“We’ve got to get a little more healthy,” Bidwill said. “When you look at offense, defense we were in pretty good shape last year, although there were some plays we could have made that could have got us over the top. I think when you look at special teams, we were 32nd in the league and so we made a lot of changes around special teams and the draft is going to help us get some depth there. And so we are excited about the draft, the players we’ve got going into this year…”
On defense, the Cardinals finished No. 2 overall in yards per game allowed (305.2) and 14th in points per tilt (22.6). On offense, Bruce Arians’ team finished No. 9 in yards per game (366.8) and sixth in points per contest (26.1). Football Outsiders ranked Arizona’s defense third in the NFL while the offense 18th in efficiency in 2016. The special teams unit ranked in the bottom third on seemingly every metric.
Although it’s a high price to pay, the Cardinals now have one of the NFL‘s most talented defensive backfields with Baker joining All Pros Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu.
Undersized at just under 5-foot-10 and 193 pounds, Baker is billed as a ferocious competitor with outstanding speed and instincts. He has been compared to former Colts Defensive Player of the Year Bob Sanders for his ability to attack the line of scrimmage in the run game and timely blitzes.
Arizona has lost seven players in free agency this season, including two of the top 13 on the market, as ranked by NFL.com, in DL Calais Campbell and cheap jerseys and DB Tony Jefferson. Also gone is LB Kevin Minter. A team losing more or better compensatory free agents than it acquires in the previous year is eligible to receive compensatory draft picks, per league rules. The Cardinals have not signed a player who was ranked in NFL.com’s top 101 free agents, so the expectation that Arizona will be receiving compensatory picks is certainly reasonable. Compensatory picks are awarded for Rounds 3-6.
The Cardinals hold the Nos. 13, 45 and 77 selections over the first three rounds of this year’s draft. Among their primary needs are linebacker, quarterback and defensive back.
The former first-round pick visited the Cardinals on Monday and signed with them Tuesday, the team announced. Jones, 27, took the field in 14 games last year, logging a sack and an interception.
Phased out by the ageless James Harrison and the young Bud Dupree, Jones was going to be a complementary player wherever he ended up going in free agency. In Arizona, he has the chance to work with a defense that is primed to make up for a lackluster 2016.
“There were a lot of factors, but it was a difficult decision for sure,” Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill told NFL.com, adding there was a consensus among himself, coach Bruce Arians and general manager Steve Keim to release Floyd. “Deeply disappointed it didn’t work out. He was a 2012 first-round draft choice for us, a person we thought would eventually take Larry Fitzgerald’s position and be the No. 1 receiver for the future.”
With his rookie contract expiring, Floyd was set to reach free agency in March. All but eliminated from the playoff picture following last week’s loss at Miami, the Cardinals opted to pull the cord with three games remaining in a disappointing season.
“I want to thank the Cardinals organization, especially Mr. Bidwill and Steve Keim for drafting and believing in me, and their continued support,” Washington released in a statement. “We’ve had some really positive and productive discussions this week, and at the end of the day we mutually agreed it was best for both sides to get a fresh start. I’m in the best shape of my life, and very much look forward to the next opportunity, where I will again play at an All-Pro level and help my team make a championship run.”
Washington, who hasn’t played in the NFL since 2013, was conditionally reinstated by the NFL earlier this week. He had been suspended since May 2014 for violating the league’s Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. The ban was tied to a marijuana violation, for which Washington sought counseling.