Key Additions: Jared Veldheer ($7M per year), Antonio Cromartie ($3.5M), Ted Ginn ($3.3M),Ted Larsen ($1.3M)
Key Re-Signings: Matt Shaughnessy ($2.2M per year), Jay Feely ($1M), Frostee Rucker ($1M)
Key Losses: Karlos Dansby (Browns), Andre Roberts (Redskins)
Major Cuts: Daryn Colledge ($5M cap savings- June 1)
Free Agency Thoughts:
The most important thing for the Arizona Cardinals to do this offseason was improve the offensive line and they did that with the signing of Veldheer who was one of the better bargains at the position. Veldheer was injured most of last season, but he is an above average player and they got him at a reasonable cost. The structure of the deal was important. Because of cap constraints the Cardinals needed to have Veldheer at a low cap charge, but rather than doing it strictly through signing bonus money they guaranteed a portion of his second year salary and dangled a third year guarantee. If injuries strike they will carry just $3.75M in dead cap in 2016, which is a dramatic departure from the structures used for Will Beatty of the Giants and Sam Baker of the Falcons signed just a year before with similar cap constraints.
Signing Antonio Cromartie on a one year low cost contract could prove to be one of the better signings of the offseason. Because the Cardinals already have capable cover guys there is really no downside. Two years ago Cromartie was a legit Pro Bowl quality player. He had hip problems in 2013 and I think there is a real fear that last year was the beginning of what could be a fast decline, but this is a situation where taking the risk is well worth it.
While I do think the contract for Ted Ginn is a bit rich, it may just be a one year contract. Either way it’s a more efficient deal than what Roberts signed for in Washington. While Ginn will never be a great receiver teams do have to respect his speed and he can put up a big play late in the game. His ability to change field position on special teams is at the top of the NFL. In a competitive division like the NFC West those types of plays may be more meaningful.
Losing Karlos Dansby will be a blow to the defense but there is no way the Cardinals could justify spending the amount of money the Browns spent on Dansby. $6 million a year for a player on the wrong side of 30 is simply too high to even consider. The odds of Dansby recreating his 2013 season are pretty remote.
Overall Grade: A-
I think the Cardinals 2014 offseason is a great example of the way a competitive team should approach free agency. They identified a weakness and grabbed a very strong player to help solidify the position. They found veterans with some upside that can augment the talent base in place without really damaging future salary cap situations. They signed a number of depth players that should contribute none of whom would hurt the team if they flop. The wisely used the June 1 on Daryn Colledge which will give them an operational budget for the regular season that could be used in part to pay for an extension for Patrick Peterson or to try to find offensive line help when cuts begin late in the summer.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.