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Free Agent Primer 2022: Defensive Line

Cardinals need Watt healthy but could look to upgrade

FA primer DL

During the official Super Bowl handoff ceremony last month, Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill expressed his Super Bowl aspirations for the 2022 season. Cardinals GM Steve Keim must fill several holes on the roster this offseason to make that happen. With the free agency period beginning on March 16, the seventh position group breakdown is here.

Free-agent primer: Defensive Line

Other free-agent primers: WR, S, ST, TE, CB, OL

Cap hit of players under contract for 2022 (via DE J.J. Watt ($15 million), DE Jordan Phillips ($13 million), DE Zach Allen ($2.82 million), DT Leki Fotu ($1.08 million), DT Rashard Lawrence ($1.06 million), DE Matt Dickerson ($965,000), DE Jonathan Ledbetter ($895,000).

Scheduled free agents: DT Corey Peters, DE Jack Crawford, DE Michael Dogbe (RFA)

Need: Medium

Analysis: General Manager Steve Keim will look to improve the run defense this offseason. Although the unit had several impressive showings -- including holding Derrick Henry to 55 yards in the opener -- the Cardinals allowed 114.9 yards per contest this season,18th in the NFL.

Despite playing in just seven games, J.J. Watt had an excellent first year in Arizona. The veteran had the team's second-highest Pro Football Focus grade (64.3) against the run, second on the team to Rashard Lawrence (70.3). Watt also ranked top-three among defensive linemen for the highest combined pass-rush run-stop win rate before suffering the regular-season-ending shoulder injury. Watt remarkably returned for the Cardinals' Wild Card matchup with the Rams, but the hope is the defensive end will have a healthier 2022.

Zach Allen had the best season of his young career, tying linebacker Jordan Hicks for the team's third-most sacks (4.0) as a full-time starter. Jordan Phillips had an injury-plagued 2021 and the veteran has missed 18 games in the last two seasons as he heads into the final year of his contract.

Corey Peters has been a dependable piece to the Cardinals' run defense since joining the organization in 2016. The defensive tackle will turn 34 in June but could be re-signed to a short-term deal.

Notable past free agent defensive line signings: Watt (2021); Phillips (2020); Darius Philon (2019); Peters (2015); Cory Redding (2015); Frostee Rucker (2013); Bryan Robinson (2008); Kendrick Clancy (2006); Chike Okeafor (2005); Bertrand Berry (2004); Clyde Simmons (1994).

Images of some of the top free agent defensive linemen scheduled to hit the open market.