The Cardinals finished with a losing record in 2016, but believe they can bounce back quickly and revert to contender status next season. Free agency will be key, as several of the team’s starters are scheduled to hit the open market. The Cardinals’ front office has plenty of decisions to make as free agency beckons on Thursday. This is the final installment of the positional primer series.
Free agent primer: Wide receiver
Cap hit of players under contract for 2017 (via OverTheCap.com):
Scheduled free agents: None
Analysis: Michael Floyd was supposed to be the big free agent of note, but he was released during the season after getting arrested for driving under the influence and won’t return. The Cardinals’ pass-catchers did not live up to expectations in 2016. The only consistent performer was Fitzgerald, although Nelson did flash his big-play ability late.
A return to health for John Brown will be critical, as he is a 1,000-yard receiver when at full capacity. The team is optimistic the complications of his sickle cell trait have been ironed out, but he must prove it on the field. The trio of Fitzgerald, Nelson and Brown could potentially be solid, but the Cardinals could use one more formidable wideout, especially with Fitzgerald winding down his career.
Dobson was signed this offseason and Ross was re-signed, while Jaron Brown and Golden have been depth pieces for the past several years. Brown became a bigger part of the offense last season but then tore his ACL, and hopes to make his way back into the mix. The others figure to compete for a roster spot.
The wide receiver group went from a strength to a weakness last year, and the Cardinals need it to bounce back. The Cardinals found a groove through the air late in the season, and Fitzgerald’s return is huge in that it gives the team a top-tier option to lead the way.
However, Floyd’s departure leaves some question marks within the position group. The Cardinals could look closely at wide receivers this offseason, whether in free agency or the draft.
Notable past free agent wide receiver signings: Ted Ginn (2014); Sean Morey (2007).