The second week of the 2023 NFL league year has just begun, yet it feels like it’s been going on for much longer.
Perhaps that’s because nearly 400 players have either changed teams or re-signed in the last two weeks. Of that number, 190 will have new addresses this year. Those include players traded, signed as unrestricted free agents, signed after being released by another team or signed after not being tendered as restricted or exclusive-rights players.
The Cardinals continued their bargain shopping this week by re-signing UFA cornerback Antonio Hamilton Sr. and quarterback David Blough, who didn’t receive the minimum RFA tender of $2.627 million. His contract details aren’t known yet, but the 1-year deal is expected to be significantly less than the tender amount.
Added from other teams were wide receiver Zach Pascal (Eagles), offensive lineman Dennis Daley (Titans), defensive lineman L.J. Collier (Seahawks) and linebacker Josh Woods (Lions). While contract details aren’t known yet, Pascal and Daley are the only ones that signed 2-year contracts with the remainder being 1-year deals.
To that end, of the 16 players signed this offseason, no one has received more than a 2-year deal. Aside from Pascal and Daley, those signed for two years are right tackle Kelvin Beachum, right guard Will Hernandez, kicker Matt Prater, linebacker Kyzir White and center/guard Hjalte Froholdt.
Woods is the latest to agree to terms. Special teams are his calling card. Last season with the Lions where he was voted one of six captains, he played all 17 games and participated in 71 percent of the special-teams snaps. He was a team captain and tied for fifth in the league with 10 solo tackles. He played 10 snaps on defense in 2022. The previous season, he played 113 defensive snaps after being signed off the Bears practice squad on Sept. 23.
Meanwhile, when the agreement with Daley was announced earlier this week, Titans fans inundated Twitter with virulent comments about his performance in 2022 when he was pressed into action for 15 starts at left tackle after Taylor Lewan was lost for the season because of a knee injury.
With tackles Beachum, D.J. Humphries and Josh Jones under contract, it’s likely Daley was signed more as a guard and will be provided an opportunity to compete at the currently vacant spot on the left side.
As for Collier, he under-achieved as Seattle’s first-round pick (29th overall) in 2019 and was available as a free agent because the Seahawks did not exercise the fifth-year option on his contract.
After agreeing to terms, agent Scott Casterline told reporter Aaron Wilson, “Our main objective was getting L.J. to the right team, right coaching staff and right scheme. Look at what they did last year in Philadelphia. They play up field. Jonathan Gannon is what you want in a coach.”
Of course, a large part of the Eagles’ success was having many talented players.
That’s evident in the lengths the team went to re-sign defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and cornerbacks James Bradberry and Darius Slay, while losing defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, linebackers T.J. Edwards and White and safeties Marcus Epps and C.J. Gardner-Johnson as free agents.
The Hopkins conundrum
Meanwhile, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and his $30 million cap charge remain on the Cardinals’ roster amid persistent speculation about where he might be traded.
One thing is clear: It will be a great day when the situation is resolved just so the guessing will end.
One report Thursday claimed the Bills, Patriots, Raiders, Falcons and Ravens are the teams most interested in Hopkins. Naturally, another report mentioned the Bills but claimed the Ravens and Chiefs are “not among (the) bidders.”
It also must be questioned whether the supposed “hot market” for Hopkins actually exists at that level or whether it is fueled by it being talked about incessantly.
The reality is that if any team wanted Hopkins bad enough a deal would have been done already. Obviously, the Cardinals haven’t been offered enough to make a trade and teams are reluctant to send significant compensation to Arizona while adjusting his contract. As talented as he is, Hopkins will be 31 in June, has had injuries the lasty two seasons and has two years totaling over $34 million on his contract. None of it is guaranteed, which Hopkins surely wants to change.
It also can’t be emphasized enough the impact of recent trades.
The Rams received only a third-round pick and backup tight end Hunter Long from Miami for cornerback Jalen Ramsey who is two years younger than Hopkins. Then, wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who will be 30 in September, was traded by the Texans to the Cowboys for a fifth-round choice this year and a sixth-rounder in 2024. Plus, the Texans agreed to pay $6 million of Cooks’ $18 million scheduled base salary this year.
Yes, Cooks is not the caliber receiver of Hopkins. However, the deal shows the realities of the trade market in the NFL.
Cardinals set at quarterback?
Hovering over whatever the Cardinals are attempting to accomplish this season is the unknown of when Kyler Murray will be ready to play.
It’s good that he is currently working hard in his rehab from the torn ACL suffered on Dec. 12 against the Patriots. However, that has little bearing on where things will be at the end of July when training camp starts or at the beginning of the season in September.
It would be negligent to have Murray return to the field before he is 100 percent recovered, especially because of his style of play and reliance on his legs. In four NFL seasons, Murray has suffered eight injuries with five to his legs.
If he’s placed on physically unable to perform (PUP) to begin camp, he can’t practice until passing a physical. Going on reserve/PUP in the cutdown to 53 players would make him ineligible to practice until after the fourth game of the season.
If Murray is ready then, he would be practicing the new offense for the first time. Once activated from PUP, there is a 21-day practice period where the team can activate him or keep him on PUP for the remainder of the season.
There was ample talk the Cardinals would sign another quarterback to potentially compete with Colt McCoy for the starting job at the start of the season. He is under contract for 2023 with a base salary of $3.75 million, $2.25 million of which is guaranteed. McCoy counts $5 million against the cap.
Names like Jacoby Brissett, Gardner Minshew, Marcus Mariota and Joshua Dobbs were bandied about. However, all signed with other teams: Brissett with Washington, Minshew with Indianapolis, Mariota with Philadelphia and Dobbs with Cleveland.
The Cardinals then re-signed Blough, who actually showed grit and competitiveness when he had to start last season after being with the team for less than three weeks. He didn’t know he would start in Week 17 against Atlanta until Friday of that week. There will likely be one or two more young arms added for offseason work and training camp, but the signing of Blough fits economically with many of the other additions this offseason.
Overall, there have been 16 backups signed this offseason, 14 to new teams:
Kyle Allen, Texans to Bills: 1 year, $1.23 million, $350,000 guaranteed
Jacoby Brissett, Browns to Dolphins: 1 year, $8 million, $7.5 million guaranteed
Andy Dalton, Saints to Panthers: $2 years, $10 million, $8 million guaranteed
Sam Darnold, Panthers to 49ers: 1 year, $4.5 million, $3.5 million guaranteed
Joshua Dobbs, Titans to Browns: 1 year, terms unknown
Taylor Heinicke, Commanders to Falcons: $2 years, $14 million, $6.32 million guaranteed, $6 million incentives (will compete for starting job)
Case Keenum, Bills to Texans: 2 years, $6.25 million, $4 million guaranteed
Drew Lock, re-signed Seahawks: 1 year, $4 million, $1.75 million guaranteed
Marcus Mariota, Falcons to Eagles: 1 year, $5 million, guarantees unknown
Gardner Minshew, Eagles to Colts: 1 year, $3.5 million, $1.75 million guaranteed
Nick Mullens, re-signed Vikings: 2 years, $4 million, $1.92 m illion guaranteed
Cooper Rush, re-signed Cowboys: 2 years, $5 million $2.75 million guaranteed
Easton Stick, re-signed Chargers: 1 year, $1.8 million, $1.15 million guaranteed
Jarrett Stidham, Raiders to Broncos: 2 years, $10 million, $5 million guaranteed
P.J. Walker, Panthers to Bears: 2 years, $4 million, $3.01 million guaranteed
Mike White, Jets to Dolphins: 2 years, $8 million, $4.5 million guaranteed
Larger contracts were signed by starters Jimmy Garoppolo (49ers to Raiders), Derek Carr (Raiders to Saints), Daniel Jones (re-signed Giants) and Geno Smith (re-signed Seahawks). Baker Mayfield left for the Rams to the Buccaneers for one year and $4 million guaranteed with $4.5 million available in incentives.
Still available to be signed are Tim Boyle, Teddy Bridgewater, Chase Daniel, Jeff Driskel, Joe Flacco, Blaine Gabbert, Tyler Huntley (RFA Ravens), Josh Johnson, Trace McSorley (Cardinals UFA), Bryce Perkins, Nathan Peterman, Brett Rypien, Trevor Siemian, Nate Sudfeld, Carson Wentz, John Wolford
Bridgewater is the most intriguing name on the list. He played for a guaranteed $4.5 million salary with the Dolphins in 2022 and started two games.
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