The Arizona Cardinals took big step backward in 2016. They were one of the best teams in the league the previous season, but finished 7-8-1 last year.
The Cardinals have a talented but aging roster, especially at quarterback. The NFL is a quarterback-driven league and the Cardinals have a good one in Carson Palmer, but he is 37-years-old.
Here are the three best moves and the worst one made by the Arizona Cardinals this offseason.
#1. Draft picks
It’s been awhile since the Cardinals have had a high draft pick in each round. This year, they made the most of it. They got a pair of defenders that can start right away, a wide receiver with size, a pair of depth offensive linemen that could become starters as well as complimentary late round picks.
Linebacker Haason Reddick and safety Budda Baker are immediate starters. Wide receiver Chad Williams will complement Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown and J.J. Nelson with his size and ball skills. Guard Dorian Johnson has the size, power and background to start right away, but may need a year as a backup first.
It was a good draft for the Cardinals, as they got pieces to build off of.
#2. Signing Jarvis Jones
Jones was one of the better pass rushers in college at the University of Georgia. His production and measurables made him a first round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but for whatever reason it did not work out.
The Cardinals gave Jones a low-risk contract to get him back on track. He will work into a pass rush rotation with Chandler Jones and Markus Golden, and the three of them are a highly athletic and dynamic trio. Teams need as many pass rushers as possible in today’s NFL and Arizona was smart to add depth without breaking the bank.
#3. Signing kicker Phil Dawson
Sure, Dawson is 42-years-old and his longest field goal was just 53 yards last season, but made over 85 percent of his field goals and 97 percent of his extra points.
The Cardinals had Chandler Catanzaro kicking for them last season, and he made just 75 percent of his field goals and 91.5 percent of his extra points (Cardinals fans don't need a reminder of his performance against the Pats in the season opener). He signed with the Jets in free agency.
Dawson may be considerably older than the 26-year-old Catanzaro, but he is a lot more reliable.
The worst: Losses of defensive players in free agency
Considering the Cardinals have a 37-year-old quarterback who may not be a high-end player anymore, one could argue that the worse move was not getting someone to replace Carson Palmer. However, it is obvious the Cardinals did not think there is a star quarterback in this class.
The bigger issue is the number of players they lost in free agency. Gone are defensive end Calais Campbell, safeties Tony Jefferson and D.J. Swearinger, cornerback Marcus Cooper and linebackers Kevin Minter and Alex Okafor. Not all of them were starters for the Cardinals, but the team's depth and balance across the defense could be compromised.
The Cardinals are still talented on D, but unlike previous seasons, the unit probably won't be good enough to overcome their deficiencies on offense.