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Free Agency Primer 2016: Defensive Line

Posted Mar 5, 2016

Starters returning, but upgrades still possible if Cardinals find right fit

The Cardinals’ front office is surveying the free agent landscape, hoping to complement a core which went 13-3 last season and advanced to the NFC Championship game. Free agency begins on March 9, and we’ll break down the team’s needs at each position leading up to the signing period.

More free agent analysis: TE I RB I QB I WR I OL I ST I LB

Free agent primer: Defensive line

Cap numbers of players under contract for 2016: DT Calais Campbell ($15.25 million); DT Cory Redding ($4 million); DT Corey Peters ($2.57 million); DT Frostee Rucker ($1.35 million); DT Rodney Gunter ($652,479); DT Ed Stinson ($646,685); DT Josh Mauro ($600,000); NT Xavier Williams ($527,666); DT Olsen Pierre ($450,000)

Scheduled free agents: DT Red Bryant

Need: Medium

Analysis: The Cardinals return their starting trio of Calais Campbell, Frostee Rucker and Rodney Gunter, and are also expected to get back Corey Peters, last year’s projected starter at nose tackle before he suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in training camp. General Manager Steve Keim is always looking to fortify the trenches, though, and with many big names available in free agency, he could still look to upgrade.

Campbell had only five sacks last season, the lowest total since his rookie season. Despite that, he still anchored the group and is good at both rushing the passer and against the run. Campbell’s contract is set to expire after the 2016 season and an extension could free up some cap money this year if the team wants to go that route. Rucker was solid once again in 2015 while Gunter was serviceable as a rookie. Ed Stinson and Josh Mauro were part of the rotation and could return in that role again in 2016. Xavier Williams made the team as an undrafted rookie free agent and will again compete for a spot.

Cory Redding made some big plays and is a nice rotational piece, but with a $4 million cap hit the Cardinals could choose to move on if they’d rather use the $3 million savings elsewhere. While every player except in-season addition Red Bryant is under contract, the Cardinals could still be in play for an impact piece in free agency. Charles Johnson, Jason Pierre-Paul, Malik Jackson and Olivier Vernon are just a handful of the prominent names either scheduled to hit or already on the open market. The draft is also very strong at defensive tackle, which could factor into the decision-making during free agency.

Notable past free agent DL signings by the Cardinals: Peters (2015); Redding (2015); Rucker (2013); Bryan Robinson (2008); Kendrick Clancy (2006); Chike Okeafor (2005); Bertrand Berry (2004); Clyde Simmons (1994).

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