The Arizona Cardinals offense can’t be fixed by throwing large amounts of cash at free agents. If they are going to do this right, they are going to need to develop through the draft. They really don’t have much in the way of options based on their lack of wiggle room with the cap for next season.
Developing in the draft though, means giving your player’s time to develop. This has been proven time and time again to work better than just thrusting them into a starting role. Just look at Aldon Smith...
In order to not hinder your ability to build for the future, with cumbersome long term deals that result in costly releases new general manager Steve Keim will have to make his free agent additions on a bang for buck basis. They can’t afford the best player at any position and if they could they would be hard pressed to convince them to come to the desert. They can however provide player’s traditionally used in depth roles with an opportunity to start and at half the cost of the marquee free agents.
If there is one position on the Cardinals where they were worst last season, it has to be running back. They ranked 32nd in rushing yards a game with 75.
The Cardinals are going to have to get really creative to fix this position. Luckily for them, there is no shortage of great and affordable options in free agency.
At the top of the list is Chris Ivory. As a member of the Saints organization Ivory did yeoman's work in what was a very crowded backfield. The Saints are still trying to make Mark Ingram work and have their number one guy in Pierre Thomas. Darren Sproles takes all the passing reps. This left little in the way of room for Ivory to show off his ability. He took advantage of what few reps were sent his way though and averaged over 5 yards a carry last season. His career average is 5.1.
This player would be at the top of the list, if I didn’t think he would be resigned. Joique Bell of the Detroit Lions would be the best fit. He was thrust into relatively the same position as Chris Ivory. Put into a crowded backfield, with a team that was trying to make a former high draft pick work out in Mikel Leshoure. Bell averaged 5 yards a carry on 82 runs.
A player with maybe less potential to be a contributing starter, but one that could be a help nonetheless is Mike Goodson. Like the aforementioned Ivory and Bell, he was in a crowded backfield. Only difference was that he got traded out of Carolina’s running back stable and into Oakland’s. He saw limited playing time behind Darren McFadden but put up a solid 221 yards on 35 carries. His average was 6.3.
There is no certainty with who the Cardinals will pursue in free agency. The only certainty is their backfield will look very different next season. Beanie Wells was unproductive and essentially talked his way off the team. LaRod Stephens-Howling might leave in free agency, and Ryan Williams is perpetually hurt. This team is in need of a serious upgrade and might be able to find one at the right price.
You can follow J.D. Burke: @JDBurkeOV
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