Kliff Kingsbury talked about tough decisions to be made this offseason, and frankly, there are usually tough decisions every year when it comes to free agents and roster construction.
But maybe there is truly something to it this time around.
The Cards have fewer unrestricted free-agents-to-be, but with the players attached to some of those UFA markers, it creates a lot of uncertainty around what the Cardinals do if certain players aren't around. With no one is that more apparent than outside linebacker Chandler Jones, who turns 32 next month and had another double-digit sack season. Jones' year was not as prolific as most of his other Arizona seasons -- he had five sacks in the opener and finished with 10.5 -- but if he were to leave, the Cardinals would be faced with a gaping hole at one of the most important positions on the field.
James Conner had a fantastic year with 18 touchdowns, and his pairing with Chase Edmonds seemed perfect. But both players play a position with a short shelf life, and both are free agents looking to get what might be their last big contract.
Christian Kirk and A.J. Green were the two top wideouts after DeAndre Hopkins, and both can leave.
And then there is backup quarterback Colt McCoy, who not only played well and won two of three starts, but served a perfect role as older mentor to Kyler Murray.
The salary cap does jump significantly, up $25.7 million to $208.2M. The Cardinals should have another million or two more than that in total cap space after rolling over what little was left over from 2021. But even before free agency, the Cardinals are facing some big cap number jumps from players like Hopkins (up $13M from 2021), safety Budda Baker ($7M), defensive lineman J.J. Watt ($11M) and center Rodney Hudson ($9.5M). That'll eat up space.
Teams can re-sign their own free agents at any time. Teams can start talking to free agents from other teams on March 14, with free agency (and the new league year) beginning on March 16. Teams can't begin trading until the new league year, although trades can and have been agreed to before then.
With the season coming to a close, azcardinals.com writer Darren Urban gives his personal take on the majority of the Cardinals' roster heading into the offseason. UFA is unrestricted free agent. RFA is restricted free agent (and whose movement can be controlled with a tender offer, which gives right of first refusal). ERFA is exclusive rights, meaning a player must accept a tender offer.
Free agency figures to play a big role in how the roster evolves for next season, given all the free-agents-to-be. Comments are for today and the future for any particular player is fluid.
|Colt McCoy||*UFA*||Need back; Proved excellent resource for Kyler, and went 2-1 too|
|Trace McSorley||2022||Will be interesting to see if he showed enough to be No. 3|
|Kyler Murray||2022||Franchise QB started strong, finished slow. What does Year 4 look like?|
|RUNNING BACKS||SIGNED THROUGH||COMMENT|
|Eno Benjamin||2023||Finally got a chance to play some and might have opportunity if Edmonds leaves|
|James Conner||*UFA*||Excellent signing, but can Cardinals manage to keep him or will money elsewhere be too great?|
|Chase Edmonds||*UFA*||What you want with work ethic, but still was banged up. What will be cost?|
|Jonathan Ward||*ERFA*||He'll be part of the plans in 2022|
|WIDE RECEIVERS||SIGNED THROUGH||COMMENT|
|Greg Dortch||2022||Impressed in training camp and showed talent with some brief looks|
|A.J. Green||*UFA*||Stayed healthy, made some big plays, wasn't quite able to make others|
|DeAndre Hopkins||2024||He's one of the best in the league, and it showed when he was absent with injury|
|Andy Isabella||2022||Couldn't get on the field. Might be time for change of scenery|
|Christian Kirk||*UFA*||Will be fascinating to see what his free-agent market looks like; Wants to stay|
|Rondale Moore||2024||Would expect an expanded role next season|
|Antoine Wesley||*ERFA*||Worth having around after he made some plays in Hop's absence|
|TIGHT ENDS||SIGNED THROUGH||COMMENT|
|Darrell Daniels||*UFA*||Lost some playing time when others were healthy|
|Zach Ertz||*UFA*||Can be significant part of pass game if they can manage to re-sign him|
|Demetrius Harris||*UFA*||Turned up as a No. 2, although the Cards may want to upgrade|
|Benhard Seikovits||Signed future deal||Developmental player will get at least another offseason|
|David Wells||Signed future deal||Filled in late in the season and will compete for No. 3 role|
|Maxx Williams||*UFA*||Injury cost him best season; Williams/Ertz combo would be intriguing if he stays|
|OFFENSIVE LINE||SIGNED THROUGH||COMMENT|
|Kelvin Beachum (T)||2022||Great in community, locker room; does JJones have chance to supplant him?|
|Max Garcia (G/C)||*UFA*||Earned starting job but Cardinals likely will look to upgrade|
|Sean Harlow (G)||2022||Proved himself to be good depth piece|
|Marcus Henry (C)||2022||Served as insurance but never played|
|Rodney Hudson (C)||2023||The Cardinals needed to be better at center and Hudson proved to be that guy|
|D.J. Humphries (T)||2022||Still an important piece although didn't play as well down the stretch as early|
|Josh Jones (G/T)||2023||Work in progress but has to figure out how to play penalty-free|
|Joshua Miles (T)||2022||Hasn't made inroads for playing time yet|
|Justin Murray (G/T)||2022||Back injury derailed starting guard opportunity|
|Justin Pugh (G)||2022||Steady season after taking paycut; what happens with last year of his deal?|
|DEFENSIVE LINE||SIGNED THROUGH||COMMENT|
|Zach Allen||2022||Became an important part of the defensive line, but still looks to improve|
|Jack Crawford||*UFA*||Training camp fill-in got hurt early|
|Michael Dogbe||*RFA*||Finally got a chance to play as a rotational guy; could see him return as depth|
|Leki Fotu||2023||Had his moments; Cardinals still need him as run stuffer|
|Rashard Lawrence||2023||Injuries have been an issue as he learns the game|
|Corey Peters||*UFA*||Veteran signed late to become key piece, although status likely depends on rest of unit|
|Jordan Phillips||2022||Felled by injury again, Cardinals have to decide whether to keep on last year of deal|
|J.J. Watt||2022||Amazing comeback to play in playoffs; Cardinals could use 17 games of him|
|OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS||SIGNED THROUGH||COMMENT|
|Kylie Fitts||*RFA*||Concussion ended his year early|
|Dennis Gardeck||*UFA*||Coming off ACL, didn't have same sack impact but still important on special teams|
|Markus Golden||2022||Got back to his double-digit sack ways; his energy infectious for team|
|Chandler Jones||*UFA*||Jones faces free agency, a situation much like Patrick Peterson last year. Still Cards' best pass rusher|
|Devon Kennard||2022||Snaps shrunk this season with Jones back full-time|
|Victor Dimukeje||2024||Golden-esque rookie played a little bit but Cardinals like him|
|INSIDE LINEBACKERS||SIGNED THROUGH||COMMENT|
|Zaven Collins||2024||Playing time dried up; First-round pick needs to make big jump in Year 2|
|Jordan Hicks||2022||Led team in defensive snaps, but Cardinals might want to get younger|
|Isaiah Simmons||2023||Did improve from his rookie year but can get better|
|Ezekiel Turner||*UFA*||Key special teamer missed big chunk of season with injury|
|Tanner Vallejo||2022||Was supposed to be depth and then passed Collins on depth chart|
|Joe Walker||Signed future deal||Just when you think he's gone, the Cardinals keep him. And play him.|
|Robert Alford||*UFA*||Played well before season-ending injury. With age, Cards will have to consider money, other options|
|Breon Borders||Signed future deal||Struggled when he played late in season, but Cards saw enough to bring back|
|Antonio Hamilton||*UFA*||Turned out to be a key addition after starting on practice squad|
|Byron Murphy Jr.,||2022||Played at a Pro Bowl level early in the season; could use a top-end partner|
|Jace Whittaker||Signed future deal||Has done enough to keep around as depth for now|
|Marco Wilson||2024||Rookie earned his way as starter and gave himself a base to build from|
|Budda Baker||2024||He is the heart and soul of the defense|
|Chris Banjo||*UFA*||Continues to be one of those vets who finds a role|
|Deionte Thompson||2022||Has never made a push for significant playing time|
|Jalen Thompson||2022||Had his best season and remains a good pairing with Baker|
|Charles Washington||*UFA*||The Cards were hurt on special teams when he went down|
|James Wiggins||2022||Injury wrecked rookie season|
|Aaron Brewer||*UFA*||After long snapping issues when he was hurt, the Cards need him|
|Andy Lee||*UFA*||Remains steady even at his advancing age|
|Matt Prater||2022||When he had his snapper and holder, as good as anyone in game|