With offseason workouts and minicamps in the rear view mirror and training camps a few weeks away, we assess the Arizona Cardinals' offseason moves and assign a letter grade in the video above.
Best move: Adding depth on defense. The Cardinals found out last season that injuries and suspensions can decimate an entire unit. This offseason, they vowed it wouldn’t happen again. Through free agency and the draft, the Cards added seven players to their front-seven rotation who can contribute. Signing Corey Peters, Cory Redding, Sean Weatherspoon and LaMarr Woodley, and drafting Markus Golden, Shaq Riddick and Rodney Gunter not only gave them depth but also restocked a pass rush that struggled last season, accumulating 12 fewer sacks than in 2013. In the secondary, Arizona got deeper. A healthy Tyrann Mathieu changed the dynamic of the secondary. He gives new defensive coordinator James Bettcher a plethora of options with interchangeable defensive backs and safeties.
Riskiest move: Moving Jonathan Cooper to right guard. The former seventh-overall pick started two games last season -- the first two of his career. The responsibility of protecting quarterback Carson Palmer was already a challenge for him, and asking him to do it from a new position makes it a risk for the Cardinals. If Cooper can stay healthy, 2015 will essentially be his rookie season in terms of playing time even though he has been in the NFL for two seasons. The main question will be how Cooper will mentally overcome another injury, if it should happen.
Keeping Fitz: This offseason could’ve taken on an entirely different tone if Arizona decided wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald wasn’t worth a new deal. But it did, and Fitzgerald received a two-year contract worth $22 million. For a veteran coming off his worst statistical season since his rookie year, that’s a lot of money. But in some regards, Arizona had no choice. Fitzgerald is still the glue that keeps the offense together -- and the proof was in the numbers last season. Michael Floyd didn’t catch a touchdown without Fitzgerald on the field. Fitzgerald will be 32 when the season starts and will have the pressure of rebounding from a poor season to show he's worth a deal that large.
Training camp outlook: Overall, Arizona is in good shape heading into training camp. Though camp will help determine a few position battles, the month of August will be critical in two main areas: Palmer’s redevelopment and the progression of the defense. Palmer is well ahead of schedule in his recovery from an ACL injury, but he’s only faced a live defense twice and admitted his footwork needed work. How quickly Palmer can get back his rhythm will determine how well he’ll be playing in Week 1. The Cardinals can’t afford to stumble early and expect to make the playoffs. In years past, the defense has been there to save the offense. That could happen again this season depending on how well it responds to new coordinator Bettcher. By all accounts, Bettcher hasn't started putting his twist on the defense yet. He’ll add some flavor in camp.