NFL teams
Josh Weinfuss, ESPN Staff Writer 42d

Arizona Cardinals free agency overview: WR2 and cornerback a priority

The Arizona Cardinals enter 2021 NFL free agency coming off an 8-8 season in 2020 and have 26 unrestricted free agents.

Arizona needs to find a recipe to get them to the playoffs, having not reached the postseason since the 2015 season. There are a handful of positions, such as wide receiver, cornerback, defensive line and tight end that, if addressed properly, can help the Cardinals get there.

Here's what to expect from the Cardinals when the NFL offseason hits high gear with the start of free agency on March 17:

QUARTERBACK

Under contract: Kyler Murray, Chris Streveler

UFA: Brett Hundley

Game plan: Well, QB1 isn't going anywhere and it isn't likely QB2 will either. Coach Kliff Kingsbury showed last season that he had more faith in Streveler, the undrafted former CFL quarterback, than he did Hundley, the seasoned veteran who's played behind Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers. Streveler replaced an injured Murray during a win-or-go-home Week 17 game and completed 11 of 16 passes for 105 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

RUNNING BACK

Under contract: Chase Edmonds, Eno Benjamin, Jonathan Ward

UFA: Kenyan Drake, D.J. Foster

Game plan: Re-signing Drake is an option, but coming off an $8.4 million tender may price him out of the Cardinals' comfort zone. As much confidence the Cards have in Edmonds, they'll likely add a piece or two to their running backs room through free agency and/or the draft. Running backs are a premier position in Kingsbury's offense and having more is merrier for an offense trying to find its way to the playoffs.

WIDE RECEIVER

Under contract: DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, Andy Isabella, KeeSean Johnson

UFA: Larry Fitzgerald

Game plan: Regardless of what happens with Fitzgerald this offseason, the Cardinals need to add a WR2. There are plenty available in free agency, especially older ones who can be complemented with a young receiver in the draft. Arizona needs a receiver who can make plays and scare defenses into paying attention, thus taking resources away from covering Hopkins.

TIGHT END

Under contract: Maxx Williams

UFA: Dan Arnold, Darrell Daniels

Game plan: As we've seen from Kingsbury in the last two seasons, he likes using his tight ends as receiving targets. And with the offense needing more weapons, free agency may be the ideal time for Arizona to add a veteran who can bring some leadership, catch passes and block when needed. Tight end isn't a huge priority but having the right one in Kingsbury's system can make a huge difference.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Under contract: Justin Pugh, D.J. Humphries, Justin Murray, Mason Cole, Josh Jones, Lamont Gaillard, Joshua Miles, Marcus Gilbert

UFA: J.R. Sweezy, Max Garcia, Kelvin Beachum

Game plan: With two starters heading for the open market, the Cardinals will need to use free agency to sign either their potential replacements or their backups. Jones will likely take over one of the starting jobs and Murray could take the other. It's too risky using the draft to find potential starters because of the learning curve from a prospect's final season in college to their first in the NFL.

DEFENSIVE LINE

Under contract: Zach Allen, Jordan Phillips, Leki Fotu, Rashard Lawrence

UFA: Angelo Blackson, Corey Peters, Josh Mauro, Domata Peko

Game plan: One reason the Cardinals' defensive line was effective in 2020 was because of the ability to make hockey-like substitutions. The quartet returning will give Arizona a solid base but adding someone like Trent Murphy or Ryan Kerrigan or Kawann Short or Leonard Williams could be the splash signing Arizona needs if they don't bring back Peters.

LINEBACKER

Under contract: J.J. Watt, Chandler Jones, Jordan Hicks, Isaiah Simmons, Devon Kennard, Kylie Fitts

UFA: Haason Reddick, Markus Golden, De'Vondre Campbell, Tanner Vallejo, Isaiah Irving

Game plan: Adding Watt changes the Cardinals' approach a bit. They likely aren't going to pay Reddick what he's asking and the depth at pass-rusher now comes from Kennard. Golden could be an option to add more depth, but with Simmons' versatility it's not necessary to have him on the roster. Inside, Simmons will likely take Campbell's snaps if he doesn't re-sign, so depth would be the name of Arizona's game at linebacker.

CORNERBACK

Under contract: Robert Alford, Byron Murphy

UFA: Patrick Peterson, Dre Kirkpatrick, Charles Washington, Kevin Peterson, Johnathan Joseph

Game plan: Arizona would need to add depth, at the very least, since they're scheduled to lose five cornerbacks, including Peterson, a long-time starter and eight-time Pro Bowler. This is a position where a splash signing would make sense because of Alford's durability issues and Murphy's success at slot corner. Signing two corners and drafting another might even make sense, as well.

SAFETY

Under contract: Budda Baker, Deionte Thompson, Jalen Thompson

UFA: Chris Banjo

Game plan: This is one of the few positions where the Cardinals are in good shape. Replacing Banjo won't be a difficult move if they don't bring him back, but he's added special teams value the last few years so he might be a second- or third-wave priority.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Under contract: LS Aaron Brewer

UFA: K Zane Gonzalez, P Andy Lee, K Mike Nugent

Game plan: The Cardinals need to find themselves a kicker. There are plenty of options if the Cardinals want to sign one or two and, essentially, try them out. They could stay with Gonzalez and sign a back-up like they did last season with Nugent.

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