The Cardinals finished with a losing record in 2016, but believe they can bounce back quickly and revert to contender status next season. Free agency will be a key, as several of the team's starters are scheduled to hit the open market. The Cardinals' front office has plenty of decisions to make as free agency beckons on March 9. We'll break down each position as it draws near.
Free agent primer:Special Teams
Cap hit of players under contract for 2017 (via OverTheCap.com): LS Aaron Brewer ($775,000); P Matt Wile ($540,000); P Richie Leone ($465,000)
Scheduled free agents: K Chandler Catanzaro (restricted)
Images of notable kickers, punters, long snappers and returners set to hit free agency
Analysis: Cardinals fans know all too well how badly special teams affected the team in 2016. Between missed kicks, errant snaps and coverage woes, the unit played a major factor in multiple losses, and there will be a closer eye than usual on the group heading into next season.
One of General Manager Steve Keim's first orders of business this offseason was to sign Leone out of the Canadian Football League to compete for the starting punting job. The Cardinals used Drew Butler, Ryan Quigley and Wile as punters last season and the group was below average. Wile played the final three games and averaged 43.7 yards per punt. He is expected to battle Leone for the position.
Catanzaro is a restricted free agent and the Cardinals must decide whether they want to tender him an offer sheet. The projected $1.8 million price tag seems like it will be too expensive, and if Catanzaro isn't tendered, the Cardinals could still invite him back at a lower salary. Catanzaro missed some important kicks in 2016, but poor snaps affected him, and he has generally been steady during his tenure with the team. Even if he returns, the front office could bring in another kicker to compete for the gig.
Brewer replaced Kameron Canaday at long snapper after three games and was serviceable. The Cardinals could bring him back or look elsewhere for a better option. The Cardinals likely won't sign another punter, but kicker and long snapper could be in play during free agency.
Notable past free agent special teams signings: Wile (2016); Brewer (2016); Catanzaro (2014); Butler (2014); 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).