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 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.
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Free agent primer:Tight end
Cap hit of players under contract for 2017 (via OverTheCap.com): Troy Niklas ($1.28 million); Ifeanyi Momah ($540,000); Hakeem Valles ($540,000).
Scheduled free agents: Jermaine Gresham, Darren Fells (restricted)
Images of notable tight ends set to hit the open market on March 9
Analysis: The Cardinals are thin at tight end at the moment, with starters Gresham and Fells both entering free agency. Fells' role decreased a season ago but he was still in the rotation. The Cardinals must decide whether they want to tender him as a restricted free agent. If they do, it would be at more than $1.8 million, which could be cost-prohibitive. It seems more likely the Cardinals non-tender Fells and try to get him back at a lower price.
Gresham took less money to stay last year, and it will be interesting to see what kind of market presents itself. He had no shortage of suitors a season ago. It seems like the Cardinals would like to bring him back again, but both sides must feel comfortable about the length and value of the contract.
Niklas struggled through another injury-plagued year, and the former second-round pick has never made the impact expected of him. He is under contract for one more season if the team wants to try to unlock his potential.
Momah and Valles are depth pieces who saw sporadic action on offense and special teams. Momah was lost for the year early on but made his mark on special teams before the injury. Both are expected to battle for roster spots once again.
If the Cardinals don't re-sign Gresham or Fells, they will be in the market for a tight end. Martellus Bennett is the biggest name, and he's the type of impressive blocker coach Bruce Arians prefers, but might be too expensive. A mid-to-lower tier option seems more likely because of the salary cap implications.
Notable past free agent tight end signings: Gresham (2015); John Carlson (2014); Jake Ballard (2013); Fells (2013); Todd Heap (2011); Jeff King (2011); Freddie Jones (2002); Chris Gedney (1997).