The Arizona Cardinals are a rebuilding team. And as a rebuilding team, adding new pieces via free agency is essential to the growth and development of the players.
While the Cardinals already have loaded up on defense this offseason, acquiring eight players (four in free agency, four in the draft), I believe that there are three defensive targets the Cardinals should still consider heading into the back half of the offseason. The cardinals currently possess just over $9 million in cap space.
Shane Ray – DE
This signing is a no brainer to me. While Ray has been out of the league for over a year now, he was a vital part of Denver’s defense during his time there, recording 12 sacks in his first two seasons with them. Ray would be a very cheap addition to the Cardinals worse position on the defensive line.
At worst, he provides a solid depth piece, and at best, he returns to his 2016 form and brings an explosive pass rusher to the defensive line. A very low risk, high reward pickup. This is the type of move that GM Steve Keim has had success with in the past, as in 2015 when he signed veteran OLB Dwight Freeny, unemployed at the time, who ended up leading the team in sacks with eight.
Everson Griffen – DE
Griffen brings a lot of similar aspects to the table as Ray does, but with a much higher floor. After voiding his contract with the Vikings this offseason, Griffen has remained unsigned and is currently the best DE on the market, even at 33-years-old. Griffen recorded eight sacks in 15 games in 2019, and as a bonus, is from Avondale, Arizona. Griffen coming to the Cardinals on a team-friendly deal to finish out his football days and retire in his hometown could be a possibility.
Logan Ryan – CB
Ryan, who announced days ago that he would not be returning to the Titans, is possibly the most sought after player available right now (excluding former #1 pick Jadeveon Clowney). The upside for the Cardinals is definitely there, as Ryan had been a consistent playmaker for Mike Vrabel’s defense, recording 113 tackles (a career-high), four interceptions, 18 passes defended, 4.5 sacks, and four forced fumbles. Ryan could be the long term answer at slot cornerback for the Cardinals, and would improve 2019’s 31st ranked pass defense dramatically.
The only issue here is cap space. Per Ian Rappaport, the 29-year-old would not accept a contract paying him less than the $10 million per year he was making in Tennesee. The Cardinals have less than that to begin with. One popular option the team could explore is cutting 31-year-old Robert Alford, who after signing with the Cardinals last offseason suffered a broken leg in training camp keeping him sidelined for the entire 2019 season. If the Cardinals did cut Alford, they would save $4.5 million in cap, putting their total at just over $13.5 million, enough to sign Ryan.
With rookie contracts still to be agreed upon, and contracts for Deandre Hopkins, Patrick Peterson, and Budda Baker needing to be restructured or extended, the Cardinals may have to cut more than one person to build a powerhouse defense.
Photo credit: Vikings Wire