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The Cardinals’ defensive line might be the most concerning position on the defense. Against the run, they finished 24th in the NFL last season and the line had a combined seven sacks. Their unit is led by 31-year-old nose tackle Corey Peters, who remains the most consistent run defender on the team. He finished the 2019 season with 38 tackles and 2.5 sacks.

After him, they are counting on last year’s third-round pick Zach Allen to start as the left side defensive tackle. He had a disappointing rookie year, suffering a season-ending neck injury in week four. Allen finished the year with only eight tackles through 144 snaps.

Even then, expectations remain very high for the second-year defensive tackle. The Cardinals had him as a top-25 prospect on their draft board for a reason and are hoping for big improvements from the Boston College standout.

The return of Brentson Buckner as the Cardinals’ defensive line coach certainly helps. He helped the Raiders jump from last in the NFL in sacks (13) in 2018 to 24th (32) last season. Their run defense also made a significant improvement from being 30th in 2018 to eighth in 2019. He was one of the biggest reasons why the Cardinals had so much success from 2013 to 2017.

Seventh-round pick Michael Dogbe, Miles Brown, and Lyndon Johnson are the only other defensive lineman under contract for the Cardinals through 2020. Dogbe had some good moments in the preseason but was a healthy scratch for most of the year. He had five tackles, one tackle for loss, and one QB hit through eight games. Brown was in and out of the roster but finished with four tackles. Johnson signed with the team on a futures contract.

With that said, they are still in search of a dominant starting defensive tackle that they have been missing since the departure of Calais Campbell in free agency a few seasons ago. Rodney Gunter is an impending free agent that led the Cardinals’ defensive lineman in sacks (3). His 2019 statistics also include 31 tackles, nine tackles for loss, and 10 QB hits. His familiarity with Buckner and Vance Joseph’s defense makes him a player likely to be re-signed.

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Zach Kerr and Jonathan Bullard were quality backup defensive lineman for the Cardinals last season but are impending free agents as well. Cardinals will be interested in re-signing them but not before letting them test the market. Clinton McDonald and Caraun Reid will not be back.

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The Cardinals can immediately improve their defensive line by trading for Chiefs’ DT Chris Jones or the Jaguars’ DT Calais Campbell. If they choose to upgrade the nose tackle position, Steelers’ Javon Hargrave and Texans’ D.J. Reader are good options. None of these players will come cheap but it is the price they have to pay for quality players.

If they choose to go bargain hunting, Cowboys’ Maliek Collins or Eagles’ Timmy Jernigan would fit the bill. Derek Wolfe and Shelby Harris will get plenty of interest from the Cardinals.

Javon Kinlaw and Derrick Brown are the top defensive tackle prospects on the 2020 draft class. Day two prospects to consider are A.J. Epenesa, Ross Blacklock, Jordan Elliott, and Justin Madubuike.

If the Cardinals can improve their run defense and upgrade the pass rush up front, it will do wonders for the secondary which finished 31st last season.

Whatever the team decides to do, this position must be prioritized in either free agency or the draft. No more taking chances on inconsistent draft prospects like Robert Nkemdiche, or aging players like Terrell Suggs. If the Cardinals want to contend in 2020, they need to minimize their mistakes and get the most out of the money they spend.

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The flood of one-year roster-building deals continued Wednesday for the Cardinals as they agreed to terms with veteran defensive lineman Trevon Coley as well as running back D.J. Foster.

Foster, acquired by the Cardinals in 2017, finished last season on injured reserve with a hamstring issue. He has appeared in only 13 games for the Cardinals, having missed all of 2018 with an injury. Mostly used as a receiving back in 2017, he had 17 catches that season. The former Arizona State and Scottsdale Saguaro High School star has not had a catch or rushing attempt the past two seasons.

Coley played in seven games for the Colts in 2019, but the previous two seasons he started 29 games for the Browns, compiling 80 tackles and 2.5 sacks.

His signing comes the same day former Cardinal defensive lineman Zach Kerr signed as a free agent with Carolina. The Cardinals already re-signed Jonathan Bullard on the defensive line, and also brought in newcomer Jordan Phillips as a free agent to be a starter on the line.

Foster is only the third running back on the roster, along with Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds.

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Defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard is one of the 12 players the Arizona Cardinals tagged or re-signed this offseason. We now have the details of his one-year contract.

The Cardinals structured the deal to use the veteran salary benefit, which makes his contract count less against the salary cap than it is worth.

According to Over the Cap and the NFLPA site, he will make $910,000 in salary. He gets a signing bonus of $137,500, for a total value of nearly $1.05 million.

Because of the veteran salary benefit, his contract will count only $887,500 against the cap, saving the team $160,000 in cap space.

It is the same salary and bonus as backup quarterback Brett Hundley, with one exception. Hundley has $750,000 of his salary guaranteed.

Bullard was acquired last season after the preseason on a waiver claim. He appeared in nine games last season, starting six. He had a career-high 1.5 sacks to go with 22 total tackles, four tackles for loss and seven quarterback hits.

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One of the most important aspects of this offseason for the Arizona Cardinals is not nailing it and becoming an instant contender (though no one would complain) it is nailing it and being prepared for the next four seasons.

The Cardinals have a unique opportunity similar to the Ravens and Chiefs to build around a young, budding superstar quarterback and take advantage of their skill level and low salary.

The key though is finding supplemental players to pair with Murray that allows the Cardinals to maintain their level of play when Murray gets paid.

That’s why the draft will be more important than ever. The Cardinals need to find not just impact players, but they need to find fellow building blocks on day two and day three of the draft.

When you look at the Kansas City Chiefs, most of their defense was bought, with Chris Jones, Tanoh Kpassagnon and Derrick Nnadi all being the only draft picks on the starting defense for the Super Bowl Champions.

All three were day two picks and only Chris Jones played over 50% of the snaps as a rookie.

What the Chiefs did was draft and develop a defensive line that could supplement their 8 other starters. Jones has developed into a star, and that should not go unnoticed, but the foundation was built by consistently investing on day two along the lines.

Over the last five NFL Drafts the Chiefs have drafted these players on day two:

2015 – Mitch Morse (started 49 games in 4 seasons for Chiefs and 16 games in 2019 for Bills)

2016 – Chris Jones (started 41 games in 4 season)

2017 – Tanoh Kpassagnon (started 8 games in 3 seasons)

2018 – Breeland Speaks (started 4 games as rookie IR in 2019)

2018 – Derrick Nnandi (started 27 games in 2 seasons)

2018 – Dorian O’Daniel (started 1 game in 2 seasons)

2019 – Khalen Saunders (started 4 games as a rookie)

Five drafts, seven picks spent on the defensive front or offensive line. O’Daniel would be the only “bust” and is a key special teams contributor.

The Chiefs also traded away first round picks in 2016, 2018 and 2019. 2016 was for additional draft picks, 2018 was for Mahomes and 2019 was for pass rusher Frank Clark.

The Chiefs have consistently put their front seven on defense as a day two priority in the NFL Draft. They spend at least one pick every season on it and are not afraid to continue to cycle through.

The Cardinals in the same span of time:

2015 – Markus Golden (24 starts in 4 seasons for Cardinals 16 starts in 1 season for NY Giants)

2018 – Mason Cole (18 starts in 2 season for Cardinals)

2019 – Zach Allen (1 start in 2019 before going on IR)

Compare the numbers. Three picks since 2015 on day two for offensive line and defensive front players.

The Chiefs have two players that have nearly as many starts alone as all the picks for the Cardinals combined. The Cardinals have 43 total starts out of day two players. The Chiefs have 134 starts out of their day two players along just the offensive line and defensive front.

The Cardinals have the quarterback, they have the weapons, they need to find a way to invest as heavily and consistently along the lines.

It’s not about using day one picks, the Chiefs have not drafted an offensive linemen in the first round since Eric Fisher or a defensive front player since Dee Ford, it’s about consistently drafting these positions. It is about consistent investment, not premium investment.

That’s where the Arizona Cardinals are now. It doesn’t have to be the eighth pick to get help, but you can’t get help if you never consistently invest.

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A quick check of our Arizona Sports Mock Draft Tracker revealed eight new 2020 NFL mock drafts posted Thursday.

Every single one of them has the Arizona Cardinals selecting an offensive tackle with the No. 8 pick. But why?

The thought process is simple. It’s assuming the Cardinals will draft based on need.

The Cardinals were sacked 50 times last season, tied for fifth-most in the NFL. While they re-signed left tackle D.J. Humphries and are bringing back right tackles Justin Murray and Marcus Gilbert, do they trust them?

Gilbert has played in only 12 of 48 games over the past three seasons due to injury. Murray only has 12 career starts, all of them coming last season.

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There is not a lot of proven talent behind them unless the Cardinals trust in rapid development of 2019 seventh-round pick Joshua Miles or 23-year-old Brett Toth, who has not appeared in an NFL game.

Is it likely Arizona drafts a tackle No. 8 overall? Yes, and I get it.

But it’s no forgone conclusion. Here’s the nuance that general manager Steve Keim and his staff will be healthily debating for the next few weeks.

The DeAndre Hopkins trade shouldn’t end WR consideration

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Recent mock drafts cite the Cardinals’ trade for receiver DeAndre Hopkins as a reason for Arizona to forget about taking one of the top receivers: CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy or Henry Ruggs III.

It’s important to remember that while the Cardinals trended more toward 11-personnel (three receivers, one tight end) and away from 10-personnel (four receivers, no tight ends) as coach Kliff Kingsbury navigated his first season, they were still wildly in favor of four receivers relative to the rest of the NFL.

They lined up with four receivers on 18% of their snaps with talent including Damiere Byrd, Pharoh Cooper and KeeSean Johnson, among others.

Now, trading for Hopkins might change what type of receiver the Cardinals want. Lamb gets comparisons to Hopkins, and it’s a wonder if Arizona would want two physical jump-ball threats on each side of the field. Would they rather have Jeudy’s versatility meshing with Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk or a vertical stretcher like Ruggs bringing something that neither of those three have?

Who is the No. 3 and 4 WR of the future?

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Here’s where we remind ourselves that Fitzgerald is 36 years old and continues to string together one-year contracts. For the 2021 season, the Cardinals don’t even have a clear-cut third receiver after Hopkins and Kirk.

Johnson, Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler and Trent Sherfield return and could assume that role if Fitzgerald calls it a career. If Arizona still feels good about one of them panning out, there’s less pressure to take a receiver in the 2019 draft.

While we’re talking about those young players, it’s important to remember the 2020 draft class has first-round receiver talents who could fall to the second or third rounds. Arizona, however, doesn’t have a second-round pick after the Hopkins deal.

It’s hard to say which receivers are left at 72nd overall, 114th overall and so on.

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The Cardinals are hoping for a major turnaround in 2020 behind quarterback Kyler Murray, but the roster still needs to be upgraded. General Manager Steve Keim has some cap space this offseason and will aim to plug holes on both sides of the ball. This is the final positional group breakdown leading into free agency, which is scheduled to begin with the legal tampering period on Monday, March 16.

Free agent primer: Offensive Line

Other positional primers: LB I WR I DL I QB I CB I TE I S I RB I ST

Cap hit of players under contract for 2020 (via T D.J. Humphries ($12.8 million); G Justin Pugh ($10.5 million); G J.R. Sweezy ($6.5 million); C Mason Cole ($887,629); G/C Lamont Gaillard ($632,034); T Joshua Miles ($603,644); T Brett Toth ($585,000); G Sam Jones ($585,000).

Scheduled free agents: C A.Q. Shipley; T Justin Murray (exclusive rights); T Marcus Gilbert; T Jordan Mills; G Max Garcia.

Need: Low

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The NFL free agency period is officially underway. Use our free agent tracker page to follow all the movement.

Analysis: The Cardinals locked down an integral piece by re-signing D.J. Humphries to a three-year deal in February. He will return to play left tackle, while Justin Pugh and J.R. Sweezy are projected to return as the starting guards. Starting center A.Q. Shipley is an impending free agent, and it remains to be seen if he returns or if the Cardinals go younger at the position. Mason Cole started all 16 games as a rookie in 2018 and filled in at multiple spots last season.

Right tackle is the most intriguing position. Justin Murray started most of the season after veteran Marcus Gilbert tore his ACL, and improved as the year went on. He will be back as an exclusive rights free agent, so it will be interesting to see if the Cardinals plunk him in as a low-cost starter or if they look for a higher-priced veteran to fortify the position. It’s tough to pencil in Gilbert as a clear-cut starter due to his extensive injury history, but he is a talented player who shouldn’t command the type of salary he did in past years.

Brett Toth, Lamont Gaillard and Joshua Miles are a trio of young players aiming to get into the mix with a solid offseason, while Sam Jones hopes to make the team after spending 2019 on the practice squad.

General Manager Steve Keim could stick with familiar faces at every position, or he could look to revamp a spot or two on the free agent market. Some of the top tackles scheduled to hit the market include Jack Conklin, Bryan Bulaga, Anthony Castonzo and Jason Peters. If Keim wants to add an interior player, prominent impending free agents include Brandon Scherff, Joe Thuney and Andrus Peat.

Notable past free agent special teams signings: Sweezy (2019); Pugh (2018); Andre Smith (2018); Alex Boone (2017); Earl Watford (2017); Evan Mathis (2016); Mike Iupati (2015); Shipley (2015); Jared Veldheer (2014); Ted Larsen (2014); Eric Winston (2013); Adam Snyder (2012); Daryn Colledge (2011); Rex Hadnot (2010); Mike Gandy (2007); Al Johnson (2007); Milford Brown (2006); Oliver Ross (2005); Pete Kendall (2001); Mike Gruttadauria (2000); Lester Holmes (1998); Lomas Brown (1996).

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The Arizona Cardinals front office is bringing back the offensive tackle who’s knee injury cost him the entire 2019 campaign
This past Thursday, the Arizona Cardinals front office made a somewhat surprising move. Marcus Gilbert, an offensive tackle who was acquired in a trade 12 months ago, was brought back on a one-year deal. The 6’6, 330 pounder missed all of last season with a torn ACL, and the general feeling was that the Cards would move on from the injury-prone Gilbert.

There were several reasons to believe that the club would find another way to fill the vacancy at their right tackle post. For one, various ailments had caused Gilbert to miss a bunch of playing time over the past few campaigns. In fact, the 32-year old has appeared in just 25 of a possible 64 games since 2016.

Besides the injury factor, many fans of the Cardinals strongly believed that the organization would look to next month’s NFL Draft for an alternative to Gilbert. There could be as many as four blue-chip offensive tackles for the franchise to choose from when they make their selection in the first round. It’s a group that includes Georgia’s Andrew Thomas, Alabama’s Jedrick Wills Jr.,Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs and Louisville’s Mekhi Becton.

The fact that the Cards elected to bring back Justin Murray also made the retaining of Gilbert a bit of a head-scratcher. The 26-year old Murray held his own as the squad’s starting right tackle in 2019, and could likely do so again if Arizona really needed him to this coming fall. The $3.75 million that Gilbert will earn with his one-year contract almost guarantees that he’ll get the nod over Murray on the team’s 2020 depth chart.

Perhaps Cardinals general manager Steve Keim is just plain determined to get some payback on the investment he made in Gilbert a year ago. In March of ’19, a sixth-round draft pick was sent to the Pittsburgh Steelers for the veteran’s services. Gilbert’s season-ending knee injury robbed Keim and the Cards of any rewards they could’ve reaped by making the trade.

NEXT: Cardinals obtain another defensive lineman
The presence of Gilbert could certainly make Arizona go in a completely different direction with the draft’s eight-overall selection. Perhaps a player who could help them on the defensive side of the ball will be the choice. We’re now just weeks away from finding out what the Cardinals decision-makers will do with their valuable pick.

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The Arizona Cardinals still have an unsettled tight end room to deal with
Currently the Arizona Cardinals have three tight ends on their roster. Maxx Williams, Dan Arnold, and Darrell Daniels are the only tight ends under contract.

The Cardinals did bring in Charles Clay last season but he is currently not on the roster. He is a free agent but has not yet signed with any team. Would the Cardinals bring him back?

It is possible but the Cardinals have been fairly quiet about the position. Tight end proved to not be an essential part to the 2019 offense under first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury.

It would seem Williams isn’t going anywhere. Arnold played well in his short time with the team at the end of the 2019 season. He played in three games in December, grabbing six receptions and two touchdowns.

Despite the lower usage of the position, it is still important the Cardinals have tight ends they can count on. It is still hard to imagine them sticking with just these three.

Williams caught just 15 passes for 202-yards and a touchdown. In case you were still interested in seeing Clay come back, he just 18 receptions for 237-yards and one touchdown.

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That’s 30 receptions and two touchdowns from their top two tight ends from last season. If they do make any more additions, look for one to possibly be drafted.

The Cardinals could go into next season with just three tight ends, which could be a possibility given the number of receivers that could fight for a roster spot in camp and preseason. Still, it is hard to see a Williams/Arnold one, two going into 2020.

NEXT: If the Cardinals didn’t play in 2020
Williams is fun to watch. Last season though was the first time he played in all 16 games of a season since being drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2015. He will be around for the next two seasons though but needs help.

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After two weeks the Arizona Cardinals have made some moves on offense, but most importantly they have added to what was a good offense in 2019.

They have nearly every starter returning right now, outside of the center position and have upgraded at wide receiver like few expected to be possible.

Let’s see where the depth chart lies after the first two weeks of free agency.

QB – Kyler Murray, Brett Hundley, Drew Anderson, Chris Streveler

RB – Kenyan Drake, Chase Edmonds, D.J. Foster

WR – Larry Fitzgerald, Andy Isabella, A.J. Richardson

WR – DeAndre Hopkins, Trent Sherfield, Hakeem Butler

WR – Christian Kirk, KeeSean Johnson, Johnnie Dixon

TE – Maxx Willaims, Dan Arnold, Darrell Daniels

LT – D.J. Humphries, Joshua Miles

LG – Justin Pugh, Sam Jones

C – Mason Cole, Lamont Gaillard

RG – J.R. Sweezy, Max Garcia

RT – Justin Murray, Marcus Gilbert, Brett Toth

At this point, you have to be comfortable going into the season knowing you can improve at a couple of positions, but there is nothing that screams “HELP!”.

Tight end and right tackle seem like the easiest place to slide in a new player and give even better depth to the team overall.

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Arizona Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury believes the trade that sent running back David Johnson to the Houston Texans in exchange for wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins will be completed before the NFL draft begins on April 23.

“There’s not concern,” Kingsbury said on a video conference call with reporters on Tuesday. “But those aren’t official, as far as I know, at this point, but we’ll get it done. Obviously the medical field and personnel have much bigger fish to fry at this point. And so, it’s been slower than it would be, but I have no doubt it’s going to be done before the draft.”

NFL players for all 32 teams who would be hurt most by lost offseason

Texans’ O’Brien on trade: Hopkins wanted raise
The Cardinals and Texans agreed to the trade on March 16, two days before free agency began. Filling out the deal was the swapping of picks. Arizona also received a fourth-round pick this year, and Houston received a second-round pick this year and a fourth-round pick in 2021.

Kingsbury declined to talk too much about the trade or Hopkins because it isn’t finalized, but he said the wide receiver is a “tremendous player” who “has been healthy, played at a high level for a long time, so we’re excited about it.”

The deal came together quickly, Kingsbury said.

“Steve [Keim, the team’s general manager] called me down to his office and said we had something in the works,” Kingsbury added, “and they worked through it and got it done.”