"Making the Cut"
As the Arizona Cardinals begin their quest to cut the team's roster size from 90 to 53 by the end of the preseason, we're taking a look at the key players at each position group and determining their odds of making the final cut.
Player: Michael Floyd
Experience: 5th NFL season
Contract status: 2016: $7,320,000
2015 season quick review: In Floyd's fourth NFL season, the Notre Dame product put together a solid year amassing 52 receptions for 849 yards. The 6-foot-3 target started just six games, but that total is deceiving because Floyd received roughly the same amount of playing time last year he did in his previous two seasons when he started a combined 30 games. Though Floyd finished tied for 61st in the NFL with 52 catches, he did have a streak of four straight games late in the season in which he recorded at least five receptions and 70 yards. Floyd's production was critical to the success of Arizona's offense, but with the emergence of John Brown, he often found himself as the third option for quarterback Carson Palmer, which could be why there was chatter about a potential draft day trade involving Floyd this offseason.
Projected roster status: As long as Floyd stays healthy in camp, he figures to be one of the key offensive pieces for Arizona this season and will have no trouble making the roster. The former first round draft pick has never had to battle for a roster spot, and at 26 years old, it should be a few seasons before Floyd loses that status.
Projected depth chart status: This is where things get tricky, as Floyd has held down one of the top two spots on the depth chart for Arizona since his second season in the league in 2013. However, Brown's continued development and Fitzgerald's mastery in the slot could permanently relegate Floyd to the role of the third receiver in the Cardinals' offense, whether the team's official depth chart says so or not. If Brown, who caught 65 passes for just over 1,000 yards a season ago, proves early in the season he's a preferred target over Floyd, the Cardinals may find themselves with a receiver who will look elsewhere when his contract expires after the year. We think Floyd has the skills and versatility to merit consideration ahead of Brown as the team's second receiver, but time will tell if Floyd can hang onto his spot.
Position group analysis: As we mentioned in our piece about Fitzgerald, the Cardinals' wide receiver unit has loads of talent, but because of Fitzgerald's age and Floyd's expiring contract, the unit is in flux. With the players in the fold this season, there's no shortage of options for Palmer, which is important because it's do-or-die time for a Cardinals' offense whose Super Bowl window may be closing. In a few seasons, the Cardinals' receiving corps could look dramatically different, but for now, the team has the luxury of having three to four players who could be considered legitimate No. 1 or No. 2 receivers on the vast majority of other NFL squads.
Moving forward: It's important to distinguish the differences between Brown and Floyd as receivers, because both players have key roles within the Cardinals' offense. Brown is a blazing deep threat who is learning how to become a better possession receiver, while Floyd is a prototypical outside receiver who can beat cornerbacks off the line of scrimmage and provides Palmer with a big target in deeper routes over the middle of the field. Floyd is the more physical of the two players, and there's always a place for a receiver with his skill set high up on an NFL depth chart, but the question remains whether the Cardinals see enough value in his production to resign him after the 2016 campaign. Floyd is talented enough that he may command more money than his on-field production would seemingly merit, and with the Cardinals needing to resign a number of key defensive pieces this offseason, there's uncertainty regarding how much room the team would have in its salary cap to keep Floyd. There's a number of factors playing into Floyd's future, and the manner in which the Cardinals use him this season will likely have a big impact on whether he stays with the team beyond 2016.
Key skill: Consistency
We could have chosen a number of things Floyd does well to highlight as the Cardinals' wide receiver's key skill, but entering a contract season, what the team and other organizations around the NFL would most like to see from Floyd is improved consistency.
When Floyd entered the league as the 13th overall draft pick in 2012, there was excitement surrounding his explosiveness, pass-catching skills and blocking abilities. Even entering his fifth NFL season, there's still buzz around the tools Floyd brings to an offense, but Floyd has yet to truly live up to his post-college billing as a potential No. 1 wide receiver.
After catching 65 passes during his second NFL season, Floyd was pegged as the next breakout player and the heir apparent to Fitzgerald, but an injury to Palmer in 2014 caused a setback in Floyd's offensive involvement and the Cardinals' offense struggled as a result. Floyd had the opportunity to rebound in 2015, but Fitzgerald erupted for one of the best seasons of his career and Brown became the de facto No. 2 after Floyd struggled in the early going of the season.
Late in the year, Floyd finally lived up to his capabilities, and turned in three 100-yard receiving performances over the final five weeks of the regular season. The player opposing defenses faced during that stretch is the player the Cardinals drafted Floyd to become, and it's the type of player his skill set suggests he's capable of being on a week-by-week basis.
In 2016, Floyd has the opportunity to grow into a more consistent threat, and if he hopes to garner the type of contract worthy of a No. 1 or No. 2 receiver this offseason, Floyd has no choice but to live up his potential. In the Cardinals' offense, the opportunities are plentiful, and Floyd's consistency in making the most of those opportunities will go a long way toward determining his success this season.
Overall value: To this point in Floyd's career, the Cardinals have received outstanding value from the wide receiver's rookie contract as Floyd never made upward of $3.2 million in a season and racked up an average of more than 50 catches per season for the first four years of his career. Nevertheless, the team decided to exercise the fifth-year option on Floyd's contract, and this is the season where Floyd's value may come into question. Scheduled to make upward of $7.2 million, Floyd's cap hit represents the 19th largest of any wide receiver in the NFL this season. With the Cardinals committed to paying Fitzgerald upward of $15 million in the final season of his contract, the team has already likely extended more money than it would like to wide receivers, so the Cardinals are counting on Floyd to deliver what needs to be the best season of his career to live up to the value his contract suggests he's worth.