When looking at the Cardinals 2019 season, it is difficult to see the good in a 5-10-1 season. The constant theme of the season was watching a young team come together and develop for the future.
With preparations well underway for the 2020 season, it is important for general manager Steve Keim and co. get things right. The time for signing stopgap starters (otherwise known as Keim time signings) is over. Two of the biggest mistakes Arizona has made is relying on the stopgap starters and missing on players in the draft.
With that in mind, there are players they should deeply consider that could help take their team to another level.
Biggest Offseason needs
• Offensive tackle
• Edge rusher
• Interior offensive line
• Defensive line
• Tight end
• Running back
Inhouse free agents
Even though his play has been inconsistent, one of the constants on the Cardinals offensive line has been D.J. Humphries. His play picked up this year in part because of it being a contract year. One thing to think about is using the franchise tag on him for one year. You get another sample size on Humphries to check a couple more boxes the Cardinals need to see. Also, looking at the stacked tackle class coming out of college next year (Alex Leatherwood, Penei Sewell, Isaiah Wilson, and Liam Eichenberg) it makes sense for the Cards just to lock him in one more year and make the decision next year.
The second part of offseason business would be to bring back Kenyan Drake, especially if Arizona trades away David Johnson.
Drake came in and rushed for 110 yards against the San Francisco 49ers. He would rush for 137 yards against the Cleveland Browns and put up 166 yards against the Seattle Seahawks. After scoring no touchdowns for Miami in the first seven weeks of the season, Drake came to Arizona and scored eight touchdowns in the next eight weeks.
If the deal is right for both sides, it would be great if the Cardinals could lock him in for the next three years.
It has been reported Arizona is trying to bring back Shipley for another year, which would make sense. If they are keeping a familiar face in D.J. Humphries around, they might as well keep the center that Kyler Murray is comfortable with. With Mason Cole waiting in the wings, Shipley could groom Cole for one more year and hand the job over in 2021. Shipley turns 34 in May, so locking him in for more than a year may not be what the Cardinals want to do.
The Cardinals may have found their answer at the kicking position in Zane Gonzalez.
Gonzales connected on 31 of his 35 field-goal attempts and hit 34 of his 35 point-after tries for the 2019 campaign. Gonzalez took over for Phil Dawson and has grown with the young core of players. Rather inconsistent the first couple of seasons in his career, it is worth noting that he is the best kicker Arizona has had since Jay Feely.
He nailed both of his field goals from 50 yards or more, with his longest kick being from 54-yards. Locking him in long term would give the Cardinals their kicker for years to come.
It may be hard for some to believe, but Brett Hundley might have played a big role in the development of Kyler Murray in his first season. Hundley fits the type of quarterback it takes to run Kliff Kingsbury’s offense and can step in and run the offense if needed. Looking at the rest of the free-agent quarterback class, Hundley is a sure thing.
Outside free agents
Beasley burst onto the scene back in 2016, totaling a career-high 15.5 sacks in a season and earned a Pro Bowl nod that year. Since then, he has been an average player at best, with many wondering if Atlanta even wants him back. Beasley does walk, Arizona could be a good fit for the pass-rushing specialist. The pressure would not be on him as much as he would have Chandler Jones on the other side chasing opposing quarterbacks. If they can bring him in for a reasonable rate, Arizona would love to have him.
Since Calais Campbell joined the Jaguars in free agency, there has been a big void on the defensive line. The Cardinals tried to address the position in the draft by drafting Zach Allen, but it is still early in his development. Seventh-round draft pick Michael Dogbe didn’t stand out much in his first season either. So why not go and add a proven player like Arik Armstead?
Armstead has 55 solo tackles over the last two years, including 17 tackles for a loss. He posted a career-best 10 sacks in 2019 and is helping the 49ers on their playoff run.
It has been a rough couple of seasons for Damarious Randall. He missed some time in 2019 dealing with injuries as he watched the turbulent Cleveland Browns go 6-10. It is time for Randall to move on from the franchise. If he does, why not come back to the state where he played his college ball. After moving to safety, Randall has proven he has the coverage skills to help any team out at safety, which would help the Cardinals out in improving their pass defense.
David Johnson to Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It is no secret that Bruce Arians loves David Johnson. During his time as Cardinals head coach, BA got the most out of David Johnson, with Johnson becoming one of the best running backs in the league. Now the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, why wouldn’t Bruce Arians want to replicate that success in his offense?
For a fourth-round and sixth-round pick, Johnson could be theirs. Those picks could help secure players that could come in and help the Cardinals win.
Tampa Bay finished 24th in the league with 1,521 rushing yards, averaging 95.1 yards per game. They need more help than just Ronald Jones II and Peyton Barber. If Johnson can find himself and return to form, the Bucs offense would be scary.
2020 Draft Picks
Round 1: Pick 8
Round 2: Pick 40
Round 3: Pick 72
Round 4: Pick 104
Round 5: Miami Dolphins
Round 6: New England Patriots
Round 7: Pick 199
The Cardinals could not cover opposing tight ends at all. It became a reoccurring theme watching tight ends dominate the Cardinals week in and week out. They can eliminate that by draft Clemson stud Isaiah Simmons.
Simmons can play all positions all over the field. He can play safety, he can play all linebacker positions, and is an all-around great player. He has very good instincts and awareness, strong football IQ. He can get to the running back in the backfield and can help bring down quarterbacks when needed. He can help transform the Cardinals' defense to another level.
If Simmons is selected by New York or Carolina, the backup plan for the Cardinals should be wide receiver CeeDee Lamb. Lamb and Kyler Murray were teammates at Oklahoma, the Cardinals would give their quarterback a star wide receiver to run coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense. Lamb makes big plays happen, which the Cardinals lacked last season. His route running ability, size, and speed are desirable by many teams. The Cardinals offense could take shape with the addition of Lamb
The Cardinals have passed on the likes of Quinnen Williams, Ed Oliver, Renell Wren, and Da’Ron Payneover the past two years. They need to address the defensive tackle position this season. So, in the second-round Neville Gallimore should be their guy. With all the tools he possesses, he can man the Cardinals defensive tackle position for years to come. He could help chase down the three quarterbacks in the NFC West and help eliminate wholes opposing teams running game.
J.R. Sweezy will be a free agent in 2021, so adding a young guard may be a priority for Arizona. Shane Lemieux could be the replacement the Cardinals are looking for.
Lemieux is a powerful run blocker that shows solid quickness out of his stance when the ball is snapped. In the run game, he handles his assignment quickly, dominating opposing defensive lineman with his pure upper body strength. In pass protection, Lemieux does a great job of picking up the blitz. Was a part of the well-oiled machine that was the Oregon offensive line, protecting quarterback Justin Herbert and developing big plays down the field.
Arizona would be lucky to have a guy like Lemieux a part of their offensive line for the foreseeable future.
Depending on what the Cardinals do with David Johnson, Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds would be the only running backs on the depth chart. Arizona will probably be moving on from D.J. Foster as well. Local favorite Eno Benjamin may be a good fit into the Cardinals offense.
Over the past two seasons, Benjamin has rushed for 2,725 over the past two years and has scored 26 touchdowns. He has good ball carrier vision and has enough quickness to get to the open space. His burst through the line of scrimmage will excite many teams and is difficult to bring down in space.
He is great in passing offense, being able to catch the ball in the backfield and turn the ball upfield. When giving Drake some time to catch his breath, Benjamin can get the yards needed to get the first down on third and short. After playing with dual-threat quarterback Jayden Daniels for the year, there is plenty to like for a potential Kyler Murray/Eno Benjamin team in the backfield.
With Robert Alford returning, Alford, Patrick Peterson, and Byron Murphy will be taking most of the snaps next year. With Brandon Williams and Kevin Peterson free agents this year, Arizona needs to add some depth. Chase Lucas could come in and help out.
A four-year player and three-year starter at Arizona State, Lucas displayed excellent instincts in opposing receivers route recognition and tracking the football in the air. He doesn’t get alarmed when he becomes alarmed when trying to find the ball as he turns his head around to locate it and make a play on the ball. He is willing to come up and bring down running backs and wraps up wide receivers rather quickly. There are still parts of his game that need refinement, but the Cardinals should be willing to invest in his development.
Lucas could be a natural fit as the Cardinals slot corner if the Cardinals decide to play younger players and would play well alongside Peterson and Murphy.
Other prospects to watch: