If the Cardinals weren't a division rival, and if I didn't dislike them so much during the Kurt Warner years, I might almost feel bad for them
They did everything right last season. Hiring Bruce Arians was clearly the right decision; and while Carson Palmer is not at all a long-term solution, he is a fine stopgap who keeps the team competitive and allows them to draft and groom an eventual successor.
While the team has some good things happening on offense, it's the defense that really makes the team competitive. It fits in the NFC West like a proverbial glove. Like the 49ers' and the Seahawks' defenses, it's incredibly aggressive, playing with a physicality that intimidates most other teams in the league - it just so happens that the teams that can match this level of intimidation are in their division.
And this, I think, perfectly sums up the Cardinals' last season: they probably would have been the division champs in most of the other divisions. Yeah, Palmer was not perfect at times, and QB play is key in this league. But, this team has talent, and I think they are going to be quite good going forward. This is a scary team to have in the division; they deserve the 49ers' respect.
Before getting to the free agents and draft picks, it's worth noting that the Cardinals have already started to make some moves. The biggest so far has been the restructuring of Larry Fitzgerald's contract. This gives them a little more cap space with which they can maneuver this offseason. As it currently stands, they are sitting at a very healthy $17,062,087. They have also re-signed P Dave Zastudil and signed TE John Carlson. They cut ILB Jasper Brinkley.
Rashard Mendenhall, RB; Andre Roberts, WR; Jim Dray, TE; Kory Sperry, TE; Karlos Dansby, LB; Jeff King, TE; Eric Winston, OT; Mike Gibson, G; Frostee Rucker, DT; Matt Shaughnessy, LB; Antoine Cason, CB; Bryan McCann, CB; Yeremiah Bell, S; Jay Feely, K.
The really big name on this list is LB Karlos Dansby. He is an integral part of the Cardinals' defense, and I expect them to fight very hard to retain him. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, he is likely to be a hot commodity on the free agency market. According to Jim Wyatt on Twitter, the Titans are apparently in the hunt. I presume there will be more than just them, though.
First round - own: 20th
Second round - own: 20th (52nd overall)
Third round - own: 20th (84th overall)
Fourth round - own: 20th (116th overall)
Fifth round - own: 20th (148th overall)
Sixth round - own: 20th (180th overall)