Free agency, the first part, is here.
While the new league year – and the ability to actually sign free agents whose 2018 contracts are expiring – doesn’t arrive until 1 p.m. Arizona time on Wednesday, teams can begin talking and negotiating with free-agents-to-be beginning Monday at 9 a.m. Arizona time.
The Cardinals figured to have around $39 million in cap space with which to work, according to overthecap.com. It is the most cap room the Cardinals have had heading into free agency during the tenure of GM Steve Keim.
“The hardest part of free agency is having that money and where do you allocate it,” Keim said. “To me it's making sure you're allocating it to players who love it and really at the end of the day free agency is very difficult because we don't have access to the players essentially before we make these decisions. A lot of times it can be fool's gold where you go and put a big number on a player and he has a lot of guaranteed money attached to him and you really don't know him that well.
“I think you have to be very patient through the process, not have to jump out there and spend a lot of money day one.”
It will be an important time for the Cardinals, who have already had a flurry of roster activity since hiring Kliff Kingsbury as head coach. Last week, they released three veterans, linebacker Josh Bynes, safety Antoine Bethea and quarterback Mike Glennon. Before that, they had signed three veterans who had been released – linebacker Brooks Reed, tight end Charles Clay and cornerback Robert Alford – and claimed special teamer/linebacker Tanner Vallejo.
They also have a reported trade with the Steelers – dealing a sixth-round draft pick for tackle Marcus Gilbert – that cannot be official until Wednesday.
The Cards still have a couple of days to re-sign some of their own free agents before contracts run out, although players will know Monday what their market might be. What happens with linebacker Markus Golden in particular is worth watching, although the outcome of free agents-to-be like linebacker Deone Bucannon, safety Tre Boston and defensive lineman Rodney Gunter are also intriguing.
Keim has acknowledged free agency -- whatever form it will ultimately take -- will be important this offseason. The Cardinals need work on the wide receiver corps, the offensive and defensive lines, and linebacker.
At receiver, the Cardinals need to settle a depth chart with Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk. Keim has said the team needs playmakers in the room. Among players on the market will be Randall Cobb (who played for passing game coordinator Tom Clements and wide receivers coach David Raih), Tavon Austin or Phillip Dorsett.
At offensive line, the addition of Gilbert will change the equation some, but finding an interior player like free agents D.J. Fluker, Andy Levitre or Rodger Safford still would seem to be possible. On the defensive line, the Cards need help, especially if Gunter leaves, with players like Henry Anderson and Danny Shelton among those who should be available.
Linebacker help is needed inside after the release of Bynes and Bucannon’s unknown future. There are familiar names who are available, like K.J. Wright, C.J. Mosley or Brandon Marshall, the latter who has played for defensive coordinator Vance Joseph the past two years in Denver. Golden’s future – and what the Cards might want to do in the draft – could influence a run at an outside linebacker as well.
The Cardinals also need a backup quarterback now that Mike Glennon has been released. The QB market is thin. Tyrod Taylor might be a fit in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense, but he may be looking to find a starting position. Brett Hundley was with Clements for two years in Green Bay and might also fit the mold.
Images of notable linebackers scheduled to hit free agency