TEMPE, Ariz. -- A breakdown of the first week of free agency for the Arizona Cardinals:
Most significant signing: More so than signing linebacker Chandler Jones to a long-term deal that will keep him in Arizona for the next five years, the Cardinals’ most significant signing was kicker Phil Dawson. Yes, a kicker. And everyone who follows the Cardinals knows why. Last season, kicker Chandler Catanzaro contributed to three losses because of misses. Had he made all three, Arizona likely would have gone to the playoffs. Adding a veteran such as Dawson, who has made his share of pressure-packed kicks in 18 seasons, will likely help the Cardinals win close games down the stretch, and that could be the difference between another playoff run or January on the couch.
Most significant loss: The loss of Calais Campbell will have the most significant impact on the Cardinals, more so than safety Tony Jefferson, because of how he played so well when Jones and Markus Golden were rushing the passer on the edges. Campbell’s play has consistently improved over the past few years and he was flourishing with Arizona’s improved pass rush. Without the singular focus of the offensive line on him, Campbell was able to consistently push the interior of offensive lines back and pressure quarterbacks enough to force them one way or the other and right into the hands of Jones or Golden.
Player they should have signed: Even though he was out of their price range, signing Cordarrelle Patterson would have solved multiple needs for the Cardinals. He would have been the Cardinals’ primary returner, which Bruce Arians has said was a priority for the team this season. He also could have taken Michael Floyd’s role at receiver and would have been in line to become the Cardinals’ top receiver whenever Larry Fitzgerald decides to retire. Arizona knows firsthand how difficult Patterson can be to slow down. He returned a kickoff 104 yards for a touchdown in a November win over the Cardinals. He also had four catches for 53 yards. While it was never likely Patterson would have become a Cardinal, he was a player who could have filled multiple needs for Arizona.
What’s next: The longer Morris Claiborne is on the market, the lower his price drops. He could benefit the Cardinals next season by signing him to a one-year, prove-it deal if he doesn’t have any suitors by the end of the weekend. Claiborne would fit in the LSU-heavy secondary alongside Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson. Claiborne is 5-foot-11 and 192 pounds, so he fits the type of bigger corner the Cardinals need. Having him for a season, or two at best, also would give someone like Brandon Williams a chance to continue developing while watching a veteran.
Overall grade: B. Keeping Jones was crucial to the Cardinals' efforts to maintain an effective pass rush for the next few years. But the Cardinals saw a weakness in their locker room and made an all-out effort this year to rectify it. Arians complained last season of selfish young players not listening to the veterans. So the Cardinals stocked their locker room with older, experienced players with the hope of them getting the young players to buy into what they’re doing off the field and help them win on the field, a similar dynamic as in 2015, when veterans helped the Cards reach the NFC Championship Game.