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Some Work Done In Free Agency For Cardinals, Some Holes Left

Keim doesn't want team to 'panic' in search for CB, TE, RB

This month, the Cardinals have added (clockwise from top left) wide receiver A.J. Green, defensive end J.J. Watt, center Rodney Hudson and kicker Matt Prater.
This month, the Cardinals have added (clockwise from top left) wide receiver A.J. Green, defensive end J.J. Watt, center Rodney Hudson and kicker Matt Prater.

In the week of free agency – covering the tampering period that basically served as the period's opening – the Cardinals haven't been shy of moves.

They followed up their early surprise nabbing of J.J. Watt by signing wide receiver A.J. Green, kicker Matt Prater and guard Brian Winters. They traded for center Rodney Hudson. They re-signed linebacker Markus Golden, right tackle Kelvin Beachum, linebacker Tanner Vallejo, offensive lineman Max Garcia and punter Andy Lee (who officially was announced Monday.)

But building and maintaining an NFL roster is always fluid, and as always, it isn't just who has arrived but who has left – and what holes remain – that remain at the top of GM Steve Keim's to-do list.

Patrick Peterson, whose departure to Minnesota sounds like it was pretty straight-forward, is gone and now the Cardinals are woefully thin at cornerback. Tight end too, after Dan Arnold went to Carolina, but certainly, cornerback is a position of need.

"Every team has holes," Keim said Monday. "One thing you don't want to do is panic and do things that put you in a tough situation from a cap standpoint."

The Cardinals currently have two cornerbacks on the roster with experience. Robert Alford, who has not played in a regular-season game since 2018 because of season-ending injuries in training camp each of the last two seasons, and Byron Murphy.

Keim downplayed the idea that Murphy would fill one of the starting two cornerback roles, not surprising given that the Cards love how Murphy fits in the slot – which is essentially a starting cornerback job these days.

"To find guys who can play inside is a little more difficult than years in the past," Keim said. "It's a tough position with the two-way 'go's and the quickness that is required to play inside. We think Murph is one of the better inside corners in the NFL."

Adding to the position – and to tight end and potentially running back – is an ongoing process, Keim said, with the GM listing again both Wave 3 free agency, the draft and still potential trades to fill such holes.

One trade that definitely worked was the move to get center Rodney Hudson, whose potential release "shocked" Keim and forced a quick phone call to Raiders GM Mike Mayock. From there, it was "probably a matter of minutes" to agree to the trade that sent a third-rounder to Las Vegas for Hudson and a seventh-rounder.

Keim said he was thrilled with the depth of the offensive line thus far, especially after bringing in veteran guard Winters. Another question answered – Keim said he sees Justin Pugh as the starting left guard, after Keim said "he had one of his best seasons as a pro."

There had been speculation the Cards could consider releasing Pugh because of his salary cap number. The Cardinals are still having to deal with a tight cap, as are many teams, and adjustments as the team goes through the offseason are inevitable. (Overthecap.com estimates the Cards' cap space below $100,000 while spotrac.com has $1.5M; in both cases some individual info is still missing so it's hard to know what is accurate.)

"It's created some issues and put us in a position where we have had to be creative," Keim said. "At the same time you want to make sure you aren't creating dead money in the future, which with the voided years and some of the things we have to do to be creative, it's something you have to take on, but we wanted to minimize that as much as possible."

The Cardinals still have improved physicality on the lines and leadership in the locker room, Keim said, so he sees a good start in building for 2021.

"The goal all along was quality over quantity to acquire guys who have done it in the past, who have had success, who play with the physicality and passion that you look for," Keim said. "Those are the additions I feel we made and where we allocated out funds with the down cap."

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