The Arizona Cardinals have yet to address an important hole on the roster — adding a pass rusher.
With the loss of Pro Bowl Chandler Jones in free agency, there’s certainly a lack of firepower on the edges after Markus Golden, who led the Cardinals with 11 sacks in 2021. The free-agent market has been relatively slow at the EDGE position. There are numerous players available such as Jadaveon Clowney, Justin Houston, Melvin Ingram and Jerry Hughes.
But Clowney’s market value is projected at $12.7 million a year, per Spotrac. While the Cardinals could make it work, the team is in a bit of a cap crunch sitting at $5.9 million left in cap space. And Houston, Ingram and Hughes will all be 33 years old or older in 2022, respectively.
Arizona needs younger talent and Bleacher Report’s Alex Ballentine wrote on an overlooked player available.
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B/R Writes on Available Free Agent
Ballentine listed seven free agents that are deemed, in his opinion, the “NFL’s most underrated free agents left on the market.”
The No 1. most underrated free agent is defensive end Trey Flowers, according to Ballentine.
Flowers had seven sacks in his first season with the Lions but has had 3.5 sacks in the last two years combined while only playing 14 games due to injuries. That injury history probably explains why Flowers hasn’t found a home yet. At this stage, most free agents have baggage, but this is a player looking to prove something and carries upside.
Flowers is a solid starter when healthy. He’s only 28 years old and was consistent with at least 6.5 sacks in each season from 2016 to 2019. Flowers has played in just 14 of the last 33 games, so health could potentially be a concern.
Flowers was drafted by the New England Patriots in the fourth round of the 2015 draft. After missing 15 games of his rookie season due to injury, Flowers recorded 21 sacks in the next three seasons and won two Super Bowls with the team. He even posted five-and-a-half sacks in nine playoff games.
However, the Arkansas product wouldn’t live up to his five-year, $90 million contract with the Detroit Lions in 2019. Flowers’ injury concerns from his rookie season carried over to the 2020 and 2021 seasons, where he played just 14 games combined.
The Lions cut Flowers on March 16, freeing $10 million in cap space and making Flowers a free agent. Any team signing Flowers should know the risk when it comes to his availability. But if Flowers’ price tag makes sense, the risk could be worth the reward.
Watch Out for Flowers’ Former Team
Ballentine would later deem the Patriots as a possible fit for the pass rusher.
“A return to New England makes sense,” said Ballentine. “The Patriots could use an additional pass-rusher after releasing Kyle Van Noy, who was second on the team in sacks last season with five.”
The Patriots recently signed former Cardinals CB Malcolm Butler to a two-year contract, who was a Pro Bowler in New England. Coach Bill Belichick has shown in the past to fall back in love with his former players.
The Cardinals, on the other hand, did fall in love with former Patriots pass rusher Chandler Jones in 2016 and traded for the Pro Bowler. General manager Steve Keim could do it again and simply sign Flowers, who will likely be a discount.
When healthy, Flowers was a sensational run defender. In 2019, Flowers had the highest run-stop percentage in the NFL per Pro Football Focus. Despite the injuries, Flowers finished with 10.5 sacks in 29 games with the Lions.
Adding Flowers shouldn’t stop the Cardinals from drafting a pass rusher in the draft. It’s not likely that the Cardinals will replace Jones’ production. But Flowers had four straight seasons of six-and-a-half sacks or more. And due to Jones’ season-ending injury in 2020, Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph deployed many pass rushers and the team ranked 10th in sacks.
He could do the same in 2022.
Flowers will be just 29 years old when the NFL season starts in 2022. If a cheap one-year deal is on the table for Flowers, Keim should explore his services.