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An Early Look At Free Agency As Cardinals Ease Into Offseason

In just about two months, free agency will begin for the NFL. Much can happen between then and now, especially since this is the window in which teams can figure out what they might want to do with their own free agents. The Cardinals, of course, have plenty of players whom they have to decide if they are going to keep. The two that pop to mind first are running back Kenyan Drake and left tackle D.J. Humphries (Larry Fitzgerald doesn't really count, because if he decides to keep playing, he'll be a Cardinal.)

For all the discussion about the draft and what the Cardinals will do at No. 8, free agency is crucial. Just because a position is taken care of in free agency doesn't necessarily eliminate it for the draft, but if there is a giant hole left even after free agency, then the draft must be used.

There are a couple of lists of the top scheduled free agents, one from ESPN and one from Pro Football Focus. PFF's does not include quarterbacks, since they are an animal onto themselves in a lot of ways, while ESPN puts Dak Prescott, Tom Brady and Drew Brees in its top three spots. There are still giant differences in the lists -- ESPN has Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones 22nd, for instance, and PFF has his No. 4. Rams linebacker Cory Littleton is No. 9 for PFF, No. 45 for ESPN.

And as always, with the potential of franchise tags and straight contract extensions, many of these guys won't be available or much harder to get once free agency first comes around. Among the positions the Cards could look at in free agency are defensive line, inside linebacker, outside linebacker, right tackle and maybe wide receiver.

It's interesting that Humphries is on both lists, albeit down the rankings in the 40s of the top 50, while Drake is actually at 19 on the ESPN list and not on the PFF list. (They are the only Cardinals to appear.)

There are other factors going into this year's offseason when it comes to free agency and the salary cap. As of right now, 2020 is scheduled to be the final year of the collective bargaining agreement. Unless a new deal is in in place by March and the beginning of the new league year (the same day free agency starts, March 18), the two biggest rule blips are these: One, there is no June 1st designation for cuts, meaning anyone released, his full dead cap weight must come in 2020. Two, normally a team can use either the franchise tag (which would set a salary for one year and requires draft-pick compensation if another team were to sign that player away) or the transition tag (simply giving the team the right of first refusal if a free agent signed an offer sheet elsewhere.) This year, teams will be able to use one of each if they so choose.

T D.J. Humphries
T D.J. Humphries

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