Their moves weren’t of the blockbuster variety but the Arizona Cardinals at least did enough to make the NFC West interesting for the 2013 NFL season. Their trade for Carson Palmer not withstanding, what key moves in free agency and the draft may have landed them some untapped talent in a big year?
Offense – Ryan Swope
Getting a potential starter in the sixth round is hard to do in the NFL draft but the Arizona Cardinals may have accomplished it when they took Ryan Swope. He isn’t flashy but the Texas A&M product is proven commodity. Johnny Manziel liked to target him frequently last season where he displayed his 4.34 speed and an ability to find open areas in the defense with his quick feet. That kind of skill set says Swope is a born slot receiver, which is where the Cardinals will want him, between Larry Fitzgerald and 2012 1st round pick Michael Floyd. Provided his concussion issues are behind him it shouldn’t take Swope long to make an impression on new quarterback Carson Palmer.
Defense – Karlos Dansby
All the guy does is get ball carriers on the ground. Veteran Karlos Dansby left Arizona in 2010 and spent three productive seasons with the Miami Dolphins. After another free agency move he is back home, and just in time too. His replacement Daryl Washington looked like a star in the making last season but has since run into trouble. Not only is he facing a four-game suspension for substance abuse, but also assault charges for throwing his girlfriend to the floor by her throat. That could leave him in serious trouble not just for the season but with the coaches and front office. Dansby doesn’t bring any such baggage and his presence in the middle will serve as a vital anchor for a team moving on without their defensive coordinator Ray Horton.
Special Teams – Tyrann Mathieu
The “Honeybadger” got a lot of press during the early off-season, especially around the draft. People wondered if teams, because of his numerous issues on and off the field that a team might take a chance drafting him. The Arizona Cardinals showed that willingness when they took him early in the third round. It is a classic high risk/high reward proposition. Mathieu was the top defender in college football in 2011 with a knack for forcing turnovers. However, his somewhat overlooked value to the team, at least this coming season is his punt returning. He ranked fourth in all of college football at 16.2 yards per return last season, including two touchdowns. His presence will allow star cornerback Patrick Peterson to focus solely on defensive duties and still keep that threat level high every time a team chooses to punt the ball.