TEMPE, Ariz. -- Bruce Arians didn’t just want the Arizona Cardinals to get better through free agency.
He wanted them to get older and wiser, too.
The Cardinals raised a few eyebrows during the opening days of free agency last month when they opted to replace players in their 20s with players in their 30s. Arizona signed 42-year-old kicker Phil Dawson to replace 26-year-old Chandler Catanzaro, 32-year-old Antoine Bethea to help replace a pair of 25-year-old safeties in Tony Jefferson and D.J. Swearinger, and 35-year-old Karlos Dansby to replace 26-year-old Kevin Minter.
“We wanted more leadership,” Arians said.
But there’s more behind that statement. Arians figured out after just three games last season that his young players, namely some of his rookies, weren’t following the Cardinals’ leaders.
“We’ve got great leadership on our team. I’m not sure we have a lot of followers,” Arians said after a Week 3 loss at Buffalo. “If you’re a leader, you’ve got to have followers, you know? We’ve got a lot of young guys, I think, who like doing their own thing.”
To Arians, that was a “reflection on the young guys,” not on the team’s established players. And that’s what he wanted to change. Arizona wasn’t set on only signing or re-signing players in their 30s. The Cardinals added linebacker Jarvis Jones, 27, and re-signed 28-year-olds Andre Ellington and Jermaine Gresham.
But Arians wanted to add experience that wasn’t there a year ago.
“The young guys are coming out with a sense of entitlement that they haven’t had much in the past,” Arians said. “And you’ve got to break that. They were highly recruited. Especially when you’re coming out of the SEC, you were a highly recruited player. You were pampered. When you see those facilities, they were pampered the whole way through.
“Now that competition sometimes strikes them in the face, they can’t handle it. You’ve got to break that sense of entitlement. I don’t care how you got here, you’ve got to fight for what’s yours. If you sit for a year, then, boom, the light comes on. You sit for a year.”