Cardinals’ future up in the air with free agency period looming

1-19 powers bump and run

BY: ED COLE

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Arizona Cardinals have a month and some change (March 7-9) before they can reach out and start negotiating with their free agents, of which they have 26 (16 unrestricted, 6 restricted, 4 exclusive rights).

While it would be nice if Arizona was able to keep all 26 players, that’s almost impossible to do in this day and age of free agency, with big dollars being tossed around by different teams like it was candy.

Cornerback Jerraud Powers is one of those 16 unrestricted free agents. This isn’t his first free agency rodeo. He spent the first four years of his career with the Indianapolis Colts, before signing a three-year deal with the Cardinals back in 2013.

Powers would love to return to the Cardinals for another three years or more, because he feels that the team has something special going with the secondary they’ve assembled. Providing he, safety Rashad Johnson (unrestricted free agent) and safety Tony Jefferson (restricted free agent) all come back, Powers thinks the Cardinals can make more magic happen in 2016-17.

“We’ve achieved a lot with being put in some tough situations with the guys we have,” Powers said. “We’re asked to do a lot in the secondary. We cover up for a lot, and we got the right guys, (and) the right personalities. Everything fits, (and) everything works. Of course I want to be here, (and I) want to end my career here, and be a part of the great things this team’s gonna achieve, but at the end of the day, it’s the NFL. If they want me, I’ll be back, but if they don’t, you gotta do what’s best for your family.”

In three short years, Cardinals general manager Steve Keim has become a chess master. He’s made over 600 roster moves since taking his post, with 44 of the 53 men on the 2015 roster coming in during that time.

Keim’s brought in some veterans on one-year deals – running back Chris Johnson, tight end Jermaine Gresham, linebacker LaMarr Woodley, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, defensive tackle Red Bryant, linebacker Dwight Freeney – and each and every one of them were integral parts in Arizona’s special season.

Come early-to-mid-March, we’ll see how many of these veterans return to the Cardinals, once the negotiations start, but one thing is definitely certain: If nobody comes back, Keim and his staff will do their level best to keep the core of the Cardinals roster intact. At the end of the day, that’s most important.

“This team’s done a good job of doing that the past three years, so hopefully, we’ll be able to continue to do that, and continue to build, and add the pieces we need to get over the hump and get to the Super Bowl,” Powers said. “Each year is a different team, (and) you don’t know how it’s going to pan out. This is the time when the business side kind of kicks into play, and everybody knows how the NFL business is.”

Freeney was an amazing get for the Cardinals. He was in a state of transition in his life when his cell phone rang on the airplane, and it was head coach Bruce Arians on the other end wanting to know if he’d join him on his quest for a world championship.

Arians and the Cardinals couldn’t have been more elated when Freeney dropped everything to join them in West Virginia mid-season. He was a pleasant surprise for Arizona, as he led the team in sacks with eight in 11 games.

As far as Freeney’s future goes with the team, he says he’s going to take a month or so to clear his head from everything that went on at the NFC Championship Game, and allow any and all thoughts, be they good or bad, to dissipate. Then, and only then, will he be ready to think about his next step, be it with the Cardinals, another team, or retirement.

“This has been a great experience, and a great ride here, (with) great fans,” Freeney said. “Everybody’s been great around here. It’s like another home for me.”

If Freeney does return to the NFL next season, it’ll be his 15th year in the league, which is a remarkable achievement for any player, regardless of which position they play.

Right now, Freeney’s biggest priority is, like Powers, doing what’s best for him and his family. Freeney would also like to return to the Cardinals if everything falls into place, and the team welcomes him back.

“I love this game, I still do,” Freeney said. “I just have to be in the right situation, and a team that wants me, and hopefully it’s here. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I have to evaluate it (with) what I’m gonna be off the field as well (with) the hits and how my body’s gonna feel.”

“I’ve been semi-lucky in a sense. I’ve had some major injuries, but I’ve been able to bounce back from them,” Freeney said. “I don’t know. There’s a lot of things I need to think about here, and that’s why I’d like to take the time to do so.”