The Arizona Cardinals have already been active before the NFL’s free agency period, which begins on March 16.
In case you missed it, the Cardinals announced the release of linebacker Jordan Hicks, who was the team captain in 2021. The 29-year old was under contract for one more season and was second on the team in tackles with 116. The move frees $6.5 million in cap space while carrying $3M in dead cap. The team also announced the tenders of exclusive rights free agents RB Jonathan Ward and WR Antoine Wesley.
The Cardinals weren’t done.
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According to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, veteran linebacker Devon Kennard restructured his contract as he’s in the final year of his three-year contract. It was a locked and loaded day for the Cardinals on March 9 as efforts were made to increase cap space for NFL free agency.
After all of the moves made, there seems to be a priority for the Cardinals.
Reporter Shares Input on Key Free Agent
Impending free agent Zach Ertz said on February 11 that he wants to be back with the Cardinals.
“I would like to (return to the Cardinals), I think I’ve made that very clear to everyone involved that I would like to be back in Arizona,” Ertz told 12 News’ Cameron Cox. “But at the end of the day, there’s a lot of things that are out of my control. There’s a lot of guys that are free agents and whatnot, there’s a lot of really talented players that are free agents. “But I’ve said all along, I want to be here.”
On March 8, NFL reporter Matt Verderame was told from league circles that the Cardinals have had conversations with Ertz and that there’s interest between the two.
A record three tight ends were franchise tagged in 2022 (Mike Gesicki, David Njoku, Dalton Schultz). This now makes Ertz the leader the pack for free agent tight ends.
The Cardinals traded rookie CB Tay Gowan and a fifth-round pick for Ertz in October of 2021 after tight end Maxx Williams suffered a season-ending injury. Ertz made three Pro Bowls with the Eagles and won a Super Bowl in his time with Philadelphia.
Ertz would catch 74 balls altogether in 2021 and was named as a finalist for the 2022 NFLPA Alan Page Award due to his charity work in both Philadelphia and Arizona.
Will Ertz Re-sign Before Free Agency?
According to Spotrac, Ertz’s market value is $7.4 million annually for two years. The Cardinals could see that number increase due to Ertz headlining a weak free agent group.
The Cardinals freed close to $7 million with the release of Hicks and it’s unknown how much Kennard restructured his $9 million cap hit in 2022.
It’s certainly a possibility the Cardinals won’t want Ertz to reach the open market. The veteran tight end was an important safety valve for Kyler Murray and the two hit it off from the start.
“It was one of those deals, you kind of click with the dude,” Murray said in October.
The Cardinals will still have Chandler Jones, James Conner, Christian Kirk, Chase Edmonds and A.J. Green enter free agency on March 16.
But seeing how important Ertz was in the passing game can help a team that has longed for stability at the tight end position. And if you want to talk about age, Ertz is one year younger than All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce.
Of course, Ertz probably won’t reach over 110 receptions as he did in 2018. But only six tight ends caught over 70 receptions in 2021 and Ertz was one of them.
General manager Steve Keim will have a decision to make regarding the 31-year-old soon.