With the NFL combine underway in Indianapolis and the league year beginning, we start to look at what the 2018 Arizona Cardinals could look like. General manager Steve Keim, president Michael Bidwell and new head coach Steve Wilks will look to field the best team possible to get the Cardinals back into the playoffs in 2018. For a team that was devastated with injuries, the 8-8 finish was quite the accomplishment for the 2017 Arizona Cardinals. Two major changes did occur after the season ended as Bruce Arians decided to retire. The very next day quarterback Carson Palmer also announced his retirement after fifteen years in the NFL.
With the retirement of Arians and Palmer, Keim and Bidwell had to go to work to fill the voids left behind. One void was filled no more than 21 days later when Wilks, the former defensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers, was named the 41st head coach in Cardinals history. Next on the agenda was getting Larry Fitzgerald to return to Big Red in 2018. The decision was made on February 15th, when Fitzgerald informed the Cardinals he would return for his 15th year with the team. There is still a huge void as to who is going to play quarterback for the Cardinals in 2018. Here are a few names to look out for that could be the signal caller in 2018.
Case Keenum- The 6’1 quarterback out of the University of Houston led the Vikings to their first NFC Championship game since 2009. Case played in only 15 games passing for 3,547 yards with 21 touchdown passes and seven interceptions a career year for the quarterback. The Vikings chose not put the franchise tag on Keenum making him a free-agent look for Arizona to turn the tires on Keenum when free agency begins on March 14th.
Josh McCown- Josh is coming off a very solid year with the New York Jets. Prior to breaking his arm in week 13, McCown passed for 2,926 yards, eighteen touchdowns, and only nine interceptions. McCown was drafted by the Cardinals in 2002. Fun fact Fitzgerald’s first ever touchdown came from McCown in 2004.
Nick Foles- The Super Bowl MVP replaced Carson Wentz in Week 14 after Wentz suffered a season-ending ACL tear. Foles stepped in nicely passing with 537 yards, five touchdowns, and two interceptions, finishing out the regular season. During the playoffs, he caught fire passing for 971 yards, eight touchdowns and only one interception in wins over the Atlanta Falcons, Minnesota Vikings, and New England Patriots. With Wentz returning, this could mean Foles could be traded to a team in need of a quarterback as the Cardinals could come calling.
Kirk Cousins- The biggest free agent quarterback on the market and also a guy that won’t come cheap. Cousins is coming off his best season since 2015 with the Washington Redskins as he passed for 4,093 yards, 27 touchdown passes, and 13 interceptions. The five-year pro has continued to improve year-by-year and will be a hot commodity entering the free agent period. For Arizona to land Cousins, they will need to make some roster moves to free up cap space as Cousins contract could go as high as 140 million dollars.
Draft a rookie quarterback- Do the Cardinals go all in on Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, or even Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield? For this to happen, it is very likely the Cardinals need to trade into the top 10 to get one of them. The Cardinals could sign a veteran quarterback like and draft a quarterback at fifteen like Lamar Jackson or Mason Rudolph and let the veteran groom the youngster.
Here are other roster moves that need to be made for Arizona to be a playoff team in 2018.
Offensive Line- DJ Humphries will return to left tackle after a knee injury ended his 2017 season. Mike Iupati is the left guard. Humphries and Iupati are two very strong lineman to protect the blindside of the quarterback. AQ Shipley is the most consistent starter on the Cardinals offensive line and the right guard position could be fixed during the draft and/or free agency. Evan Boehm and Earl Watford are currently the right guards heading into OTA’s and training camp in July. The right tackle position could also be addressed in the draft or free agency Jared Veldheer could be a cap casualty during the offseason.
If the Cardinals can improve the offensive line, that could go a long way in this team improving in 2018. Ja’wuan James is only 26-years old and has improved over the last few years at right tackle for the Miami Dolphins. Nate Solder has been plagued with injuries, but when healthy Solder did a great job protecting Tom Brady’s blindside. Looking at the free agent guards, Andrew Norwell is only 27 years old and improving while Justin Pugh is considered one of the best guards in the NFL. Draft wise, Orlando Brown, Isaiah Wynn, Quenton Nelson, Sam Jones could help up front as cheap, young talent.
Wide Receiver- With John Brown, Jaron Brown, and Britton Golden all free agents at wide receiver, the Cardinals could look into wide receivers such as Eric Decker, Danny Amendola, or Paul Richardson to fill the void at wide receiver. The Cardinals could also look to the NFL Draft to find the next young talent in guys like Calvin Ridley (Alabama), Christian Kirk (Texas A&M), Courtland Sutton (SMU), and Dante Pettis (Washington). They could help the Cardinals moving forward at wide receiver.
Cornerback- Finding another corner opposite of Pro Bowler Patrick Peterson would be something the Cardinals need to consider in the draft or free agency. Trumaine Johnson, EJ Gaines, Patrick Robinson, Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, or even Malcom Butler could be free agent targets Keim could look at. They could also re-sign Tramon Williams who had a very good 2017 or Justin Bethel. They do still have third round pick Brandon Williams on the roster, but he still needs to improve on his coverage. If the Cardinals decided to go the draft route, Josh Jackson out of Iowa, Denzel Ward out of Ohio State, or Donte Jackson out of LSU could be good options via the draft.
Tyrann Mathieu- Another question mark is Tyrann Mathieu as they will owe him 18.75 million if he is on the roster the first day of the new league year. With that big of a cap hit, this could be something GM Keim looks at very closely as Tyrann is a dominant safety, but coming off two torn ACL injuries his play on the field improved in 2017. It will be interesting to see what the Cardinals do with the Honey Badger going forward.
The Arizona Cardinals will have a new head coach, new quarterback, the return of Larry Fitzgerald, and the return of three key players in David Johnson, Markus Golden, and DJ Humphries. They could be primed for a return to the NFL Playoffs in 2018. Steve Keim and Michael Bidwell and new head coach Steve Wilks will have this roster ready to go and ready to fire on all cylinders heading into the 2018 season in hopes of bringing home their first ever NFL championship.