NFL News & Analysis

2017 Free Agency Preview: Arizona Cardinals

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 20: D.J. Swearinger #36 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrates a fumble recovery in the second half of the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on December 20, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

[Editor’s note: This preview was originally published on Feb. 27, 2017, and updated on March 6 to reflect changes in the market do to franchise tags, re-signings, cuts, etc.]

What you need to know

The Cardinals' decision regarding Calais Campbell should shape their entire offseason and free agent shopping agenda. Re-signing Campbell would be a boon for their defense but that extension will not come cheaply. The Cardinals also have two safeties that are free agents and would like to retain one of them if possible.

Salary cap room

$16,987,989 (26th in NFL; as of 3/6/2017)

Biggest needs

  • Cornerback
  • Linebacker
  • Guard
  • Wide receiver

Notable free agents

  • Calais Campbell, DI, 90.4 overall grade in 2016
  • Tony Jefferson, S, 88.6
  • D.J. Swearinger, S, 86.1
  • Jermaine Gresham, TE, 46.5

Must re-sign

D.J. Swearinger, S, 86.1 overall grade in 2016 season

The Cardinals placed the franchise tag on Chandler Jones and drafted Robert Nkemdiche last year as a potential Calais Campbell replacement. Therefore, the Cardinals will likely turn their attention to retaining one of their free-agent safeties. Tony Jefferson is rumored to want a large contract, so re-signing the improved Swearinger will likely be the cap-friendly course of action.

Dream splash

Prince Amukamara, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars, 76.6

The Cardinals desperately need another solid cornerback to play opposite Patrick Peterson. The Cardinals play a lot of man coverage in their defense and adding Amukamara would be a big help. Amukamara has five straight seasons with positive coverage grades and would be a nice addition to the Cardinals secondary.

Top 2017 free agency prospects

Ronald Leary, G, Dallas Cowboys, 80.4

With the sudden retirement of Evan Mathis, the Cardinals are left with only one viable starting guard in Mike Iupati. Earl Watford had struggles at guard last season so it will clearly be a position of emphasis in free agency. Leary would be a clear upgrade for the Cardinals both as a run-blocker and a pass protector. Leary did not allow a single sack in 2016 on 438 pass blocking snaps and that type of pass protection for Carson Palmer would make the entire Cardinals’ offense better.

Stephon Gilmore, CB, Buffalo Bills, 73.2

Cardinals GM Steve Keim has often expressed that his offseason philosophy is to try and fill roster holes in free agency and just draft talented players. In keeping with that philosophy the Cardinals will likely target a free agent cornerback to play opposite Patrick Peterson. While Gilmore did have a down season last year in coverage his 5 interceptions and 6 passes broken up would still be a nice addition to the Cardinals secondary.

Sean Spence, LB, Tennessee Titans, 74.0

The Cardinals are likely to lose linebacker Kevin Minter in free agency and will need some more bodies to help fill out a thin linebacker group. Spence is an athletic linebacker who has improved his performance every single season he has been in the NFL. Spence has experience playing in a blitz-heavy scheme (3 sacks in 2016) and his coverage ability (75.5 coverage grade in 2016) would be a benefit to the Cardinals defense.

2017 Free Agency Rankings
Top 50 free agents
Every 2017 free agent ranked by 2016 overall grade
10 free agents who can make an immediate impact
10 veteran free agents worth a one-year contract
10 sleeper free agents who could bring surprise upside
10 splash free-agent signings we’d like to see
Quarterback rankings
Running back rankings
Wide receiver rankings
Tight end rankings
Offensive linemen rankings
Edge defender rankings
Interior defender rankings
Cornerback rankings
Safety rankings
Linebacker rankings

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