After an 8-8 season, the Arizona Cardinals need to make some large steps to become competitive in the NFC West. That path begins for the Cardinals in 2021 by addressing their 29 pending free agents once the NFL free agency period officially opens.
The Cardinals’ free agency decisions will be impacted by the reduced salary cap in 2021
Salary cap constraints will be the buzz word this offseason as free agency ramps up. No one could have predicted these unforeseen circumstances, and teams thought the cap would continue to climb in 2021 and beyond. However, as we all know, that is not the case.
According to Over the Cap, the Cardinals enter the 2021 season with $13.533 million in cap space. Indeed, this is a slightly higher number than we expected after the NFL and NFLPA negotiated for a base salary cap floor of $175 million. However, even with the projected cap of $180.5 million for 2021, it is still a decrease of $17.7 million from the year prior.
The Arizona Cardinals enter head into the 2021 season with 29 total free agents, 23 unrestricted.
Top Cardinals priorities in 2021
The Cardinals need to figure out the cornerback situation
Following the release of CB Patrick Peterson, addressing the CB position becomes a massive offseason priority. The Cardinals play six games a year against some of the best wide receivers in the NFL, and in truth, have no real way to cover them. While it may be true that Peterson had a down year, he is still more than capable. Furthermore, Dre Kirkpatrick, Johnathan Joseph, and Kevin Peterson will all be free agents in 2021.
Do the Cardinals let RB Kenyan Drake walk in free agency in 2021?
Drake was acquired via trade from Miami halfway through the 2019 season. He re-signed in the offseason using the transition tag and made nearly $8.5 million in salary.
Drake missed just one game with an injury, rushing for 955 yards and 10 touchdowns, averaging 4.0 yards per attempt. His yardage and touchdown total were both career-highs.
However, it wasn’t just Drake’s backfield. Chase Edmonds also saw a sizeable chunk of the work. Moreover, nearly half of Edmonds’ production came via the passing game, catching 53 passes for 402 yards and 4 touchdowns. Drake, on the other hand, caught 25 receptions for 137 yards and no scores.
According to Spotrac, Drake enters 2021 with an estimated market value of $8.3 million on a two-year, $16.713 million contract. Out of all the Cardinals’ free agents for 2021, Drake is the biggest offensive name.
The Cardinals might bring back pending 2021 free agent LB Haason Reddick
Haason Reddick did what every free-agent-to-be wants to do in a contract year — he balled out. For instance, Reddick’s 12.5 sacks were fourth-best in the NFL in 2020. He set a franchise-record in Week 14 by recording five sacks against the New York Giants.
As a result of his success, Reddick has put himself in a great spot to cash in. Whether it is with the Cardinals or another team remains to be seen. The Cardinals declined his fifth-year option, but Reddick turned it on this year after a somewhat disappointing career to this point.
Taken as the 13th overall pick back in 2017, Reddick had only 7.5 sacks in his previous four seasons with the Cardinals. After Chandler Jones went down with an injury, however, he took full advantage of the opportunity. He became a starting OLB and played no less than 49 snaps in any game the rest of the season.
The vast majority of pending Cardinals’ free agents are on the defensive side. Thus, if the Cardinals want to bring back Reddick, a franchise tag could make sense. It would be treated as almost a “prove-it” deal to see if his 2020 season was a fluke.
Arizona Cardinals’ 2021 offensive free agents
TE Dan Arnold, 26
T Kelvin Beachum, 32
TE Darrell Daniels, 27
RB Kenyan Drake, 27
WR Larry Fitzgerald, 38
QB Brett Hundley, 28
WR Trent Sherfield, 25
G J.R. Sweezy, 32
Arizona Cardinals’ 2021 defensive and special teams free agents
S Chris Banjo, 31
DL Angelo Blackson, 29
LB De’Vondre Campbell, 28
LB Vontarrius Dora, 29
EDGE Kylie Fitts, 27
LB Dennis Gardeck, 27
LB Markus Golden, 30
K Zane Gonzalez, 26
LB Isaiah Irving, 27
CB Johnathan Joseph, 37
CB Dre Kirkpatrick, 32
P Andy Lee, 39
DL Josh Mauro, 30
DT Domata Peko, 37
DT Corey Peters, 33
CB Kevin Peterson, 27
CB Patrick Peterson, 31
LB Haason Reddick, 27
S/LB Ezekiel Turner, 25
LB Tanner Vallejo, 27
S Charles Washington, 28
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