Bruce Cooper – Playing GM with the Cardinals roster and upcoming draft

(AP Foto/David Becker)

The Chiefs and Eagles matchup in Super Bowl LVII officially brings the 2022 NFL season to a close.  The 2023 NFL season officially opens for business on March 15, with the start of free agency and the lifting of the trade embargo. The Cardinals have a new GM, Monty Ossenfort, who will take on the challenge of building a playoff and Super Bowl contending roster. With that said, let me offer my advice or thoughts to Ossenfort relative to building up the Cardinals roster.


The Cardinals have a whopping 33 unrestricted free agents, most of whom will not be re-signed. Let’s focus on who should be inked to new deals and returned to the roster.


In-house free agents re-signed:

Byron Murphy jr.—DB

Antonio Hamilton—DB

Charles Washington—DB

Zach Allen—DL

Trysten Hill—DL

Jonathan Ledbetter—DL (Exclusive Rights Free Agent)

Ezekiel Turner—LB

Will Hernandez—OL

Greg Dortch-WR (Exclusive Rights Free Agent)

Aaron Brewer—LS

Andy Lee—P


Outside free agents signed:

Daron Payne—DL—Commanders (strong interior lineman solid against run.  Can generate inside pass rush. Key to Cards switch to 4-3 base defense) (my idea of a change in defense)

Charles Omenihu—DL—49ers (high energy, high motor guy.  A good piece to add to that 4-3 defense)

Ethan Pocic—OL—Browns (Replaces Rodney Hudson as new starting center)

O.J. Howard—TE—Texans (Adds depth given the uncertainty regarding Zach Ertz rehab from ACL surgery)

Gardner Minshew—QB—Eagles (Replaces Colt McCoy who struggled to stay healthy even in limited duty. Would be starter if Murray isn’t ready to go)


NFL Draft

**Cards trade 3rd overall pick to quarterback hungry Carolina Panthers for 9th overall pick and two 2023 second round picks (second of which comes via 49ers)


1st Rd

Bijan Robinson—RB—Texas (Robinson gives Cardinals what McCaffery gives the 49ers and what Barkley gives the Giants.  More importantly he brings that missing burst and explosion to the Cardinals running game. The Cardinals errored in trying to make a featured running back out of James Conner.  Conner (like Ezekiel Elliott) is a short yardage and goal line back.  Don’t buy into that rhetoric about not spending first round picks on running backs.  Robinson is too good to pass up.  You won’t find his talent and skillset in later rounds. His impact on the Cardinals offense would be immense and profound, opening up the passing game and taking pressure off Kyler Murray as a runner, especially coming off ACL surgery.)


2nd Rd

Antonio Johnson—DB—Texas A&M (Johnson brings tenacity and versatility to Cards secondary.  He can play outside corner, slot corner, dime linebacker and blitzer off the edge)

2nd Rd (from Carolina)

Andrew Vorhees—OL—USC (Vorhees strong in the run game.  Solid pass protector.  A big piece in addressing Cards interior offensive line)

2nd Rd (from Carolina via 49ers)

Gervon Dexter—DL—Florida (Brings size, length and versatility to defensive line.  Can play both 3 and 5-technique)


3rd Rd

Steve Avila—OL—TCU (Avila is a punishing run blocker. Can play both guard spots as well as center)

3rd Rd (compensatory pick)

Kevin Tucker—RB—Syracuse (Cards have to upgrade their running back room. Tucker brings track speed to the backfield.  Packages with both he and Robinson on the field is frightening)


4th Rd

Joe Tippmann—OL—Wisconsin (Cards center of the future.  Moves extremely well.  Another piece to the interior offensive line)


5th Rd (compensatory pick)

Josh Whyle—TE—Cincinnati (Big athletic player.  Nice hands.  Provides depth at the position)


6th Rd

Tavius Robinson—DL—Mississippi (Nice combination of size and athleticism. Has ability as edge rusher. End in 4-3 defense)

6th Rd (compensatory pick)

Andre Szmyt—PK—Syracuse (All-time Syracuse points leader.  Lou Groza award winner in 2019. Replaces Matt Prater as Cards placekicker)


7th Rd (compensatory pick)

Antoine Green—WR—North Carolina (Green was the Tar Heels big-play threat.  He will compete for a roster spot with Cardinals)