Projected Lineups: Arizona Cardinals
After going 10-6 in 2013, you’ll have to forgive Arizona Cardinals fans for being bitter about missing the playoffs. Still, they ended the season strong, including a win on the road against the eventual Super Bowl Champions, and will be confident that they can build on that going forward.
Their roster is full of talented players, but has plenty of areas of concern too, and they’ll need to correct that in the offseason if they are to fulfill their potential. Carson Palmer is nothing more than average at this point, but if they can put the talent around him they’ll be back in contention is the toughest division in football once again.
This is what the current state of their lineup (with UFAs removed) looks like:
– Player markers are colored per class on a six-step ‘Poor’ to ‘High Quality’ scale based on their overall performance and the league’s elite are marked separately in blue.
– Colored outlines suggest a potential change in class.
– Underlined players will be 30+ years old for the 2014 season.
– Red player names suggest injury risks.
– Click on the image to enlarge.
– Tight end wasn’t an area of success for the Cardinals in 2013. With Rob Housler as the projected starter at this stage it doesn’t look like they’ll improve much if they don’t find help at the position in the offseason. Poor as a blocker as well as a receiver, it’s tough to see him being successful in 2014 especially if the injury bug visits him again.
– Andre Ellington had a very good rookie season in a limited role last year. Can he do the same on a higher snap count if they don’t bring back Rashard Mendenhall? That remains to be seen, but there’s no denying how good he was in space in his first season in the league.
– The offensive line needs some work. Bradley Sowell was our lowest graded offensive tackle in his second season in the league, while Eric Winston is a free agent and didn’t fare much better. Bobby Massie would be the logical choice to replace him on the right side, but for as much as he impressed us in the second half of 2012, there is talk that the Cardinals see him as a guard and not a tackle. Much was expected of rookie Jonathan Cooper and they should finally get to see their top pick from last April’s draft on the field this year.
– The defensive backfield is a bit hit or miss. Patrick Peterson is very good and Tyrann Mathieu looks like he’s going to be a great player in the league, either at safety or in the slot (we are optimistic on his knee injury). Jerraud Powers isn’t a great starting cornerback however, and a safety duo of Rashad Johnson and Tony Jefferson isn’t much to write home about.
– Linebacker is similar, with two productive players and two you have to think they’ll be looking to replace. Daryl Washington was great in coverage, but left a lot to be desired against the run.
2014 Cap Situation
With $9.5 million in cap space they at least don’t have any work to do to get under the cap. However, with plenty of holes on the roster they’ll need to be smart about how they use their money, with their draft picks in May going to eat into that too.
Unfortunately for the Cardinals there aren’t any quick cuts they can make to save money against the cap in 2014. Palmer would give them an extra $5 million, but would result in $7 million in dead money, and leave them minus their starting quarterback so that’s not happening. Letting Jerraud Powers go would net them $2.75 million, and could do better at the position anyway, so that might be a way to go. Jasper Brinkley would give them an extra $2 million, and given his play that would make a lot of sense.
Opportunities from the Roster
Brittan Golden saw just 48 snaps in his second season in the league but still managed to put up 136 receiving yards on four receptions, with two 50+ yarders giving a flash of potential. Fifth round draft pick Stepfan Taylor looked decent on 36 carries, and will likely see more snaps in 2014. Alameda Ta’amu looked really good against the run in limited duty, and will likely continue to be part of the defensive line rotation when he returns to the field after suffering a torn ACL in Week 17.
Projected lineups by team:
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