Coming into last season, the Arizona Cardinals were considered one of the Super Bowl favorites. Their Super Bowl odds were 8-1, tied for the second-best in the NFL. In our preseason predictions, all seven panelists had the Cards making the playoffs, four had them winning the division, and two (myself and Ryan Wilson) had them winning the whole thing.
Things did not work out as planned. The Cardinals struggled out of the gates, Carson Palmer failed to recapture his 2015 form, and the team eventually slumped to a 7-8-1 record. Still, the bones of that preseason favorite roster are there, and general manager Steve Keim wants to seize the opportunity before stars like Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald retire. That’s why he’s expecting a very active free agency period in 2017.
“We’ll certainly be aggressive and keep our foot on the gas pedal, try to keep pushing this thing in the right direction,” Keim said, per the team’s official web site.
He continued, “There are guys like Carson and Larry where you know the end is sooner rather than later. So you have to try and build around them and, so to speak, go for it now. But that’s our mindset every year. We’re never in a rebuilding phase. To me, you owe it to your fan base to go for it every year, to be aggressive either in free agency or the draft. But you also have to keep in mind that you are going to do the right thing for the organization for the long-term. That’s the biggest challenge.”
Arizona currently has just south of $35.5 million in cap room, per Spotrac, plenty of room to sign several impact free agents. Important defenders like Calais Campbell, Chandler Jones, and Tony Jefferson are already free agents, so it’s likely Arizona will have to create additional cap room in order to be as aggressive as Keim wants. They can create almost $7.7 million by releasing Daryl Washington and Justin Bethel, for example, and another $8 million-plus by converting all but $1 million of Patrick Peterson 2017 base salary into a signing bonus and spreading the cap hit over the remaining years of his contract. There are risks involved in making those types of moves, but they are necessary if Keim intends to go for it this year.