Patrick Peterson has mastered the art of playing football, so two months ago he added some assistant general manager duties to his plate.
The Cardinals’ All-Pro cornerback likes to study the list of free agents each offseason, and in early February came upon an unexpected addition. The Falcons had cut veteran cornerback Robert Alford, which sent Peterson scurrying to call his team’s actual GM.
“Once I saw that he was available,” Peterson said, “Steve (Keim) was on speed dial.”
The Cardinals have long sought a stable No. 2 cornerback opposite Peterson and struck quickly to ink Alford to a reported three-year, $22.5 million contract just a few days after his release. Alford is 30 years old and struggled last season, but was hobbled by an ankle injury, and there is belief within the organization that he will be the player to solidify the spot.
When Alford arrived for a visit with the Cardinals, he felt like a wanted man.
“They were all in,” Alford said.
Keim and defensive coordinator Vance Joseph have spoken about Alford’s ability to excel in the aggressive, man-to-man style the Cardinals plan to employ on defense. In today’s NFL, Alford believes that method is key to slowing down passing attacks.
“I love being in a receiver’s face and just challenging him,” he said. “There’s a five-yard rule now that we have, so pretty much you want to use as much as you can within those five yards, and I feel like playing man, being in their face and disrupting them is the main key.”
Peterson and Alford are teammates for the first time, but their friendship dates back years. Peterson said Alford first reached out in 2012 while at Southeastern Louisiana, sending a direct message over Instagram in search of pointers to improve his game.
The pair stayed in close contact as their professional careers blossomed.
“In the NFC, we kind of play the same guys,” Peterson said. “He was always asking me, ‘What do you think about this receiver? What notes do you have on this guy? What was your game plan against this guy?’ So I started giving him tips on how to become a better film watcher, how to dissect your opponent. He’s definitely been taking that to heart and it’s been showing.”
Peterson speaks wistfully, hoping Alford finally becomes the cornerback complement that has eluded the Cardinals for years. Peterson placed his stamp of approval on this candidate early on and is optimistic about the pairing.
“I’m definitely happy that we got somebody that has some credibility in this league, somebody I feel that can hold their own on the opposite side,” Peterson said. “Hopefully I can start getting more looks my way. I hope he gets two or three interceptions early in the season so they start passing the ball all over the field and everybody can eat.”
Alford knows quarterbacks will pelt him with targets when the season begins, but it’s not a scenario he discourages.
“You see me smiling,” Alford said. “That’s what I want.”
Images from the second day of voluntary offseason work