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With Season Over, Cardinals Consider Zach Ertz, Other Free Agents

Notes: Hopkins should be healed for offseason work; Cards select 23rd in draft

Tight end Zach Ertz had three catches against the Rams Monday night.
Tight end Zach Ertz had three catches against the Rams Monday night.

Zach Ertz was only a Cardinal for a few months, but he wouldn't mind if it was longer.

Considering Ertz, who only played in 11 regular-season games, tied the franchise record for tight end receptions in season his desire to stick around makes sense.

Besides, said the free-agent-to-be, "I still feel like we have unfinished business as a team. I would love to be part of it."

But as the offseason began for the Cardinals Tuesday following their Wild Card playoff loss to the Rams Monday night, much must be sorted out on the free-agent front. The salary cap will take a post-pandemic jump of $25.7 million – up to $208.2M, before per-team rollover – but "we have a lot of good players who are free agents as well," Ertz correctly noted.

Coach Kliff Kingsbury noted, as the head coach does annually, that with free agents "there are some tough decisions to make." Among the veterans scheduled to hit free agency besides Ertz: linebacker Chandler Jones, running backs Chase Edmonds and James Conner, wide receivers A.J. Green and Christian Kirk, and backup quarterback Colt McCoy.

The process of evaluating the roster is immediate – "we'll start talking about it today, while it's fresh," Kingsbury said – and players won't be the only ones. Kingsbury said there will be a "deep dive" into the coaching staff as well, to determine if any changes need to be made.

Free agency begins March 16. Up until then, teams can re-sign their own players.


It was always unlikely wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins was going to be able to return this season after knee surgery, even if the Cardinals had made it deep into the playoffs. But Kingsbury said Hopkins "should be fine over the next month or so" and would be ready for whatever offseason work the Cardinals would happen to have.

Cornerback Robert Alford, who hurt his pectoral, definitely wasn't coming back. Kingsbury said Alford has a couple months left of rehab. Alford's status with the Cardinals is an unknown, since he will be a free agent.


The Cardinals had been happy with the production from the offensive line much of the season, but the group – like the team – didn't play as well as it needed down the stretch.

"We're always going to be trying to improve that group," Kingsbury said. "I thought that group battled through an injury-plagued season and was productive most of the year."

Starting right guard Max Garcia is the only offensive lineman who is scheduled to be a free agent. Josh Jones, who started his second year as starting right guard until he was replaced by Garcia in the lineup, remains a work-in-progress.

Since left tackle D.J. Humphries (the 2015 first-round pick), Jones remains the only draft pick vying for a starting job. Jones was picked in the third round in 2020.

"I think Josh has been progressing pretty good," Humphries said. "He's a young player with a lot of talent. He got a lot of opportunities to get out and earn his stripes this year."


The Cardinals, now that they are eliminated, will hold the 23rd pick of the first round. It is the latest pick they have had in the draft since they selected No. 29 in the 2016 draft.

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