The Arizona Cardinals looked like the best team in the NFL at various points last season. Quarterback Carson Palmer stood in the pocket, took the hard shots that many claimed he couldn't take, and led the Cardinals to victory more often than naught. Arizona's one big goal going into the season was to keep Palmer on the field and they did that time and time again.
Value free agent signings, decent drafting and maybe just a bit of luck have led the Cardinals into contention. They have a roster with few real holes, and while there are several aging veterans that they're depending on, the foundation is still there. They will be good again next season, unless again, Palmer doesn't hold up.
I think it just comes down to Palmer again in the end. They will live or die on Palmer, but at the same time, they do have to make sure they put Palmer in the best situation for him to succeed. That means making sure the roster is up to snuff. Did they fulfill their needs in free agency or do they have holes heading into the NFL Draft?
First, a list of their biggest free agents.
S Rashad Johnson
S Tony Jefferson
TE Jermaine Gresham
RB Chris Johnson
DT Red Bryant
QB Drew Stanton
OT Bobby Massie
LB Sean Weatherspoon
LB LaMarr Woodley
Free agency recap
Obviously, when you talk about free agency, you have to talk about the Cardinals trading for Chandler Jones. Their top need in free agency was a pass-rushing linebacker, and they filled the need perfectly with Jones. He could do great things with the Cardinals and they didn't give up much to get him.
Unfortunately, they did lose top safety Rashad Johnson to the Tennessee Titans. That created a need at safety, and the Cardinals made their other significant move of the period by signing Tyvon Branch, though it's definitely a downgrade from Johnson.
The Cardinals did tender Jefferson and re-signed all of Johnson, Gresham, Bryant and Stanton. The last signing bugs me because I think he's a lousy backup but it is what it is.
NFL Draft needs
While the Cardinals fulfilled their need at rush linebacker and technically filled a whole at safety with Brnach, their other three biggest needs have gone unanswered. They don't have a starting-capable center and after trading an excellent guard for Jones, the offensive line only got weaker.
Then there's the cornerback position. Patrick Peterson is excellent, but the Cardinals will be hurting opposite him with Antonio Cromartie departing in free agency. They also need help at the offensive tackle position and again, I'm not sold on Stanton as a backup quarterback.
Drew Butler is also a terrible punter. They really need to replace him, but they re-signed him this offseason. Lastly, a defensive end opposite Calais Campbell would be good, but it's not a huge, pressing need.