Across from Patrick Peterson (21), the Cardinals still want to find some stability at cornerback.
INDIANAPOLIS – In a perfect world, sure, Steve Keim would love to have a Patrick Peterson to play cornerback across from Patrick Peterson.
"But there are only a few men walking on the face of the earth like that," the Cardinals' general manager said.
Among the issues the Cards faced last season was finding a pairing for Peterson, and they have fallen back into that unknown. Jerraud Powers had the job in 2013 and 2015. Antonio Cromartie had it in 2014. Last year was supposed to be Justin Bethel's moment, but a foot injury derailed that before the season ever started.
Veterans were added in camp but got hurt (Mike Jenkins, Alan Ball). Raw draft picks were tried (Brandon Williams). The ultimate choice came via trade (Marcus Cooper). Now Cooper is a free agent, might not return, and
regardless, the Cardinals want to look seriously at a spot that – because of Peterson's presence on the other side – is going to be targeted early and often every game.
"You do have some flexibility when you have a guy like Pat, or even Ty (Mathieu) when he's healthy," Keim said. "Schematically, (Pat is) such an interchangeable guy. Pat can lock down one side of the field, so you have the benefit of rolling coverage to (the other guy), the ability to double people. But at the end of the day, you are looking for guys who just have natural cover skills."
Coach Bruce Arians said the Cardinals want to re-sign Cooper, although he acknowledged Cooper's market value may end up being greater than the Cards expected. Williams faces a big year with his first full offseason. Bethel's foot has healed.
Bethel, who is due to make $4.5 million this season, endured sharp criticism from Arians late in the season but the coach said Bethel played much better afterward and is optimistic Bethel can be in the cornerback mix.
"Obviously they paid me, and they're expecting me to go out there and play at a high level," Bethel said the day after the season. "I never really doubted myself or I had a doubt I couldn't do it. I just knew it was one of those things where I'm not healthy."
Cornerback is one of the positions Keim values most – not to mention his fondness for saying a team can never have too many cornerbacks. Taking a cornerback with the 13th pick wouldn't be a shock, but the Cards figure to draft one somewhere.
"This is a great corner class," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. "If you don't get one in the first round, you can come back in the second or third round and really help yourself."
Another Peterson might not be available. Others will have more flaws, but that's what Keim monitors to figure out who could be in the mix in 2017.
"You are always challenging yourself to find the best at that position you can," Keim said.
Images of the players who picked off passes this season