- Cory Redding, DE: Two years, $6MM. $2MM guaranteed.
- Sean Weatherspoon, LB: One year, $3.85MM. $1.25MM guaranteed.
- Lyle Sendlein, C: One year, $1.4MM. $500K guaranteed.
- Chris Johnson, RB: One year, $870K. $400K guaranteed. $1.13MM available via incentives.
- A.Q. Shipley, C: Two years, $1.57MM. $300K guaranteed.
- Bradley Sowell, T: One year, $760K. $100K guaranteed.
- LaMarr Woodley, LB: One year, minimum salary benefit. $40K guaranteed.
- Alameda Ta’amu, DL: One year, $901K. $25K guaranteed.
- Cameron Bradfield, T: One year, minimum salary benefit.
- Darryl Sharpton, LB: One year, minimum salary benefit.
The Raiders were said to be “hot after” Mike Iupati, who also had serious interest from the Bills and Jets. The Cardinals weren’t really mentioned as a leading suitor for his services, but they were the team that inked him in March. The three-time Pro Bowler graded out as the 14th best guard in the NFL out of 78 qualified players, according to the advanced metrics at Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Iupati, a former first-round pick who’s started missed only five games during his career, is regarded as a strong run blocker, so he should open up a lot of holes for Andre Ellington & Co. once he returns from a knee injury.
Early on in the free agency process, the Cardinals also signed two former members of the Falcons’ front seven. First came linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who inked a one-year deal worth a little less than $4MM. Weatherspoon, 27, was viewed as a priority for the Falcons, but we learned early in free agency that Arizona would be waiting with its arms “wide open” if the linebacker didn’t work something out with Atlanta. The Saints were also believed to have interest in Weatherspoon, who has missed all but seven games during the last two seasons due to an Achilles injury in 2014, and knee and foot issues in 2013. In spite of Weatherspoon’s health problems, Luke Adams of Nerdy Football listed him as one of the top options at 4-3 outside linebacker this offseason. Weatherspoon, who averaged 110 tackles per season in 2011 and 2012, looks like a good bet to assume one of the inside linebacker spots in Arizona’s 3-4 scheme.
After Weatherspoon signed, the Cardinals inked defensive lineman Corey Peters. Peters, a former third-round pick, had spent the entirety of his career with the Falcons, starting 55 games in five seasons. Unfortunately, Peters tore his Achilles in late August and was ruled out for the entire 2015 season. Unlike Weatherspoon, Peters is signed with the team beyond 2015, so he should eventually have an opportunity to make his mark in Arizona.
In October, defensive end Cory Redding said that he was considering retirement. By the spring, however, he had a change of heart, signing a two-year deal with the Cardinals. Redding, 34, started at least 14 games for the Colts the past three years. In 2014, Redding started all 16 regular season games for the Colts, racking up 44 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and three pass deflections. He also made his presence felt in the postseason, recording two sacks and two pass deflections to go with 9 total tackles.
Last season was something of a lost year for LaMarr Woodley, who spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Steelers. After playing strictly as an outside linebacker in Pittsburgh’s 3-4 scheme, Woodley moved to defensive end in Oakland’s 4-3 look, and didn’t adjust particularly well, ranking 44th out of 59 qualified 4-3 DEs per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). The Michigan alum played in just six games before tearing his biceps and missing the remainder of the season. Now, he’ll look to have a bounce back year in Phoenix.
Lyle Sendlein was released in March to save the Cardinals a little over $3MM. However, when the Cardinals found that they were less-than-satisfied with the play of their centers later in the offseason, they circled back to him. Sendlein, 31, has been the Cardinals’ starting center for a long time, appearing in 121 regular season games (109 starts) for the team since 2007. The veteran offensive lineman started all 16 games at the position for Arizona in each of the last two seasons. However, he graded out as the NFL’s second-worst center out of 41 qualified players in 2014, according to Pro Football Focus’ data (subscription required).
After Arians aired his concerns about his club’s running back corps, Arizona made a veteran addition, agreeing to a one-year deal with veteran Chris Johnson, who spent 2014 with the Jets. Johnson will be 30 years old in September, and was shot in the arm earlier this year, but he did average 4.3 yards per carry with New York last season, so there’s a chance he could gain a meaningful if Andre Ellington and/or David Johnson falter.
- John Abraham, LB
- Sam Acho, LB
- Marcus Benard, LB
- John Carlson, TE: Retired
- Antonio Cromartie, CB
- Darnell Dockett, DL: Released
- Jonathan Dwyer, RB
- Paul Fanaika, G
- Larry Foote, LB: Released (added to coaching staff)
- Ted Ginn Jr., WR: Released
- Rob Housler, TE
- Tommy Kelly, DL
- Ryan Lindley, QB
- Dan Williams, DT
Antonio Cromartie made no secret of the fact that he wanted to sign with the Jets this offseason. Cardinals teammate Patrick Peterson even complained in February that all Cromartie talked about was “freaking New York.” The Cards maintained interest all along in bringing Cromartie back to Arizona, but the Jets ultimately won out. Cromartie had a pretty atrocious year for the Jets in 2013, finishing with an overall grade of -11.4 (per Pro Football Focus, subscription required), placing him in the bottom 10 of all qualified cornerbacks. However, he had something of a resurgence in Arizona, finishing with a much less harsh -0.2 overall grade, putting him 45th out of 108 cornerbacks. That uptick was largely credited to Todd Bowles and they will continue that partnership in New York.
Dan Williams, who ranked as the No. 33 free agent on Nerdy Football’s Top 50 list, started 40 games over five years with the Cardinals, who selected him in the first round of the 2010 draft. In March, Williams parted ways with the Cardinals when he inked a lucrative deal with the Raiders. The Raiders could have the biggest interior defensive line in the NFL if Williams and Justin Ellis, who combine to weigh 665 pounds, line up side by side.
John Abraham, 36, suffered a concussion during Arizona’s Week 1 game against the Chargers, and took some time away from the team to consider the possibility of retiring. At that time, it was reported that Abraham had been suffering from memory loss, so it was somewhat surprising that the linebacker returned to the Cardinals. When Abraham was unable to pass concussion tests, the team chose to place him on IR. Doctors told Abraham to sit out for a year after those tests and we haven’t heard much about the veteran this offseason. In all likelihood, Abraham has played his last down of NFL football.
In May, tight end John Carlson announced his retirement to the surprise of many. Carlson, 31, was coming off a solid first season with the Cardinals. In 16 games (12 starts) for the club, the former second round pick totaled 33 receptions for 350 yards and a touchdown. Those numbers brought his career marks to 210 catches, 2,256 yards, and 15 TDs in 90 overall regular season contests. Later, Carlson explained that he was concerned for his health and also wanted to be around more for his family.
Wide receiver and return man Ted Ginn Jr. spent the 2013 season with the Panthers and this offseason he returned to them after Arizona showed him the door. Ginn was an all-purpose threat for the Panthers in ’13, accumulating 36 catches, 26 punt returns, 25 kickoff returns, and even four carries. In his first and only season in Arizona, Ginn didn’t have the same impact, outside of one 71-yard punt return touchdown back in September. For the season, Ginn posted a career-low 19.0 yards per return on kickoffs, and caught just 14 balls on offense.
- Acquired a 2015 second-round pick (No. 58; DE/OLB Markus Golden) and a 2015 fifth-round pick (No. 158; DE Shaq Riddick) from the Ravens in exchange for a 2015 second-round pick (No. 55; TE Maxx Williams).
- Acquired a 2015 fourth-round pick (No. 116; DL Rodney Gunter) from the Browns in exchange for a 2015 fourth-round pick (No. 123; WR Vince Mayle), a 2015 sixth-round pick (No. 198; TE Randall Telfer), and a 2015 seventh-round pick (No. 241; CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu).
- 1-24: D.J. Humphries, T (Florida): Signed
- 2-58: Markus Golden, DE/OLB (Missouri): Signed
- 3-86: David Johnson, RB (Northern Iowa): Signed
- 4-116: Rodney Gunter, DL (Delaware State): Signed
- 5-158: Shaq Riddick, DE (West Virginia): Signed
- 5-159: J.J. Nelson, WR (UAB): Signed
- 7-256: Gerald Christian, TE (Louisville): Signed
The 24th overall pick in this year’s draft, D.J. Humphries was initially expected to start at right tackle for the Cardinals, across from Jared Veldheer. However, head coach Bruce Arians indicated this summer the right tackle job is Bobby Massie‘s to lose. Humphries is now being prepared for a swing role.
Linebacker Markus Golden could be a significant part of Arizona’s pass rush attack in 2015. Golden didn’t get as much attention in college as teammate Shane Ray, but he has been widely praised for his work ethic and the Cardinals see big things in his future.
- Signed general manager Steve Keim and head coach Bruce Arians to contract extensions through 2019.
- Exercised 2016 fifth-year option for WR Michael Floyd ($7.32MM).
- Learned G Mike Iupati will be sidelined until at least October with a knee injury.
- Learned T Bobby Massie will be suspended for three games.
- Learned DT Corey Peters will miss the 2015 season after tearing his Achilles.
- Claimed CB Alfonzo Dennard off waivers from the Patriots, then waived him in July.
- Signed 15 undrafted rookie free agents following the draft.
Both general manager Steve Keim and head coach Bruce Arians will be in Arizona for years to come thanks to their brand-new contract extensions. Since taking over as Arizona’s head coach prior to the 2013 season, Arians has led the team to a 21-11 record, earning a playoff berth in 2014. While the Cardinals ultimately couldn’t withstand all their health problems – including injuries that sidelined quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton – Keim provided a roster deep enough that the team was able to win 11 games despite losing multiple QBs and defensive contributors.
Arians, who was named the PFWA’s Coach of the Year for 2014, was believed to earning between $3-4MM a year on his old contract — his new deal will likely bump him up into the salary range of coaches like Rex Ryan and Jason Garrett, who signed contracts last month reportedly worth $5.5-6MM annually.
Back in April, the Cardinals were said to be on the fence regarding Michael Floyd‘s fifth-year option for 2016. However, prior to the draft, the Cardinals decided to pull the trigger on it. Floyd is now in line to earn a salary of $7.32MM and his salary is guaranteed in the event of an injury. Larry Fitzgerald has long been the face of the Cardinals and the focal point of their passing attack but in 2014 we saw the torch being passed a bit to the younger Floyd. In 16 regular season games, Floyd caught 47 balls for 841 yards and a career-high six touchdowns.
Arizona’s offensive line, which already featured question marks at center and right guard, took two more hits during the past few months, as left guard Mike Iupati will be out until October at the earliest after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery, while right tackle Bobby Massie was handed a three-game ban for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
Top 10 cap hits for 2015:
- Patrick Peterson, CB: $14,791,491
- Calais Campbell, DL: $14,750,000
- Larry Fitzgerald, WR: $10,850,000
- Jared Veldheer, LT: $8,500,000
- Carson Palmer, QB: $7,375,000
- Mike Iupati, G: $6,700,000
- Daryl Washington, LB: $6,500,000
- Jerraud Powers, CB: $5,350,000
- Jonathan Cooper, G: $3,967,909
- Drew Stanton, QB: $3,866,668
The Cardinals didn’t have the most eventful offseason in the NFL, but they did make some necessary upgrades headlined by run-blocking expert Iupati. Now, with their starting quarterback healthy once again, the Cards will look to finish the job they started in 2014.
Contract information from Over the Cap and Spotrac was used in the creation of this post.