Arizona Cardinals criticized for Jordan Phillips, Kenyan Drake, De'Vondre Campbell moves

Jeremy Cluff
Arizona Republic
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The Arizona Cardinals have received rave reviews for their moves overall so far this NFL offseason.

But some individual transactions from the team have been questioned by some writers who cover the league.

The DeAndre Hopkins trade appears to have been universally praised (or very close to it) for the Cardinals and general manager Steve Keim, but other moves have drawn some criticism.

Among them?

The team's signing of defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, the transition tag for running back Kenyan Drake, the signing of linebacker Devon Kennard, the deal with defensive lineman De'Vondre Campbell deal and the contract given to offensive lineman D.J. Humphries.

Check out some of the less-than-positive reviews for the Cardinals in NFL free agency so far.

Pro Football Focus and ESPN have been among the most critical of Arizona's moves.

MORE:DeAndre Hopkins trade: Arizona Cardinals, Houston Texans announcements show stark contrast

USA TODAY Sports: Cardinals signing of Jordan Phillips among most-questionable moves in NFL free agency

Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz wrote: "When any group performs better than the sum of its parts, it's probably not a wise idea to pay a premium for one of those parts. Inconsistent at creating pressure, Phillips assuredly owes a significant portion of his 9 1/2 sacks in 2019 to a formidable Bills defense that created many favorable situations for him to clean up. And in a division with the run-heavy 49ers and Seahawks, the Cardinals could find themselves frustrated by the five-year veteran's spotty work at the point of attack."

Pro Football Focus: Cardinals overspent on deal for Devon Kennard

Ben Linsey wrote: "The Cardinals needed an edge rusher to fill in opposite Chandler Jones, and it appears that Kennard is going to be that guy. Throughout his career, Kennard has been a solid contributor against the run, recording run defense grades of 68.0 or higher every season after his rookie year with the New York Giants in 2014 where he played almost exclusively off-ball linebacker. What he hasn’t been able to do is provide a consistent pass rush since moving to the edge. Since 2015, Kennard has produced pass-rushing grades below 60.0 each year. His career high in pressures came at 40 last season, but even that was at a pressure rate below 10%. Paying players like that $10 million per year on multi-year deals is not ideal. "

Did the Arizona Cardinals overpay for defensive tackle Jordan Phillips (97) and other free agents in NFL free agency? Some writers think so.

ESPN: Jordan Phillips signing a big risk for Arizona Cardinals (they gave the deal a C)

Bill Barnwell wrote: "Yet another player signing a three-year, $30 million pact, Phillips racked up 9.5 sacks in a breakout season in Buffalo. Neither the tape nor the numbers suggest that Phillips is likely to repeat that total; he finished the season with 16 knockdowns and a pass rush win rate of 10.1%, which ranked 71st in the league. ESPN’s automated analysis suggests that Phillips created only five sacks, all for himself. Even a fallback season for Phillips would help the Cardinals, who didn’t get much of a pass rush from their defensive line in 2019 after Darius Philon was cut before the season. The only D-lineman who popped occasionally was Rodney Gunter, who is now a free agent. Outside linebacker Chandler Jones continues to play at a high level, but the Cardinals badly need an interior disruptor to help draw attention away from the former Patriots standout. Phillips is coming in to play that role, but I’m skeptical that he’ll hit that 9.5-sack total again."

Pro Football Focus: Cardinals' deal for De'Vondre Campbell a curious one

Ben Linsey wrote: "It’s hard to get too down on a one-year deal, but Campbell simply hasn’t produced even average starting level play for the Atlanta Falcons over the last two seasons. There have been 57 off-ball linebackers that have played 1,000 or more defensive snaps over the past two years. Campbell’s overall grade of 52.4 ranks 50th in that group, just above the recently released Alec Ogletree. The Cardinals will be hoping that Campbell can get back to his 2017 form (69.1 overall grade, 23rd among linebackers), but recent results make this appear as an overpay on the part of Arizona."

MORE:How many wins will Arizona Cardinals get in 2020 after DeAndre Hopkins trade, other moves?

Pro Football Focus: Cardinals signing of Jordan Phillips unlikely to pay off

Ben Linsey wrote: "Don’t chase the sack numbers. It is really just that simple. Yes, Phillips may have hit the double-digit sack threshold, but you don’t want to base a contract off 10 plays in a season in which a player played over 500 snaps. The truth is that Phillips was a below average pass rusher in 2019, earning a pass-rushing grade of just 60.5 on the year. That is not outside of the normal range of events for him, either. In five NFL seasons, he has yet to record a 60.0 overall grade. It appears as if the Cardinals have fallen victim to chasing the sacks here, and it’s unlikely to pay off for them."

ESPN: De'Vondre Campbell deal an example of what not to do in free agency (they gave the deal a D-)

Bill Barnwell wrote: "The Cardinals have already won the offseason with the DeAndre Hopkins trade, but this is an example of what not to do in free agency. Campbell has been a starring member on one of the league's worst defenses over the past four years while playing alongside a genuine star in Deion Jones. He has been stretched both against the run and the pass, allowing a passer rating north of 100 in each of the past two seasons. Campbell, an off-ball linebacker, also plays arguably the easiest position to fill on defense. I wouldn't want to make Campbell a priority, but his talent or the decision to add him to the Cardinals' roster isn't why this grade is so low. The problem is his contract. This is a one-year, $6 million deal that could get up to $8.5 million with incentives, which is way too much for a player who hasn't proved himself to be even an average NFL starting linebacker at this point. Even if Campbell does play well, the Cardinals will have to compete with the open market to bring him back, so the reward here is extremely modest. Even worse, to create cap room, the Cardinals actually gave Campbell a five-year deal with four voidable years to reduce the cap hit they'll face from this contract in 2020. His deal automatically voids five days after the Super Bowl, and the Cardinals will automatically eat $4 million in dead money on their 2020 cap. It's one thing when the Saints build in that structure to retain Drew Brees or the Eagles do it to create cap space as part of Lane Johnson's contract. If you're adding four voidable years to try to squeeze a marginal player like Campbell onto your roster, it should be a sign that you're not managing your finances well. The Cardinals just refinanced their car loan and put a bunch of the payments off until next year so they could buy some fuzzy dice."

MORE:NFL mock draft: Arizona Cardinals select offensive lineman after DeAndre Hopkins trade

Some NFL writers questioned the Arizona Cardinals' signing of De'Vondre Campbell.

Pro Football Focus: Kenyan Drake transition tag wasn't a great move for Cardinals

Anthony Treash wrote: "Considering the transition tag on Kenyan Drake comes with a cost of around $8 million, this wasn’t a great move. He was just the 25th most valuable running back of the 2019 season, yet he will be the sixth highest paid. Drake does bring some solid receiving ability to the table, as he recorded a 76.3 receiving grade from Week 9 and on with the Cardinals, which ranked among the 10 best at the position. Still, the juice is not worth the squeeze."

ESPN: D.J. Humphries deal has big question marks (they gave the signing a C-)

Bill Barnwell wrote: Humphries parlayed his first healthy, productive season with the Cardinals into a player-friendly extension. The former first-round pick missed 37 games over his first four years, but he started all 16 games on the left side last season and allowed just two sacks by Stats LLC's measures. Humphries did commit 13 penalties, but the Cardinals were clearly impressed. This three-year deal includes $29 million in guaranteed money over the first two seasons and would allow him to hit the free-agent market again before turning 30, both of which are pluses given his relatively limited history of success. From the Cardinals' perspective, you can understand why they would prefer to take the plunge with a lineman they know. The free-agent market at left tackle is limited to veterans such as Jason Peters and Greg Robinson, each of whom have their own flaws. Arizona could be in line to draft a tackle with the No. 8 overall pick in April's draft, but by signing Humphries, it is free to use that pick on defensive help or to add another weapon at receiver. The Cardinals should have been able to get a fourth non-guaranteed year on this deal, and I have reservations that Humphries will stay healthy in 2020 and 2021, but unless they thought a franchise left tackle was going to fall to them at No. 8, signing him was likely the best of a few bad options."

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