This was an astonishing move by Kevin for so many reasons, but that’s a different issue. Right now the question is what’s changed team-wise?
Which players benefit most? Well, certainly Chandler Jones does. Teams cannot double team more than one player so somebody who usually faces a double team; won’t. Next in line might be Zach Allen or maybe Angelo Blackmon. Whoever plays the opposite DE with Jones often charging from that side, Phillips in the middle and Watt manhandling people on the other end, the opposing DE’s obstacle should be isolated at best. Of course, Phillips was signed because he demonstrated he could collapse the pocket and pressure the QB up the middle. So he figures to be far more explosive next season. I would think 8 sacks would be a real possibility.
All of this means that if Jones & Phillips can return to form, Watt may also benefit injury-wise. He has been the most double-teamed player in the game. The tremendous exertion of coping play after play leads me to understand part of his injury history. Even if you assume Reddick is gone it only makes sense it will be a much easier game for Watt.
Recent research indicates a great pass rush can’t fully compensate for a weak secondary. Still playing corner has to be easier if the QB is constantly running for his life. Another position just got simpler.
Free agency is impacted. Of course the size of the contract means the cap will effect signing free agents. I can’t imagine the Cards can pay Reddick. In fact he was weak against the run and disappeared almost completely in a few games. They clearly have enough rush without him. A cheaper option is likely. They could afford Golden but he was also not sturdy against he run. They will likely cut Kennard for cap savings. Someone could be signed. I wouldn’t be shocked to see them settle for Golden in the end. He knows the defense. He should be able to contribute to the rush and be more controlled when playing the run. He won’t be All Pro, but should be adequate.
Turning to the draft, keep in mind as I’ve been saying, despite many gurus assigning the Cards an Edge Rusher in the draft, this is a risky draft. Edge Rushers especially in this draft require an extreme amount of projection. This is yet another reason this was such a big signing. Now I would imagine any Edge Rusher chosen by the Cards would be a late round stab.
Of course the major remaining defensive concern is what to do at CB. They don’t have too much opportunity regarding reworking contracts. Plus if they chose to do so, they would compromise future seasons even if the players cooperated. So it looks like the issue is whether money is everything to Peterson. Clearly tagging him at $15 mil is not realistic. He is no longer an elite CB. He is good. Would he settle for $10 mil? Seems unlikely but that’s the sensible offer on a one year deal. If he were to sign I would revise my opposition to Horn. He’s a press corner and I’ve always felt they worked best as a second corner. He is also a ballhawk. With a better rush, those interception opportunities will be there. If Horn lasts until 16, he would be a decent fit. Assuming Peterson passes, and if the Cards can get one of the top 2 CBs in the draft by trading this year’s 3 or next years 2, I’d make the deal. Still in the end I believe the Cards most likely will put together a compromised secondary and have to live with that.
With what I see as an elite defense even with the CB weakness, I’m inclined to go offense with the first pick. Forget RB. Sign a free agent or take one with the third(if they still have it) or the fifth. Either go WR or OL. The talk of Jones at guard, which should work, makes me think they go OL, probably Darrisaw or Vera-Tucker. They could move either of them inside leaving Jones at RT or flip them.
If they go WR, Toney is easily the preferred target. As to additional receivers, Fitz has been saying he’s been staying to get back to the Super Bowl. This is his chance. If he’ll sign for $3 million that gives the Cards a decent 3rd down weapon if Murray will use him that way. Fitz will extend possessions if given the chance. This will be a true test of how badly FItz wants to win.
Whichever way they go with the first pick, round 2 should fill the need they passed on in round 1.
Finally, put out a tweet. Who wants to play for a ring? You won’t get a ton of responses but we’ve seen in the NBA that there are rich vets who will sacrifice for one good chance at the big prize.
All this means the Cards have decided future is now. Forget the contract size. Forget Watt’s durability. The Cards have gone “all in” and hopefully will be rewarded for it. This was the kind of gutsy move teams seldom have the opportunity or courage to make. There are no sure thing roster constructions. I do, however, believe that fortune favors the bold. Look at Tampa’s signing of Brady. The Cards are also gambling Murray & Kingsbury move forward. If not next season will be interesting, but that’s another story.