The Cardinals' front office is surveying the free agent landscape, hoping to complement a core which went 13-3 last season and advanced to the NFC Championship game. Free agency begins on March 9, and we'll break down the team's needs at each position leading up to the signing period.
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Free agent primer:Running Back
Cap numbers of players under contract for 2016: Andre Ellington ($1.72 million); Stepfan Taylor ($725,125); David Johnson ($708,843); Kerwynn Williams ($600,000); Robert Hughes ($600,000); Marion Grice ($525,000)
Scheduled free agents: Chris Johnson (unrestricted)
Images of some notable running backs scheduled to hit the open market
Analysis: The Cardinals have found their workhorse running back in David Johnson, a guy who showed star potential as a rookie and should see the majority of carries in 2016. Andre Ellington is under contract and is a change-of-pace option provided he can stay healthy. Ellington battled various injuries again through 2015 and General Manager Steve Keim made it clear Ellington must prove he has enough durability to be considered for a longterm role with the team. Ellington is heading into the last year of his contract.
Chris Johnson signed a one-year, low-cost deal in camp last year and was a great addition, leading the team in rushing until a small tibia fracture shelved him after 11 games. Johnson is a free agent and has made it clear he would love to be back, but he would have to accept a reduced role and commensurate salary for it to happen. Kerwynn Williams showed his worth in the running game when given an opportunity, but is limited in other areas and doesn't play special teams. Stepfan Taylor, Robert Hughes and Marion Grice have all been on the active roster within the past two seasons and will again fight to make the team.
While David Johnson is the clear-cut starter, running back is a spot that needs depth. The Cardinals likely won't want to spend a lot on any addition, but if the market is deflated, a value grab for Keim isn't out of the question. That could be Chris Johnson again or a different piece. The Cards are flexible at this position since they have three running backs with proven rushing ability already on the roster.
Notable past free agent RB signings by the Cardinals: Chris Johnson (2015); Rashard Mendenhall (2013); Edgerrin James (2006); Emmitt Smith (2003); Mario Bates (1998).