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. We will take a look at each position group in the days leading up to free agency, which begins on March 13.
Free agent primer: Defensive Line
Cap hit of players under contract for 2019 (via OverTheCap.com): DT Corey Peters ($4.4 million); DE Robert Nkemdiche ($2.74 million); DT Vincent Valentine ($645,000); DT Pasoni Tasini ($495,000).
Scheduled free agents: DT Rodney Gunter; DE Olsen Pierre (restricted).
Images of notable players scheduled to hit the open market
Analysis: Peters, the picture of stability on the line the past few years, is expected to return as the nose tackle. Beyond him, there is fuzziness. Nkemdiche had impressive flashes in 2018 but still lacked overall consistency and then tore his ACL on Dec. 9. It’s unknown if he will be ready for the start of the season.
Gunter took a step forward a season ago and could have a strong free agent market. The position group would get a boost if he re-signed, but the asking price could dictate that. Pierre had 5½ sacks in 2017 but regressed in 2018. He fit better in the 3-4 scheme the Cardinals are reverting to, which could be a reason for Pierre to return, but he is a restricted free agent. Valentine and Tasini are depth pieces that will aim to make the team if the Cardinals keep them.
The Cardinals have lost some key players on the defensive line over the past few seasons and are now thin at the position. The group did not fare well against the run last year and will need to get that fixed.
It remains to be seen if Keim makes a high-profile signing here, but an addition or two seems likely because there is not much depth.
Notable past free agent defensive line signings: Peters (2015); Cory Redding (2015); Frostee Rucker (2013); Bryan Robinson (2008); Kendrick Clancy (2006); Chike Okeafor (2005); Bertrand Berry (2004); Clyde Simmons (1994).