The Cardinals are embarking on a new era under Steve Wilks. In the ensuing months, they will identify their new starting quarterback and fill other positions of need. The first crack at re-shaping the roster will come in free agency, which begins on March 14. We’ll break down each position as it draws near.
*Free agent primer: *Linebackers
*Cap hit of players under contract for 2018 (via OverTheCap.com): *OLB Chandler Jones ($15.5 million); ILB Deone Bucannon ($8.7 million); ILB Haason Reddick ($3.1 million); OLB Markus Golden ($1.2 million); ILB Scooby Wright ($630,000); ILB Gabe Martin ($630,000); ILB Edmond Robinson ($630,000); OLB Bryson Albright ($555,000); OLB Vontarrius Dora ($555,000); OLB Praise Martin-Oguike ($480,000)
Scheduled free agents: ILB Karlos Dansby; OLB Kareem Martin; ILB Josh Bynes
Images of some of the most notable linebackers scheduled to hit the open market
Analysis: The Cardinals’ most talented position might be linebacker. They have a pair of impressive pass-rushers on the outside in Jones and Golden, as well as the athletic duo of Bucannon and Reddick on the inside.
Golden is returning from a torn ACL, so some insurance behind him would be helpful. Kareem Martin stepped in capably a season ago but is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. In a similar situation last offseason, Alex Okafor departed for the Saints because he wanted a chance to play more. Albright, Dora and Martin-Oguike are under contract and hope to make the team.
Dansby, a pending free agent, led the team in tackles in 2017 and was a key piece in getting the defense aligned before each snap. While his mental prowess is strong, Dansby will be 37 next season and isn’t as athletic as Bucannon and Reddick. Josh Bynes did a nice job filling in several times in his first year with the team. While there wasn’t much interest for Bynes’ services last offseason, that showing could make him a more sought after commodity this time around.
If the Cardinals stick with a 3-4 defensive scheme, they have four players under contract with the ability to play linebacker at a high level. While depth pieces could be added, it wouldn’t seem to be a huge need. If new coach Steve Wilks switches to a 4-3 defense, Jones and Golden would move to defensive end, making it more of a priority.
Notable past free agent linebacker signings: Dansby (2017); Dwight Freeney (2015); LaMarr Woodley (2015); Larry Foote (2014); Dansby (2013); John Abraham (2013); Joey Porter (2010); Paris Lenon (2010); Clark Haggans (2008); Travis LaBoy (2008); Seth Joyner (1994).