AZ Cardinals Flight Plan: 2020’s Rebuilding Process Preview
When the majority of the NFL fans are probably still celebrating Tom Brady’s and the Patriots’ lost, some of the teams with no playoffs like Arizona Cardinals have started their new season preparation way before the Wild Card game was played. Within just a couple of weeks, Cardinals had made some moves and need more adjustments for the upcoming offseason.
- Vance Joseph returning as Cardinals defensive coordinator
According to Kyle Odegard on AZCardinals.com, it is confirmed by the Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury that Vance will be back.
“Vance will be back.”Kingsbury on Vance Joseph’s return
“I never wavered in that,” Kingsbury said. “His(Vance’s) approach, knowing what I know of him and watching him work, things I saw from the first day I was with him, I knew I wanted him to be here.”
After some games were lost by a huge amount of points, Vance Joseph was being criticized and said perhaps he’s an overrated defensive coordinator. However, I would say people can question his decision-making but was he really the person making those calls or was that on Kingsbury? Moreover, you have to give credit to what Vance has done. Although he has Pro Bowlers like Budda Baker and Chandler Jones in his defensive squad, Vance also got some awful players like DJ Swearinger who was released in the middle of the season. Not to mention that the cornerback position was hard to manage for AZ Cardinals because Patrick Peterson was out for 6 weeks and the 2nd-round rookie Byron Murphy needed much more NFL experiences.
The Cardinals have changed 4 Defensive coordinators for the past 4 years. It’s hard for any team to build when the strategies keep changing and definitely they have to believe in some coach, don’t they?
2. Kenyan Drake or David Johnson?
After Drake was traded to the Cardinals, he kept on building his rushing yards and on the other hand that was threatening David Johnson’s role in the team. Sadly, Drake became a free agent after the season and Arizona GM Steve Keim already said that he will try to bring Drake back in public. But what about the other all-star running back in the team, 2016 Pro Bowler David Johnson?
David Johnson’s role in the Cardinals was threatened by multiple factors. First, Steve Keim already said he will try to bring Drake back and his value is definitely at a high point. On the contrary, according to Spotrac, in 2019, David Johnson signed a 3 year, $39,000,000 contract with the Arizona Cardinals and now if the Cardinals want to remove some cap space to sign Drake, it is reasonable to trade David Johnson without a doubt. Second, the NFL sophomore running back Chase Edmunds had seized his NFL chance to shine on October 20th, 2019. During that game against the Giants, he had rushed 126 yards and got 3 touchdowns that led the team to a 27–21 Cardinals win. Chase is still on his rookie contract ( 4 years, $2,912,359), which is significantly cheaper than David Johnson and Kenyan Drake. In conclusion, the Cardinals are still in a rebuilding process and trying to build around the first pick, Kyler Murray, and it was not convincing to have spent a huge amount of money on both Johnson and Drake. It seems like Johnson is more like a backup plan so far for Arizona.
Spotrac: In 2019, David Johnson signed a 3 year, $39,000,000 contract with the Arizona Cardinals, including a $12,000,000 signing bonus, $31,882,500 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $13,000,000. In 2020, Johnson will earn a base salary of $10,200,000 and a roster bonus of $956,250, while carrying a cap hit of $14,156,250 and a dead cap value of $16,200,000.
3. The very first offseason plan for Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury
As a Cardinals fan, I have been really impressed with these two rookies’ improvements over their first NFL season. In 2019, sometimes Kingsbury used the timeout at a wrong point of time and sometimes Murray escaped from the pocket and threw a long pass that got intercepted. When the season went on for a longer period of time, the rookie quarterback and the rookie NFL head coach improved faster beyond my expectations. But, 2020 will be their first time to have an NFL offseason and are they ready for it or have they got a plan so far at this point?
For Kingsbury, we knew he loves to watch videos and therefore made some adjustments when the season kept rolling, but he needs to step up and does more than that. Those critical plays that cost them the games have to be stopped or lessened in the next season. Arizona fans will be harsh in 2020 because not only 5–10–1 is not good enough for any team but also neither Kliff or Kyler is a rookie anymore.
For Kyler, we could tell he worked hard enough to escape all over the field and sometimes made some big rushing plays with his superman speed, but in 2020, he needs to be consistent with these short passes and avoid those under-pressure passes turned into pass interceptions. Perhaps some fans will say the Giants rookie Daniel Jones threw way more interceptions than Kyler to defend this perspective, but personally, I will still say that Kyler need to improve faster because he is the shortest quarterback in the league and as the first pick in 2019 NFL draft, people just have bigger expectations on him than anyone. Kyler has to live with the pressure and made tremendous improvements.
“We’re not in the playoffs right now, we’re going home, and you can build off of the good things we did this year but we didn’t do enough,” guard Justin Pugh said. “It’s going to be a big offseason, just like every NFL offseason. Changes are going to be made, new faces are going to be in this locker room. It’s an exciting time and it’s a sad time.”
4. Larry Fitzgerald’s potential return
16 years have passed and yet Larry Fitzgerald can still make those diving catches as if he never gets old. But is he coming back for his 17th NFL season? Reporters have waited for the whole season and finally can ask the Legend once again in the media conference. When asked if he thought he might be playing his last game in the NFL, Larry said he didn’t think about it.
“You can’t have those types of thoughts on your mind,” Fitzgerald said. “For me, to be able to focus and play the way I’m capable of playing I’ve got to stay completely in the moment and that’s where I’m best served and at my best.”
but when Larry was asked about his future decision
“I’ve got to talk to Michael [Bidwill] and make sure that they want me back, even if that’s an option and you kind of got to go through the checklist and process but I love this organization with all my heart, I’ve given everything I’ve had for 16 years and I just got to take a little time to figure it out and obviously talk to the boss man.”
Kingsbury was asked about the conversation with Larry:
“Please come back. Yeah, that’s pretty much it. I don’t handle the money or any that kind of stuff, but please come back. I think he is playing as good as anybody .“Kingsbury said when asked about the conversation with Larry
Even his teammate was asked the same question:
“If I had to put my last dollar on it, I’d probably say he’s coming back,”Patrick Peterson said. “But you never know with Fitz, he’ll keep you guys in the dark just like he keeps us in the dark.”
There is no question that Larry is still leading the team on and off the field and the Cardinals need him in the rebuilding progress for sure. I hope the first good news in 2020 for any Arizona Cardinals fans in the world is that Larry Legend extends his contract.