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The Philosophy Of Free Agency This Offseason

Notes: Hopkins continues rehab in Tempe

Coach Kliff Kingsbury (left) and GM Steve Keim address the media Thursday during their annual pre-draft press conference.
Coach Kliff Kingsbury (left) and GM Steve Keim address the media Thursday during their annual pre-draft press conference.

In arguably the craziest offseason in league history, GM Steve Keim has heard the concerns surrounding the Cardinals' free agency process.

While blockbuster trades and splashy signings were completed involving the bigger names in the league, the Cardinals stayed relatively quiet.

The team added former Giants' lineman Will Hernandez, who likely will start at right guard this year. Former Chargers' tight end Stephen Anderson will provide depth at his position, and former Viking cornerback Jeff Gladney should have a role in the secondary. Linebacker Nick Vigil is there for depth.

But the remainder of their moves thus far centered on re-signing their free agents outside of those acquisitions. Tight end Zach Ertz, running back James Conner, backup quarterback Colt McCoy and wide receiver A.J. Green headline the list of returnees.

"I think the positive is that when you can re-sign your own players, you already know what you're getting," Keim said. "We have guys in Zach Ertz, James Conner, and A.J. Green, guys who have come back and (we) know what we're getting in terms of preparation, work ethic, and attention to detail. That's the hardest part about free agency.

"It's not like college scouting when you get all the background information. Unless a coach coached a player on another team, you're making big commitments based on what you've seen on tape, which is difficult because you don't know that much about the person."

Kliff Kingsbury said the offense would have to improve, but it was essential to have the trio re-signed.

"To get those guys back in year two, you just expect them to be better," Kingsbury said. "You expect the comfort level to be there."

HOPKINS, JUSTIN MURRAY, MAXX WILLIAMS ON ROAD TO RECOVERY

Kingsbury said wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and offensive lineman Justin Murray have been rehabbing at the Cardinals' training facility. Hopkins missed seven games last season with hamstring and knee injuries, ending his season early. Murray landed on injured reserve for the season after suffering an injured back in Week 3 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"Justin is back to working out looks pretty much a full-go," Kingsbury said. "Hop is still going through some rehab but he's moving around better than he was."

Maxx Williams also continues rehab from a season-ending knee injury the tight end suffered in Week 5 against the 49ers. Kingsbury hopes to have Williams and Ertz on the field together, which should form a lethal tight end combination this season.

THE FUTURE OF SIMMONS AND COLLINS

The Cardinals will depend heavily on their young linebacker tandem, Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins, this season.

Simmons had a strong sophomore year after a bumpy rookie season. The 23-year-old finished third on the team in tackles (105) behind safety Jalen Thompson and former Cardinals linebacker Jordan Hicks. Simmons also played 92 percent of defensive snaps, third-most on the team.

Collins showed flashes of potential despite a rough rookie year. He only played 20 percent of defensive snaps while most of his usage came on special teams. But Hicks was released, opening the door for Collins to start in 20222.

"Isaiah Simmons is a dynamic player with a skill set that's pretty rare," Keim said. "Zaven was one of those situations (where) it's tough to be a rookie and call a defense. But I think both guys are going to be tremendous players."

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