Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports

Analysis: Cardinals' remaining free agents

With four defensive starters from 2016 already out the door, which free agents can Arizona still re-sign?

About 48 hours after free agency began on Thursday, the Arizona Cardinals were already staring down major shakeups on the defensive side of the ball.

On Thursday, safeties Tony Jefferson and D.J. Swearinger and defensive lineman Calais Campbell had already agreed to contracts with new teams, and on Saturday, the Chicago Bears announced they had reached a deal with cornerback Marcus Cooper.

At least four members of Arizona's starting defense from the 2016 season won't return, and neither will tight end Darren Fells, offensive lineman Earl Watford and kicker Chandler Catanzaro who all left to join different franchises over the weekend.

Which free agents are still left for the Arizona Cardinals to re-sign? CardinalsSource looks at each player and analyzes their odds of returning to Arizona. 

Kevin MinterThe writing is on the wall for the starting inside linebacker after the team elected to sign veteran free agent Karlos Dansby on Thursday. With Dansby set to return, it's highly unlikely Minter comes back to Arizona after spending the last two seasons as the organization's primary inside linebacker. Even at the age of 35, Dansby probably has more range as a run-stopper than Minter, who often struggled to read lanes and doesn't have the same sideline-to-sideline type of speed other players at his position have. On Monday, Minter was reportedly paying the Colts a visit, and many believe he could be a fit for the Raiders as well. If he does wind up returning to Arizona, it would come as a major surprise.

Frostee RuckerWith Campbell on his way out, the organization may want to keep a veteran presence on the defensive line and Rucker certainly fits that bill. After starting 13 games in 2015, Rucker took a step back in 2016 when Corey Peters rejoined the starting lineup and Josh Mauro made a push for a starting spot. Still, though, as a fourth or fifth option on the defensive line, Rucker can still serve the team as a rotational asset and would likely be a willing mentor to Robert Nkemdiche, who will need to improve his production in year two following the loss of Campbell. Rucker is flying under the radar at the moment, but it wouldn't come as a surprise if he is back in Arizona next season.

Chris JohnsonThe free agent running back has landed on injured reserve in each of the last two seasons and could wind up going a long time without drawing much interest in the open market. Even though we like Johnson as a No. 2 option and think he can still provide quality play as a backup, NFL teams prefer younger backs with more versatility as their depth players. Additionally, Johnson isn't going to transform into a special teams contributor at this point in his career, so that could deter some interested suitors as well. Perhaps Johnson will wait until training camp like he did in 2015, and sign with a team as a replacement for an injured back.

Alex OkaforAfter spending four seasons in the Cardinals' organization, Okafor is spending Monday reportedly on a free agent visit with the New Orleans Saints, a team that runs a 4-3 defense and would likely ask Okafor to convert from outside linebacker to defensive end. After playing outside linebacker in Arizona, Okafor may be looking for an opportunity that allows him to play defensive end, the position he was pegged at coming out of college and this year's free agent market could allow him to find a better fit. The Cardinals want Okafor to return as the third outside linebacker, but at this point, the biggest question is whether Okafor wants to come back. 

Sio MooreMoore is probably looking for an opportunity as a starting linebacker elsewhere, but if he can't attract the type of contract or opportunity he's looking for, it wouldn't come as a surprise to see the Cardinals bring him back in 2017. Moore's play toward the end of the season likely convinced Arizona it could find an upgrade over Minter, as Moore was the more effective run-stopping linebacker during the team's final few contests. Moore isn't a strong defender against the pass, but if Arizona could bring him back as its No. 3 linebacker, Moore would be a quality addition.

Taylor BoggsIf Boggs re-signs with Arizona, it's unlikely he would have good odds to make the roster out of training camp. Even though Boggs played for and started for the Cardinals late last season, he's not athletic enough or physical enough to be depended on as a primary depth option and he's not going to attract much interest on the open market. Boggs' best bet is probably returning to Arizona as a member of the practice squad (if he has practice squad eligibility left) because Bruce Arians' system is the one he knows the best at this point in his career.

Mike JenkinsJenkins had a great opportunity to make the Cardinals' roster last season, but the veteran cornerback went down with a season-ending injury in training camp and was placed on injured reserve. The Cardinals' situation in the secondary is still desperate, but does that mean the team will take another serious look at Jenkins? That remains to be seen, and Jenkins could go late into the free agency process without securing a deal.

Stepfan TaylorAn unsung hero of the Cardinals' special teams units, it's hard not to envision Taylor as the fourth back on the team's roster even though it's going to be difficult for Arizona to make it work numbers-wise now that Andre Ellington is back in the fold. The Cardinals are high on Elijhaa Penny who spent the 2016 season on the team's practice squad, and the fourth running back job could come down to Penny and Ellington in 2017. 


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