The boldest way for the Arizona Cardinals to make a splash in free agency is to sign a pair of players that haven’t played a snap for another team in their respective careers.
At least that’s what the Football Outsiders believe in their annual story for ESPN of “daring” offseason moves for all 32 NFL teams.
They make the case that a risky set of maneuvers this offseason for the Cardinals is finding a way to re-sign outside linebacker Haason Reddick and cornerback Patrick Peterson, both of whom are free agents.
Football Outsiders believes that both remain valuable enough pieces on a unit that improved last year under second-year defensive coordinator Vance Joseph.
Paying them, however, will be costly, but maybe not as debilitating as expected, considering the restrictive salary cap situation league-wide.
The cap situation might work to Arizona’s benefit here: Teams aren’t going to have as much spending room as they usually do, and veterans will likely settle for one-year deals, hoping for a bigger jackpot in 2022. The Cards are 15th in effective cap space, per Over the Cap, and with Kyler Murray still on his rookie deal, they could easily find $9 million or so for Peterson. At age 31 and in this market, he might not find a better deal.
If they can get that deal done, they could use the franchise tag on Reddick. That would cost them about $15.7 million, a reasonable value for a good 27-year-old edge rusher. Pairing Reddick with a healthy Chandler Jones would give Arizona a set of bookend pass-rushers few teams could match.
Reddick is coming off a career-best 12.5 sacks in 2020, his fourth year in the league after Arizona last offseason decided not to pick up the 2017 first-round pick’s team option.
Peterson, who will be entering his 11th NFL season, is coming off a rocky 2020 campaign, ranking 83rd out of 121 cornerbacks in Pro Football Focus’ cornerback rankings. He recorded 61 tackles, three interceptions and eight passes defensed last season.
According to Sportrac, the Cardinals have $16.3 million in salary cap space, meaning they can use the methods referenced above to keep both in the fold in 2021 and beyond. Problem is, they have more roster spots to fill than any other team and lead the NFL in snaps by players from the 2020 season entering free agency.
Arizona would likely need to make at least one significant cut or contract restructure to open up space to do so.