An early look at the free-agents-to-be

Posted by Darren Urban on November 5, 2015 – 11:31 am

With the season halfway over and talk here and there about possible contract extensions, it felt like a good time to note who is scheduled to have their contract run out after the season ends. We’ve talked for a while about the secondary decisions that are coming, but in terms of players that are making an impact, it’s a lengthy list. This is only the players set to be free agents; There have been some of you wondering if, for instance, Tyrann Mathieu could get an extension. He is under contract through 2016, so I don’t expect anything soon. The Cardinals, according to the NFLPA, have about $5.3 million of cap space right now.


CB Justin Bethel
LB Dwight Freeney
TE Jermaine Gresham
RB Chris Johnson
S Rashad Johnson
G Ted Larsen
LS Mike Leach
T Bobby Massie
CB Jerraud Powers
C Lyle Sendlein
T Bradley Sowell
QB Drew Stanton
LB Sean Weatherspoon
LB LaMarr Woodley

WR Jaron Brown
P Drew Butler
LB Kenny Demens
S Tony Jefferson

(Tight ends Darren Fells and Ifeanyi Momah and defensive tackle Josh Mauro are all exclusive rights free agents, meaning they can be tendered and not go anywhere.)

Again, a long list. The restricted free agents, if you want to prevent them from hitting the market unfettered, can be tendered with one of three designations: A first-round tender (a one-year contract of about $3.3M), a second-round tender (about $2.3M) or the original draft spot ($1.5M). That means, if tendered, if another team signs them away, that team owes the Cardinals the tendered pick. Given that all those guys were undrafted, the Cards would get nothing for the low tender. It makes for hard decisions on a Tony Jefferson, and even to Jaron Brown.

As for the unrestricted guys …

It seems likely that the older one-year guys — Chris Johnson, Gresham, Freeney — would want to see what they might get on the open market. The secondary is the most intriguing area. It wouldn’t be a surprise that some team might want to swoop in and Greg Toler-contract a guy like Bethel, especially if they’d want him to start right away at CB. The Cardinals like Powers. They like Rashad Johnson too, but with all the safeties around, what will be the offer? What does the future hold (or rather, where is the future) for Deone Bucannon? Is he a linebacker or safety? That’ll come into play.


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24 Responses to “An early look at the free-agents-to-be”

  1. By D on Nov 5, 2015 | Reply

    This won’t be easy. I wonder how much we were discussing trading Mr. Massie earlier in the week, considering we have two, Watford and the Rookie waiting in the wings…appears he will walk at the end of the year without compensation coming back to AZ.

    Hate to lose any of the 3, R. Johnson, Bethel and Powers. I think they will have to keep Bucannon at LB (which will make for interesting contract talks in the future). Honeybadger is best as a jack of all trades, you move him to perm CB spot and he would be less effective, so Mr. Keim needs to keep at least 1 of the CBs.

    You know the HC at the Jets will be watching this closing considering Cromartie is having a bad year and has no guarantee $ after this year….

  2. By Chris B on Nov 5, 2015 | Reply

    For fun:
    I think they make an offer to Bethel and Rashad. I would guess that Massie will be allowed to check the market but may have an offer if he comes back.
    Weatherspoon is an interesting case as we don’t know if he can still play. I doubt he’ll settle for the same role here next year.
    Something tells me Stanton won’t be back, only because I think he goes to a place that may give him a shot to start. Hey, it happened for McCown.
    Powers will probably be offered something to return.

    I doubt Jaron Brown will be offered much, if anything. He could probably go to a team like the Panthers and play more.

    Jefferson is the most intriguing in my opinion. PFF did a “redraft” of the 2013 draft and had a high enough opinion of him to place him at pick #32 to the Ravens. I might tender him with a 2nd rounder considering how bad the play at Safety is in the NFL right now.

  3. By DTL on Nov 5, 2015 | Reply

    All good Qs. One thought, maybe Deonne still has S # on jersey b/c thats where he’s still headed.

    My guess at top priority UFAs to keep: Bethel, Powers, Gresham, CJ, Rashad, Drew. Also, wonder if ‘spoon wil get a role 2nd half?

  4. By krehbieo14 on Nov 5, 2015 | Reply

    Keim has a difficult assignment. I think that Bethel will be resigned and the Cards will move on from Powers for monetary reasons. We will probably part ways with most of our one year deal players with the exception of CJ who we try to resign. Massie, Sowell, Weatherspoon, Gresham, Freeney and Woodley (?) will be gone. Hopefully, Stanton will be resigned, but he may test the market if someone’s looking for a starter.

  5. By Brandon on Nov 5, 2015 | Reply

    Do we know if Darryl Washington is going to be back next year? Or do the Cards have any interest in keeping him at all after being suspended so long?

  6. By mitchaz on Nov 5, 2015 | Reply

    Some predictions: (YES—will be on 90 man roster heading to camp next year)


    CB Justin Bethel—YES
    LB Dwight Freeney—NO
    TE Jermaine Gresham—NO
    RB Chris Johnson—YES
    S Rashad Johnson—YES
    G Ted Larsen—NO
    LS Mike Leach—YES
    T Bobby Massie—NO
    CB Jerraud Powers—NO
    C Lyle Sendlein—NO
    T Bradley Sowell—YES
    QB Drew Stanton—NO
    LB Sean Weatherspoon—NO
    LB LaMarr Woodley—NO


    WR Jaron Brown—YES
    P Drew Butler—YES
    LB Kenny Demens—YES
    S Tony Jefferson—YES

    * BA will not want to move on from Powers, but signing Bethel is the priority.

    * Gresham might re-sign if he and the club can agree on a reasonable figure, likely with incentives.

    * Sendlein and Freeney might be signed after free agency and the draft if their positions are still of need.

    * If Steve Keim can add an edge rusher and an ILB in free agency, then it is quite possible that he could draft a QB in round 1 or 2. First 3 picks in draft a QB, a C and a CB.

  7. By Crow on Nov 5, 2015 | Reply

    i think drew stanton will get a chance to start somewhere……… it’d be nice to actually explore for a qb of the future

  8. By clssylssy on Nov 5, 2015 | Reply

    What a buzz kill! Would be nice to be able to enjoy a season without having to worry about the talent we will be losing and fans starting with the mock mock drafts!
    Since there doesn’t seem to be anything worth writing about, I’m surprised there wasn’t something on a subject most fans HAVE BEEN talking about, i.e. our weakness with our kickers and punter. I see that the Cards are working out some
    Special Teamers, Billy Cundiff, Randy Bullock, Brandon Fields during the bye week–any news?

  9. By CRamsey on Nov 5, 2015 | Reply

    Remember that Leach will turn 40 next year. He has performed well, but my bet is this is his last year playing and we have a new long snapper next year.

  10. By georgiebird on Nov 5, 2015 | Reply

    Let’s play some of the good teams on the schedule before getting involved with FAs. If the Cards compete well and win, it will become very clear which players should be kept. And if the Cards get outclassed in the 2nd half, it will be equally clear that the top line guys need to be changed.
    So let’s wait a few games into the 2nd half and then we’ll all be a lot smarter.

  11. By Darren Urban on Nov 5, 2015 | Reply

    Georgie —

    RE: FAs

    Or … or …

    I’ll just put the list out there and you can read it or not.

  12. By rod on Nov 5, 2015 | Reply

    If you don’t like it don’t look.

  13. By John The Draft Guy on Nov 5, 2015 | Reply

    Well we can’t sign them all. Especially when we sign T-Sizzle.

    My bold and way to early prediction;
    Coming off his injury, the ravens release Suggs and he ends up in AZ.

  14. By Eazy E on Nov 6, 2015 | Reply

    I’m in-season now, not in the offseason!

  15. By Marlin on Nov 6, 2015 | Reply

    I like mitchaz’s analysis.

  16. By Scott H on Nov 6, 2015 | Reply

    Geez, how amazing is it that Chris Johnson is as big a name on this list as any other??? He’s gone from not even existing ( as far as the Cards were concerned ) in June to a one-year flier to taking over as our starting RB to being the 2nd leading rusher in the NFL after 8 weeks and now to front and center for a contract extension. Wow. If he stays healthy, he is ABSOLUTELY the comeback player of the year for 2015. And that is with some of his own teammates ( Palmer and Fitzgerald ) doing all they can to claim that title for themselves.

    A great story that becomes even greater if this team makes it to the SB this year. The karma is there. It was another amazing comeback player that took us to a SB in 2008. This year, take your pick! This team is loaded with great comeback stories. Who knows…maybe the planets are aligning once again.

  17. By sbrown on Nov 6, 2015 | Reply

    no matter which direction the team goes here in the second half of the season, SK and his front office / scouts will now have their hardest off season since he has been in charge.
    A lot of roster changes could happen from the end of the season and the start of training camp next July.

    I still look at Inside LB, if Spoon and Woodley are gone, then SK must find a big talent ILB ( draft or FA ) to fill that need.
    Also can not go to sleep on the O Line, always looking for players there, If Massie, Larson, Sendlein are gone, Cards will need some depth to help there.

    Now it is just to enjoy the bye week and get ready for a big second half of the season.
    The players issues will be taken care after the season is over, remember “In Keim We Trust ” Go Cardinals all the way to SB 50 !

  18. By Big Ken on Nov 7, 2015 | Reply

    I like mitchaz analysis too. I say this is the year we draft a QB late in the first round, maybe move up.

  19. By mitchaz on Nov 8, 2015 | Reply

    I think that Todd Gurley has brought the romance back to 1st round RB selections, as every team wants a “beast mode” RB, a la Marshawn Lynch and now Todd Gurley. I could see a number of RBs in the 2016 draft garnering first round grades, assuming all of them come out: Ezekiel Elliott (Ohio St.), Leonard Fournette (LSU), Dalvin Cook (FSU), James Connor (Pitt), Nick Chubb (UGA), Devontae Booker (Utah) and Derrick Henry (Alabama)…etc.

    What the Cardinals need to know is whether Chris Johnson can hold up physically for the duration of the season—which is why I think it is still premature to try to sign him to a new contract, unless the contract is ultra team friendly. The Cardinals also need to determine whether David Johnson can be the lead RB. David Johnson has been such a wonderful surprise because he is as fast, sure-handed and sudden as advertised, and he, thus far, has been tougher running up the middle and off-tackle than advertised.

    Could the Cardinals conceivably draft a RB in the first round? In my opinion, because of the RB talent and the philosophy of BPA—yes—they really could. You know BA—he makes it very clear that he goes to the Combine each year primarily to look at RBs and WRs.

    Some may ask—what about Andre Ellington? In my opinion, the Cardinals should use Ellington the way the Rams are now using Tavon Austin and the way the Patriots use Julian Edelman—line him up primarily in the slot, run him on reverses, quick screens and a variety of pass patterns, all designed to get him the ball in space, where he is a threat to go the distance every time he touches the ball.

    What the Cardinals need is a tough, physical grinder—in so many ways Ezekiel Elliott is BA’s dream kind of RB, because he is super competitive, he pounds the rock and gets stronger with each carry, he’s outstanding in short yardage situations, he’s a solid receiver and he is textbook at taking the romance out of the blitz in pass protection. If he is on the board when the Cardinals pick—Elliott could be very hard to pass up. That kid is a winner.

    Anyone see Dalvin Cook’s performance last evening versus Clemson? Man. He is Andre Ellington with run after contact ability.

  20. By cards62 on Nov 8, 2015 | Reply

    I thought more people would hope we sign Gresham to a longer contract. BA loves 2 tight end sets, and his past with Carson. I like what I see out of him and feel he will put up even better numbers for us in the second half.

    MitchAZ – I agree with you Elliott first and Henry second will be very hard to pass on late in the first round if still on the board. FSU Cooks is pure speed, but with all of our other needs 2nd or 3rd round on him. With all the great running backs coming out in the draft might not be too many takers for Chris Johnson so hopefully we can resign him for 2-3 years for not much money.

    Powers, Bethel, and Johnson are not perfect, but I want all 3 of these guys resigned.

  21. By mitchaz on Nov 9, 2015 | Reply

    I agree with you, cards62. I would like to see Steve Keim sign Gresham and the trio of Powers, Bethel and Johnson. The reason why I predicted no to Powers is that if he and Bethel command higher salaries, the Cardinals may not be able to sign both of them. But my predictions were not based on what I am hoping for—like you, I want to keep three of them. I would like Freeney back on an incentives deal as a situational edge rusher—but, again, the Cardinals have to create cap space to do so.

    One of the key moves this off-season Keim has to make is resigning Michael Floyd—if he counts for over $7M next year on the cap, re-signing players like Gresham and CJ way be more difficult.

  22. By Big Ken on Nov 9, 2015 | Reply

    I wonder if the Cardinals take a look at Alex Mack center for the Browns next year. I guess he can opt out of his contract with Cleveland. He’ll command big money, probably not in the teams budget.

  23. By Robert Huerta on Feb 23, 2016 | Reply

    I feel like the Cardinals will have enough money for Alex Mack. If we can re-sign Rashad Johnson to a 4 million a year deal, and Gresham to a veteran deal then we would have about 12 million left for Alex Mack. We already signed Bethel, and we get a cornerback in the draft, along with pass-rush, to replace Powers.

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