The Cardinals have some work to do after a poor 2018 season. They have the No. 1 overall pick in April’s draft, but before that comes free agency. For the first time in his tenure as general manager, Steve Keim has significant cap space to use on the open market, and he’s already inked players to deals. 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: Special teams
Cap hit of players under contract for 2019 (via OverTheCap.com): P Andy Lee ($2 million); LS Aaron Brewer ($1.05 million); Zane Gonzalez ($645,000).
Scheduled free agents: K Phil Dawson
Images of notable kickers, punters and long snappers scheduled to hit the open market
Analysis: Special teams was one of the few bright spots in 2018. Lee had a fabulous year and will aim to put up similar results next season. The Cardinals had high-profile long-snapping issues before Brewer came aboard but he has smoothed everything out and should be reliable again in 2019. Coach Jeff Rodgers did a nice job setting up the coverage and return units for success, and was retained despite the firing of Steve Wilks.
The only real question mark is at kicker. Dawson was placed on injured reserve after 10 games and is not expected to be back. Gonzalez joined the team in late November and hit a game-winner against the Packers in tough conditions. He finished the year 7-of-9 on field goals for the Cardinals and 5-of-6 on extra points. Gonzalez has a strong leg but his career field goal percentage of 70.6 could allow other options to be considered.
The Cardinals can either peruse the list of veteran kickers on the open market or wait and add a rookie to give Gonzalez some training camp competition.
Notable past free agent special teams signings: Dawson (2017); Lee (2017); Brewer (2016); K Chandler Catanzaro (2014); P Drew Butler (2014); P Dave Zastudil (2011); K Jay Feely (2010); K Mike Nugent (2009); LS Mike Leach (2009); P Ben Graham (2008); P Dirk Johnson (2008); K Neil Rackers (2003); LS Nathan Hodel (2001); K Cary Blanchard (2000); K Chris Jacke (1998); P Scott Player (1998); K Joe Nedney (1997); LS Trey Junkin (1996); P Jeff Feagles (1994).