The good, and the horribly impatient.
Off-season Grade: C-
The Cardinals dove into the offseason with the zeal of a 5 year old on Christmas day. Hell, they didn’t even wait for the buzzer to sound. Nor the 2 day warning for the buzzer. They pounced on everything and anything they could sign before free agency opened. Warning, the only players who are available at that time are players who have been cut by other teams. Not a sound strategy. There is limited availability because the market hasn’t even opened yet. Players available weren’t worth their last contract. You are bidding against a buying group full of holes to fill and flush with money. Call me crazy, but I don’t see that as a buyers’ market.
Apparently, if you pull the lever on your See‘n Say, the Cardinal goes, “gimmie gimmie gimmie!”
Keim needs to learn to slow his roll.
Arizona started off adding Robert Alford to a 3 year 22.5 million dollar deal. Atlanta had released him because he wasn’t worth his contract. The Cardinals paid him essentially the same amount that Atlanta deemed as too rich. This is because Alford was downright horrible last year. When Neal and Allen went out, he all but burst into flames. Next year Arizona will be on the hook for 3 million dollars of dead cap when they too realize he isn’t worth 7.5 million per. A 30 year old CB will cash out 9 million dollars for 1 year of work because Arizona needed a CB now. At least they kept the signing bonus light. Murphy who we will talk about later, will push him to the bench immediately. That’s not saying much as there are still a number of corners on the market that are better than Robert Alford and its May 7th.
They also pounced on Charles Clay for 2 million. Now, it’s very hard to bash a 1 year 2 million dollar deal but it’s become very clear in Buffalo that Clay is a shell of his former self. Buffalo. Buffalo preferred a 4.5 million dollar dead cap hit and a brand new 18 million dollar deal on Tyler Kroft, of all people, to keeping Clay. Recently, Arizona signed Maxx Williams to what is likely to be a league minimum contract. He’s the better option and comes at 40% the cost. Dax Raymond went UDFA and is likely a better option at 20% the cost. The latter two is what patience brings.
Brooks Reed was the last of the “got to have it” pre-free agency buys. 1.6 mil for 1 year of service is fine. He’s always been a high effort, dependable player. It’s a glue guy paid a glue guy rate. However, my issue with this deal is twofold. Arizona is still building and the last thing you need when you are building is a glue guy. All 53 need to be core pieces or cheap upside. Reed offers no upside and giving up 1.2 million in cap (vs a rookie deal) is not worth the tradeoff. Is his addition going to make any difference in the outcome of this season? No, ok so why bother?
At this point in time Arizona, who still has targets in mind for actual free agency, doesn’t have a lot of money to blow. They have already wasted roughly 7 million dollars on hasty and pointless deals. Then look at what they did to make deals fit the limited cap they had left themselves.
Despite building for the future, I love the idea behind signing Terrell Suggs. It’s a bit flashy, he’s a name to market and he’s a great 1 year bridge for the new Vance Joseph defense. Yes, he’s aging out of the league, so what, sign him to a 1 year deal at a reasonable rate and sell some jerseys. If you want to burn cap (and sometimes you have to) this is the type of guy you fish for. He’s still playing good football and can give you a quality 600-700 snaps. However, the structuring of it is frustrating. Terrell Suggs, is signed to a fictitious 2 year 10 million dollar deal. What is fictitious? The 2nd year. It is actually a 1 year 7 million dollar deal that has a 2020 void year so they could push 2 million dollars of dead cap into 2020. Kicking it down the road, when you are a building team is not something I would prescribe.
Darius Philon, who is coming off a very solid year and fits into the 3-4 defense very well, is also given a 2 year 10 million dollar deal. This time, it’s back loaded. 2019’s 3 million dollars looks good. 2020’s 7 million dollars looks steep. Another 1 year 5 million dollar deal with 2 million in dead cap pushed down the road or a bloated 2nd year. Both options are foolish.
Jordan Hicks was one of the best signings in the entire offseason. 4 years 34 million which concludes before he turns 31. A core piece for the middle of your defense. Signed for half the going rate of Mosley, and nearly 6 million dollars cheaper per year than Kwon Alexander. He got Hitchens money and Hitchens is far inferior to Hicks. Beautiful signing that you can front load and have on the books as a value contract as your team starts to ascend. I’m sorry, I forgot we were talking about Arizona for a second, and Arizona is going to Arizona. Back loaded again, what a shock. 6 million in 2019 when they aren’t going to contend for anything. 28 million left for the next 3 years when a rising team would like to have cap to spend.
You can’t make up this type of financial incompetence. Although, it is not uncommon. Are they even trying to win? Do they have any sense of when competitive windows open? Or that they aren’t in one yet? Between Alford, Suggs and Philon, Arizona has created 7 million dollars of dead cap for 2020 to force players into 2019. You can take Alford, Clay and Reed off this team and see absolutely no impact to the on-field product. By removing that 7 million dollars of cap they could have paid Suggs all his money in 2019, kept Philon on a normal 5/2 and paid Hicks a flat 8.5/4. Instead, they kicked it down the road. These little things add up.
But there’s more wasted money.
Seattle has to be rolling on the floor laughing. Again, someone saw their chance and put on the dunce cap and ran with it. J.R. Sweezy, has the personality of the guard you want. Unfortunately he’s a bad player. In 2016 Tampa Bay found out when they bought him away from Seattle and handed him a 6 year 32.5 million dollar deal. He lasted 2 years of that deal. Tampa cut him and Seattle scooped him back up for 1 year 2 million, with half a million of that amount incentive based. Then he hits the market again and here comes Arizona. 2 years 9 million. Again, it’s back loaded. Likely to be a 1 year 5.5 million dollar deal with 1.5 million dead money in 2020. Broken record, bad cap discipline. Seattle signed Iupati for 2.5 million and while Iupati is not very good anymore, he is still the better player between the two.
Arizona signs 3 players to 1 year deals that are veteran minimum level talent. Max Garcia, Brett Hundley and Kevin White. They pay them 5.375 million dollars combined. Veteran minimum salary is 2.685 for the 3 players. They’ll make zero impact and they’ve lit another 2.7 million dollars on fire.
Rodney Gunter, Damiere Byrd, and Tramaine Brock were the last 3 players Arizona signed before the draft and every single one of them is near the minimum or at a bargain price. You can honestly argue that Brock is every bit as good as Alford. 1.35 million versus 6 million this year with a 3 million poison pill. Equal talents. You take Brock every single time in the situation Arizona is in. You should have signed 2 more just like him. Despite a quality season, Gunter received very little interest on the market and came back for a very reasonable 1.75 million. Byrd is a body at slot WR. He came in at a low 720K. White cost twice as much and will be 400k (his bonus) wasted when you cut him before the season starts. Josh Shaw, who is essentially a camp body was also signed for the veteran minimum. Recently they signed Maxx Williams who is a better player with higher upside than Charles Clay at this point in their careers. Maxx Williams is likely to be 1.2 million dollars cheaper. Again, this is what patience gets you.
The pattern for Arizona all offseason was to rush into paying players who aren’t worth anything, only to then push money into the future to keep adding pieces. If they simply waited it out, they could have saved roughly 13 million dollars of waste. Instead they paid zero impact players like Alford, Clay, Reed, Sweezy, Garcia, White and Hundley. They are now flush up against the cap and looking at a list of free agents who are still available while being better than the players they signed. They’ve pushed 8.5 million of dead cap into 2020. They made their only core addition’s (Jordan Hicks) contract a lesser value in the future.
If this doesn’t strike you as consequential, I understand. Arizona had chump change to work with this offseason. However, if your GM can’t count change properly, what do you think will happen in 2020 when you hand him the check book? Arizona has 70 million dollars of cap space in 2020. 80 million, when you count in the rolling cuts of Alford, Sweezy and Philon. It foreshadows bad things. Arizona currently has 16 million dollars of dead cap on their books from 3 terrible QBs. Let me reiterate, bad things!
Despite this financial messiness and cash out avoidance being a bigger concern that future cap space, Arizona has done some good things along the way. Claiming Swearinger last year, when Washington went coo-coo, was a great snag at his price tag. Trading a 6th round pick for a 5 million dollar 1 year deal on Marcus Gilbert could prove to be a huge boost to Arizona’s OL or at least push Korey Cunningham into a depth swing tackle role. All in all, it’s easy to like the “who.” Hicks, Swearinger, Suggs and Gilbert are nice additions at the right dollar amount. Unfortunately, “how” they structured deals lessens the impact they could have made going forward and there are of far too many “what (the f-) are you doing” additions. It’s sloppy, it’s hasty, it’s wasteful and it’s haphazard. Despite adding a few quality players at the right price, Arizona’s offseason gets a C- grade.