To check in on the state of the Arizona Cardinals now that we are over a week into free agency, I caught up with Seth Cox of Revenge of the Birds.
1. The highlight of the Cardinals’ offseason has certainly been the acquisition of DeAndre Hopkins. I and most of the NFL world believe that Arizona absolutely fleeced Houston in this trade. They acquired a superstar weapon for their young quarterback in exchange for non-first round picks and a declining, expensive running back who lost his starting role to Kenyan Drake. What is your take on the Hopkins/Johnson trade?
It is simply one of those deals where it was clear that Houston had an agenda and the Cardinals were able to take advantage. Because of what seems like a dysfunctional relationship with Bill O’Brien and a number of his star players. Steve Keim has made a lot of mistakes, especially in the draft, but he has been able to get good to great and even elite talent in trades consistently: Carson Palmer for a couple of late round picks, Chandler Jones for a second and what is now a really average contract, Kenyan Drake for a fifth and now Hopkins. For all of the faults in Keim’s decision making, he has done an incredible job of “winning” trades. I also am happy for David Johnson, who has really struggled since he was injured in 2016 and 2017 to find his place on the team. He’ll get the chance in Houston this year.
2. Arizona’s premier signings in free agency thus far have been a pair of defensive pieces - former Bills defensive tackle Jordan Phillips (3 years, $30 million) and former Lions outside linebacker Devon Kennard (3 years, $20 million). What needs do these two players address and what will their roles be in Arizona’s defense?
They will both be expected to be high impact players and starters. Phillips and Kennard both will be tasked with offering a secondary pass rush to Chandler Jones and hopefully taking some of the burden off of Jones. They also will be asked to be leaders on defense and when you look at who Steve Keim has added the last two seasons, leadership has been a big focus. Jordan Hicks last year, Kennard and Phillips are all captains or looked to by their teammates to lead. They are vocal leaders who back it up with their play and that is something the Cardinals have really lacked since Calais Campbell left. They are not huge splashes, but both should be immediate and impactful contributors to what was the worst defense in the NFL.
3. The Cardinals also added former Falcons outside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell on a one-year deal. What does Campbell bring to the table for Arizona?
The Cardinals desperately needed athleticism and instincts at the weak inside linebacker position opposite Hicks. Campbell offers that at a lower cost than most of the big name linebacker signings. He is a true sideline-to-sideline guy and should give the Cardinals help against opposing tight ends, where they were the worst in the NFL in defending. It also keeps them open in the draft as Campbell is on a one-year deal and should not preclude them from taking a player like Isaiah Simmons on day one or Akeem David-Gaither on day two if they are available.
4. Steve Keim has reportedly agreed to a trio of re-signings with Jonathan Bullard, Chris Banjo, and Brett Hundley. Are you a fan of these decisions? Where does each player fit into the Cardinals’ plans?
Bullard is a key depth guy who was asked to start six games in 2019. That is more than he had started the previous three seasons in Chicago combined. As a depth guy he will be a nice 15-20% snap player who gives starters a breather and opposing offenses a different look.
Banjo is a special teams ace and one of the better punt coverage guys in the NFL. With offseason workout cancellations looming, keeping a player like Banjo is important.
Hundley is the perfect backup for the Cardinals. While he isn’t quite the athlete Kyler Murray is, he offers a similar style of play that allows the Cardinals offense to stay on schedule enough that it won’t kill them, as seen by their win in Seattle last year.
5. How have the early happenings of the offseason changed Arizona’s needs and approach going into the draft?
I don’t think it really has at all. Obviously getting a wide receiver is not really as important, but the Cardinals are sitting at eighth where they can really let the draft fall to them. Obviously best case scenario is Isaiah Simmons or Jeff Okudah falling, but if they don’t then they should have all the options of the offensive linemen or wide receivers. That means they can grab who they grade as “the best player available” and that would give the Cardinals a nice offseason and a chance to improve to close to .500 in year two with Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray.
NFL Roundtable mid-offseason updates: