The Cardinals are busy surveying the free agent landscape, hoping to add more key pieces to a core which has won 21 games over the past two seasons. Free agency begins on March 10, and we’ll break down the team’s needs at each position leading up to the signing period.
Free agent primer: Defensive line
Cap numbers of players under contract for 2015: DE
Analysis: The defensive line was one of the bright spots for the Cardinals in 2014, but there are several holes to fill this offseason. Darnell Dockett was released last week and signed with the 49ers on Thursday. Between his departure and the pending free agency of Dan Williams and Tommy Kelly, there is a glaring need for replacements. The Cardinals will attempt to bring Williams back, but he may be able to find a bigger role and more money elsewhere. Kelly did a nice job last season and the team hopes to re-sign him. Alameda Ta’amu barely played last year after impressing in 2013, but could be brought back to compete for a spot in the rotation. He tore his ACL at the end of the 2013 season and should be healthier this year. Calais Campbell will be the star defensive lineman again, while Ed Stinson and Frostee Rucker figure to be key contributors. Josh Mauro and Kareem Martin hope to find a way into the rotation with a good offseason.
Ndamukong Suh is the big defensive tackle name on the market, although it seems unlikely the Cardinals chase him as it would put them in a perilous cap situation. Nick Fairley and Terrance Knighton are second-tier guys with potential, but not without risk. Jerry Hughes and Greg Hardy are top-level defensive ends, and the Cards do need another pass-rusher, but they could also look at free agent outside linebackers or the draft to fit that need. The Cardinals will certainly be active on the defensive line front as free agency begins. It remains to be seen whether that results in a high-profile signing or the addition of role players and rotation guys.
Notable past free agent DL signings by the Cardinals: Rucker (2013); Bryan Robinson (2008); Kendrick Clancy (2006); Chike Okeafor (2005); Bertrand Berry (2004); Clyde Simmons (1994).