The Cardinals need to upgrade the roster after a poor 2018 season, and while the No. 1 overall pick awaits in April, first comes free agency. General Manager Steve Keim has significant cap space to use for the first time in his tenure and could be aggressive. This is the final positional primer heading into free agency, which begins on March 13.
Free agent primer: Cornerbacks
Cap hit of players under contract for 2019 (via OverTheCap.com): Patrick Peterson ($11.89 million); Robert Alford ($6 million); Brandon Williams ($908,674); David Amerson ($805,000); Chris Jones ($570,000); Deatrick Nichols ($570,000).
Scheduled free agents: None
Images of notable cornerbacks scheduled to hit the open market
Analysis: Keim didn’t wait for free agency to address the team’s No. 2 cornerback void. He signed the six-year veteran Alford to a three-year deal worth a reported $22.5 million in early February after he was released by the Falcons. As passing games continue to thrive in the NFL, cover men have become extremely valuable, and the Cardinals hope the Peterson-Alford duo can lock down receivers on the outside. The cornerbacks will return to man-to-man, press coverage after playing more zone under Steve Wilks. Peterson was unhappy in last year’s scheme and is excited to shadow No. 1 receivers again in 2019.
Amerson filled in capably as a starting cornerback down the stretch and could be a reliable depth piece in case of injury. Williams has never lived up to his third-round draft status and may have to compete for a roster spot. Jones and Nichols are young players aiming to stand out this offseason.
While the outside cornerback spots are set, nickel defense is now the predominant coverage, which means a slot cornerback could be in play during free agency. Safety Budda Baker can fill that role if needed, but defensive coordinator Vance Joseph would prefer Baker does more patrolling in the middle of the field at his natural position.
Notable past free agent cornerback signings: Bené Benwikere (2018); Tramon Williams (2017); Antonio Cromartie (2014); Jerraud Powers (2013); Antoine Cason (2013); William Gay (2012); Bryant McFadden (2009); Roderick Hood (2007); Ralph Brown (2007); David Macklin (2004); Duane Starks (2002).