The Cardinals made an effort to improve the pass rush Friday.
General Manager Steve Keim had already said an improved pass rush was the team’s top priority going into the offseason, and the first step was signing successful Canadian Football League pass rusher Tristan Okpalaugo to a one-year contract.
Okpalaugo, a 6-foot-5, 258-pound outside linebacker, spent the last two seasons playing for the Toronto Argonauts and piling up 23 sacks in 31 games. The 26-year-old played collegiately at Fresno State, and was undrafted. He spent time with
In Canada Okpalaugo blossomed. Looking to get back into the NFL, he had visits with the Jets and Seahawks before signing with the Cardinals.
He joins a team that struggled to create much pass rush in the playoffs, particularly against Cam Newton and the Panthers in the NFC Championship. The Cards did have 36 sacks in 2015, but nine came in one game against the Packers, who featured an injury-ravaged offensive line at the time.
The Cardinals are still expected to seek a pass rusher in the draft. The free agent market does not have a lot of options for the kind of talent Keim seeks at the position, and those who will be available in March will cost significant money.
Outside linebacker is also a fairly open position for the team at the moment. One starter in 2016 should be
Dwight Freeney lead the Cardinals with eight sacks in only 11 games, but he is considering retirement at age 36 and will be a free agent.
Now Okpalaugo is in the mix. It isn’t the first time the Cardinals have signed a CFL pass-rushing star. In 2010, the Cards inked Saskatchewan’s Stevie Baggs, who had led the CFL with 12 sacks the season before. Baggs was released at the end of the preseason.