The Arizona Cardinals have been one of the more intriguing teams in the NFL this year. After stealing DeAndre Hopkins away from the Houston Texans in the last offseason, the Cardinals put themselves on everybody’s radar as a possible contender. Instead, after finishing the season 8-8, the Cardinals find themselves out of the playoffs and sitting with the 16th pick in the upcoming draft. Having said that, the main ingredient for the Arizona Cardinals team needs is time and patience.
During this season, the Cardinals weren’t a bad team at all. They were one of the more impressive teams this year. Offensively, Arizona finished 18th in passing and seventh in rushing. Meanwhile, on defense, they were 10th in stopping the pass, but 22nd rush defense.
Not only that, but the Cardinals had a fantastic pass rush too, finishing tied fourth in sacks. Arizona couldn’t stop the run which ultimately led to their demise. With little cap space and middle-round picks in the draft, the Arizona Cardinals team needs should be to continue building upon what they already have.
Arizona Cardinals Team Needs: Plus Predictions
Arizona Cardinals Team Needs: Free Agency
As the 2021 offseason approaches, the Cardinals will have just $6.82 million to work with. Most of that money will likely be used to keep key players on the roster. Furthermore, the Cardinals have fantastic depth on their roster. For nearly every player possibly leaving the team, the Cardinals already have a young replacement in that position.
With that said, they have two key signs they should consider, and a free agent linebacker who is likely on their target list.
Re-sign Zane Gonzales
This season was the worst year of Zane Gonzales’ career in terms of accuracy. He only made 72.7% of his field goals but made up for it with a 97.4% success rate in PATs. His numbers could be skewed, however, as he hasn’t played a single game since Week 13.
Gonzales has been in the league since 2017 and is currently only 25 years old. He has plenty of time left in his career, and the Cardinals would be making a mistake not bringing him back. Having a lockdown kicker is crucial in the NFL, which is why bringing him back is an Arizona Cardinals team need.
Re-sign Patrick Peterson
There was a moment in time where Patrick Peterson was one of the best cornerbacks in the league and continues to play at a high level. This season, Peterson racked up 61 total tackles, which is the second-most in his career. On top of that, he picked off the ball three times, which is right at his average per year.
Peterson played a crucial part in the Cardinals defense this season, after finishing as the 10th best at stopping the pass. He’s an important piece to the Cardinals’ success and should be brought back to the squad. With a young core in the secondary, Peterson provides the veteran leadership needed to help this franchise make the playoffs next year.
Sign Raekwon McMillan
After being traded to the Las Vegas Raiders, Raekwon McMillan had the worst year of his career so far. He played in every game, however, only started in four of them, and was only able to record 27 total tackles and one forced fumble. Considering how good he was his rookie year, it’s hard to understand why McMillan struggled so much in Las Vegas.
Sometimes, a change of scenery can be exactly what a player needs to thrive. If the Cardinals pursue the former Raider, McMillan would have another chance to earn an increased role. He’s also only 25 years old and should be wanting to prove himself in 2021. This could be the steal in free agency if Arizona finds a way to sign him onto their roster.
Arizona Cardinals Team Needs: NFL Draft
Draft Travis Etienne
The Cardinals had one of the best rushing attacks last season. However, with Kenyan Drake hitting the free-agent market, they’re likely not going to bring him back. Also, Chase Edmonds has been reliable for Arizona, however, it’s still unsure whether or not he can be a lead back. Considering the level of talent at the RB position, Arizona should highly consider selecting a top running back in the first round.
With the 16th pick, it’s likely the Cardinals can choose the best available RB in the draft. Travis Etienne has been a monster every year for the Clemson Tigers. He’s leaving the school with 4,952 rushing yards and 70 rushing touchdowns to end his college career. Both of which are records at Clemson.
He’s also an elite pass-catcher out of the backfield, as Etienne has steadily improved that skillset every season. The Cardinals would improve their offense greatly by selecting Etienne. Can you imagine an offense with Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins, and Travis Etienne? Good luck to opposing defenses.
Draft a Linebacker
Stopping the run has to be a focal point for the Cardinals next year, and acquiring an inside linebacker would go a long way. After giving up 2008 rushing yards, the Cardinals finished as the 10th worst defense at stopping the run. Their opponents brutalized them nearly every week, which played a huge reason as to why they missed the playoffs.
The 2021 NFL draft is a great opportunity for the Cardinals’ front office to find a talented linebacker to improve the rush defense. There are a decent number of solid prospects this year available within the first three rounds. The Cardinals don’t need to reach at all, as they can afford to make a leisure pick if they choose to. However, a few ILBs to keep an eye on are Nick Bolton, Zaven Collins, and Dylan Moses.
Draft a Cornerback
The pass defense was a bright spot for the Cardinals, but with Dre Kirkpatrick likely hitting free agency, the Cardinals should consider finding his replacement. Furthermore, time is the enemy for Patrick Peterson, and drafting a young CB could be a great investment a few years from now. Some cornerbacks the Cardinals could draft on day three are Paulson Adebo, Marco Wilson, and Ambry Thomas.
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