The Arizona Cardinals have actually be a
fair bit better than many thought they would have been so far this year, thanks
in part to how number one overall pick Kyler Murray has played.
Murray, and Kliff Kingsbury’s new Madden playbook make the Cardinals an under-the-radar fun team to play with. Their pass heavy scheme has a lot of fun plays, and Kyler Murray’s dynamism makes him one of the most exciting players in the game.
However, though it may be fun, you’ll be hard pressed to find huge success early on in any franchise mode with this team (difficulty permitting). So, how should you go about guiding the Cardinals through this season and beyond.
*All ratings are correct at time of writing. Pre-existing injuries have been turned off.*
At just 78 OVR, only the Cincinnati Bengals and Miami Dolphins are rated lower, and the New York Giants share the same OVR. This team is not talent rich, however, they do have a few superstars and several promising players.
Peterson is the best player on the roster, at 89
OVR, closely followed by Chandler Jones (87 OVR). Though he is one of the best corners in the NFL, and has been for
years, he doesn’t actually have any abilities. Jones does, but he is the only
one on the roster.
After them, the Cardinals best players,
either by OVR or potential, include Larry
Fitzgerald (84 OVR), Terrell Suggs (84 OVR), Budda Baker (82 OVR), Kyler Murray (75 OVR), Christian Kirk (78 OVR), David Johnson (81 OVR), and Kenyan Drake (78 OVR). The latter five
all have star or hidden development traits.
Outside of those players, this roster is
seriously lacking star power or promising talent, with many old players or normal
This leaves you two options. You could
either aim to buy success this year - trade your draft assets for the next two
years and sign free agents – or look longer term and not prioritize winning, a
lot at least, in your first season.
Whether you’re looking long term or short term, offensive and defense line have to be areas of focus. Four of the five starters are 29 or older, and the best is 79 OVR RT Marcus Gilbert. Center, right guard and left tackle should be your main focusses here.
On the defensive line you need to get younger and dramatically better at every spot. The starting DEs are 71 OVR and 70 OVR, and 31-year-old, 76 OVR Corey Peters at DT is nothing but a stop-gap. The depth is poor, too.
Strong safety is also a huge need. The best
SS on the roster is 69 OVR Deionte
Thompson. He may only be 22, but his normal dev trait means it could be far
too long before he is a reliable starter.
In reality, you could find reasons to
upgrade every single position on this team, at least for depth purposes.
Thankfully, because of the roster’s quality (or lack of), a ton of players are legitimate trade targets. However, the Cardinals do not have that much capital to go after enough difference-making players.
You could look to trade Patrick Peterson or Chandler Jones (if you’re going all in on a rebuild), but that is a bold decision. Both are 29, with star or superstar dev, and are some of the best players at their positions.
Peterson does garner some solid offers, including TE Jack Doyle (75 OVR) and a draft pick, or three draft picks including a second-rounder, but in the long run that may not be enough to replace his worth.
Jones also gets some good offers, but unless you’re committing to a long-term rebuild through the draft, this would definitely not be advisable.
Nevertheless, these following players make the most sense to target in a trade.
Da’Shawn Hand, Left End (79 OVR)
stats: Strength (92), Play Recognition (85), Acceleration (84), Tackle (83),
Awareness (83), Pursuit (83), Block Shedding (81)
Hand was a first-round pick of the Lions in the 2018 NFL draft, but he is a good trade target. You’ll have to be willing to give up a fair amount in draft picks or players, but it will be worthwhile.
He is only 23, has star dev and excels as a
run stopper and power rusher, the biggest priorities in the Cardinals defense.
He can grow to be a great player pretty quickly.
Adrian Phillips, Strong Safety (77 OVR)
stats: Acceleration (90), Speed (87), Awareness (82), Play Recognition (80),
Zone Coverage (78), Man Coverage (73), Tackle (71)
Strong safety is the second-worst starting position on this team. Right now, Phillips would be a huge upgrade even though he is just 77 OVR. More importantly, though, he has star dev.
Though the Cardinals target run support
strong safeties, and Phillips is better in zone, he is pretty balanced and his
development means he can soon be a scheme fit, while adding an upside in
coverage over other run support safeties.
Larry Ogunjobi, Defensive Tackle (78 OVR)
stats: Strength (88), Power Moves (84), Acceleration (83), Pursuit (82), Block
Shedding (80), Awareness (79), Tackle (78)
Another young player with very high upside.
Ogunjobi has become one of the Browns starters at defensive tackles and is good
against both the pass and the run.
At just 25 with star dev, like Hand and Phillips, there is no reason he can’t be one of the better starters in the NFL at his position with the right time, dedication and performance. If you get him playing well, or focus on him in training, he will become a huge player for your team.
These three trades, though not giving an immediately huge boost, all give you younger players with good development who you can build around in the years to come, and start over older players immediately.
Free Agent Targets
The Cardinals have a ton of cap space and
there are a few free agents who can come in as immediate starters.
Kelechi Osemele, Left Guard (80 OVR)
stats: Strength (93), Impact Blocking (90), Lead Block (89), Pass Block Power
(83), Pass Block (82), Awareness (82), Pass Block Finesse (81)
The Cardinals are a pass-heavy offense and need help at the guard position. Osemele is a great fit.
He excels in pass protection over run blocking, and at 80 OVR would be the Cards’ best o-lineman. Justin Pugh (76 OVR) is also a LG, but one of him or Osemele can slide into RG and you’ll immediately sure up the interior of your offensive line.
Eric Berry, Strong Safety (80 OVR)
stats: Acceleration (88), Speed (87), Hit Power (86), Zone Coverage (83),
Pursuit (81), Play Recognition (80), Catching (79)
Berry, like Osemele, is a really good fit. He is the ideal strong safety for the Cardinals scheme, in that he thrives against the run but is also very good in coverage. Though he is slightly older, at 30, that isn’t too old and will give you at least one good year if you don’t extend his contract. He also has star development.
LEs Muhammad Wilkerson and Willie Henry are also good free agency targets.
The draft should really be where most of your work is done. The Cardinals don’t have the most draft capital, so it may be a longer haul. If you don’t want to wait that long, you could trade off players like Chandler Jones and Patrick Peterson for three draft picks each, but that is very risky.
You could also sign and trade several free agents, like Berry or Wilkerson, for third-round picks, maybe second-round picks if you include a low round selection of your own. You can also trade Kenyan Drake for as much as a second-round pick if you are looking to acquire lots of picks.
Either way, in the draft you need to look to address almost every position. QB, FS, WR and RB are the least important, but everywhere else needs attention. OLB, DE, OL and SS must be heavy focuses to get some promising youth in the building for you to develop.
Nailing the draft can be a big ask, as players rarely fit needly into their expected stat ranges and the AI can snipe your targets from you. Don't fear, we have all the tips & tricks for you to master drafting in Franchise Mode here.