Arizona Cardinals slammed in 2021 NFL free agency grade: 'Big risks, dubious rewards'

Jeremy Cluff
Arizona Republic
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The Arizona Cardinals have received a lot of praise for their moves in NFL free agency so far, but not everyone is high on the team's acquisitions.

One NFL writer is actually not high on the team's moves at all.

Pro Football Network's Mike Tanier recently gave the team a D+ for its offseason moves for the 2021 season.

He wrote: "If your college roommate’s father-in-law, who has been in your fantasy league since 2009 but stopped watching football about six years ago, was given a job as a real NFL general manager, this is what his offseason would look like."

Arizona's grade was tied with six other teams.

Only four teams received worse marks.

The Cardinals were in the "big risks, dubious rewards" category with two other teams, right above the "biggest losers" category, which included two teams with Ds and two with Fs.

Tanier wrote that he considered giving Arizona an even worse grade.

He wrote: "The Cardinals would be graded more harshly, except: A) They’ve still got a ton of in-house business to do; B) Acquiring Hudson was a wise move; and C) C’mon, it’s J.J. Freakin’ Watt."

Razing Arizona:Cardinals' signing of A.J. Green slammed in NFL free agency grades

Pro Football Network wasn't the only site to question the Cardinals for their free agency moves.

Pro Football Focus criticized the team's neglect of the secondary in the period so far.

Anthony Treash wrote: "The Cardinals ranked 26th among NFL teams in outside-coverage grade in 2020, and the play from Patrick Peterson and Dre Kirkpatrick had a lot to do with that. The veteran duo departed in free agency, which has left Arizona in need of two new starting outside corners. Still, they decided to do nothing to address this in free agency, other than re-signing Robert Alford after they initially cut him. And I wouldn't bank on Alford filling one of those starting spots and producing at a high level — he hasn’t played a down since the 2018 season when he posted a 53.1 coverage grade. Arizona is now stuck hoping that one of the top cornerbacks is still on the board at Pick 16 in the 2021 NFL Draft. Taking a corner there isn't a bad thing, but it is risky to bet on there being a quality corner — such as Caleb Farley or Patrick Surtain II — still available when they are on the clock."

Touchdown Wire's Doug Farrar was not impressed with the team's signing of A.J. Green, giving it a D and including it on a list of the "worst NFL free-agent signings in 2021."

He wrote: "A.J. Green made the Pro Bowl in each of his first seven seasons in the NFL, which is pretty remarkable when you consider that Andy Dalton was his primary quarterback through that time. From 2011 through 2017, Green ranked fourth in targets (949), fifth in receptions (556), fourth in receiving yards (8,213), and sixth in touchdowns (57). At his peak, Green was unquestionably one of the best receivers in football, but his age 32 season with the Bengals was his worst by far. Last season, Green caught just 47 passes on 104 targets for 523 yards and two touchdowns. He hasn’t played all 16 games in a season since 2017, and it’s a mystery as to why the Cardinals would spend $6 million guaranteed on a one-year to find out if 2020 was an aberration."

Praising Arizona:Cardinals a big NFL free agency winner, one of most improved teams

Arizona Cardinals GM Steve Keim has received a lot of praise for some of his moves this offseason, but not everyone is a fan of them.

Several other sites and writers have a much more favorable view of the Cardinals' moves, however.

CBS Sports gave the Cardinals a B- grade.

It wrote: "Adding J.J. Watt before free agency was a splashy move, if not a bit of an overpay. And Golden is a fine rotational pass rusher to keep around. But Green is a low-floor gamble out wide at this point in his career. The Hudson addition helps offset that, giving Arizona a more formidable front."

Pro Football Focus graded the Cardinals' moves as "above average."

 Sam Monson and Brad Spielberger wrote: "It’s true what they say about retirees moving to Arizona because the Cardinals have loaded up on 30-plus-year-olds this offseason in their bid to get over the hump and return to the playoffs for the first time since 2015. They kicked things off by signing future Hall of Fame edge rusher J.J. Watt after he was released by the Texans, made an expensive trade of a third-round pick for center Rodney Hudson from the Las Vegas Raiders and signed another potential future Hall of Famer in wideout A.J. Green. Watt is the youngest of the group, having just recently turned 32, but is still playing at an elite level when healthy. His 85.4 grade in 2020 ranked seventh among all edge rushers. Hudson is still one of the league’s best pass-blocking centers but had quite the dropoff in 2020 from albeit meteoric heights in years past. After finishing with 90.0-plus pass-blocking grades in each of 2017-19 and 80.0-plus pass-blocking grades in every season of his career, Hudson graded out at 70.0 in 2020. He’ll be a huge addition for young quarterback Kyler Murray, as will Green if he can bounce back from a dismal 2020 season, but that seems a bit less likely. Green hauled in only 46.5% of his targets in 2020 —  both catchable and uncatchable — ranking 160th out of 163 wide receivers with at least 10 targets. Sticking with our elder statesmen theme, Kelvin Beachum's return may end up the strongest signing of the whole bunch. Beachum signed for the veteran minimum for the 2020 season and arguably provided the best value above his contract of any veteran player. He has spent time at both bookend spots during his career and didn’t miss a single offensive snap at right tackle in 2020, earning a very respectable 76.8 pass-blocking grade. Another good value deal was bringing back edge defender Markus Golden on a two-year, $5 million deal to be the third edge rusher — behind Watt and Chandler Jones."

Draft Kings Nation gave the Cardinals a B.

Jason B. Hirschhorn wrote: "Regardless of what the outside world believes, the Arizona Cardinals see themselves as contenders in 2021. That identity informs virtually all their decisions this offseason. Defensive end J.J. Watt provides a huge boost to a defensive line badly in need of juice while Rodney Hudson immediately becomes the premier piece on an improving offensive line. Wideout A.J. Green’s impact has lessened in recent seasons, but he can operate successfully with DeAndre Hopkins garnering most of the attention. The Cardinals’ departures, while not insignificant, don’t cancel out their gains. The biggest on the list, former All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson, has fallen off the past few years and could benefit from a fresh start. Haason Reddick delivered double-digit sacks last season, but Arizona felt understandably wary about giving a one-year wonder significant money."

Raising Arizona:Rodney Hudson trade grades: Cardinals earn rave reviews for Las Vegas Raiders deal

The Cardinals received high marks from Cards Wire for several of their recent moves.

Alex Sutton gave Arizona all As and Bs for its recent acquisitions of Markus Golden, Kelvin Beachum, Rodney Hudson, A.J. Green and Matt Prater.

He especially liked the trade for Hudson, writing: "Hudson will make an already elite Cardinals rushing attack even better, all while protecting Murray from the likes of Aaron Donald and other dominant interior threats. His statistics are beyond absurd. If there was a grade higher than A+, I’d put it here."

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