TEMPE, Ariz. -- Leading up to the start of free agency on March 9, we’ll evaluate the situation at every position for the Arizona Cardinals. We’ll look at who will return to Arizona in 2017, who’s set to hit the open market, what the Cardinals need at each position, and we'll throw out a few potential options to fill those open roster spots.
What’s needed: Arizona needs as close to a shut-down corner opposite of Patrick Peterson as it can get.
It’s no secret that quarterbacks shied away from throwing toward Peterson last season, so having a cornerback across from him who can make quarterbacks think twice about throwing to that side, as well, could cause fits for offensive coordinators. The Cardinals thought they had it all figured out with Justin Bethel and Brandon Williams. But Bethel never evolved into the cornerback the Cardinals hoped because of a foot injury that kept him off the field and hindered his development. And Williams showed too many signs of inexperience during his two starts to begin last season, as he continued the transition from running back to cornerback that began before his senior year of college less than two years ago.
The Cardinals traded for Cooper in September, and eventually handed him the starting job, which he embraced and flourished in with a team-high four interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. While he fits the mold of a traditional corner at 6-foot-2, there’s a good chance the Cardinals won’t be able to afford keeping him.
Finding an experienced cornerback, whether it’s a veteran or a talented rookie, could be the difference between another 10-win season that leads to a division title and another sub-.500 season. A veteran on a one-year prove-it contract wouldn’t come as a surprise this season, as Arizona found success with that in 2014 with Antonio Cromartie. It’d be a win-win for the player and the Cardinals.