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General managers hoping to keep their jobs tell us we need several years to fully evaluate a draft class.
They are often correct.
Evaluating free-agent decisions takes less time. Some of them are obviously flawed from the beginning.
With that in mind, I wanted to look back at the decisions each NFC West team made in free agency one year ago.
We'll start with the Cardinals because they won the the division title.
The chart shows each of the 17 free agents Arizona added, re
-signed or lost to other teams, based on the records I keep. These included unrestricted free agents, restricted free agents and franchise players. If you have questions or see potential omissions, let me know in the comments.
I've added a third column to flag decisions that worked out poorly. I did not downgrade the Cardinals for re-signing Oliver Celestin or Joe Tafoya -- players the team later released -- because players such as them served the intended purposes during camp. The provided depth and they competed, but they lost out to players the organization valued more.
I flagged only two of the Cardinals' decisions for review. Cornerback Eric Green was a significant disappointment, but the Cardinals protected themselves by drafting Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. They also did not invest heavily in Green. They gave him one year to prove his worth, and they moved on once they determined he wasn't meeting expectations.
Letting Calvin Pace leave in free agency hurt the talent level on defense, but the Jets probably overpaid for him. Did the Cardinals err on Pace? Reasonable people could probably disagree.
Overall, however, the Cardinals avoided serious mistakes in free agency. Salary-cap limitations prevented them from spending more aggressively. They'll have more cap flexibility when the next signing period begins Feb. 27.