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Cardinals Plan to Target An Unexpected Position In Free Agency, NFL Draft (Report)

Despite Trey McBride's breakout season, the Arizona Cardinals are expected to target the tight end position in free agency and the NFL Draft.
Cardinals Tight End

Arizona Cardinals tight end Trey McBride was one of the biggest breakout stars of the 2023 season. After a relatively pedestrian rookie season, the former second-round pick started the year behind veteran Zach Ertz on the depth chart. However, Ertz suffered an injury early in the season, opening the door for the Colorado State product to emerge as one of the best tight ends in the league.

Appearing in all 17 games while making 12 starts, McBride finished the season with 81 receptions for 825 yards and three touchdowns on 106 targets. These are great numbers for a tight end, and the advanced metrics tell a similar story. The Cardinals tight end finished the season with the seventh-best PFF grade among tight ends (76.3) and the second-best yards per route run (2.03).

Now entering his age-25 season, the Arizona Cardinals appear to have found their superstar tight end of the future. However, McBride’s breakout season does not mean the team won’t add competition in 2024. According to Mike Jurecki of Arizona Football Daily, the Cardinals are going to address the position in both free agency and the NFL Draft.

Cardinals To Target Tight End Position In Free Agency and NFL Draft (Report)

The most important thing to note here is that Jurecki says that the goal with these moves is to “bring in some depth behind Trey.” So, even though Zach Ertz entered 2022 as the starting tight end, it’s safe to assume that McBride will remain the top option on the Cardinals depth chart.

With that being said, this is still a situation to monitor. Part of the reason McBride performed so well is because there was nobody else of note on the depth chart. With Ertz sidelined, the Cardinals had no choice but to force-feed their star tight end, especially since Kyler Murray and Marquise Brown struggled to develop a rapport as the quarterback worked himself back from injury.

Because of this, it’s safe to assume McBride’s numbers will drop a little bit in 2024. Targets are earned in the NFL, but the second-round pick probably hit the higher mark of his variance in 2023 thanks to the lack of options. The Cardinals don’t want to put too much of a burden on their young tight end, but exactly how many targets go away will depend on who the team adds in free agency and the NFL Draft.

Potential Additions

The bad news for the Cardinals and good news for Trey McBride fantasy football owners is that there are not too many reliable tight ends in free agency or the NFL Draft. As far as free agents go, Dalton Schultz is the best option available, but he wants to return to the Texans. Seeing as Houston has $73.9 million in cap space, they should be able to easily re-sign him.

Assuming Schultz stays in Houston, the best tight end options for the Cardinals are probably Hunter Henry, Noah Fant, and Gerald Everett. Fant never played up to his draft stock, and while Henry and Everett were dangerous pass-catching threats at one point in their respective careers, both have slowed down in recent seasons.

The NFL Draft is a similar story. There is a case to be made that Brock Bowers is the best tight end prospect of his generation, but the Carindals aren’t going to draft him. Arizona currently holds the fourth-overall pick and the 27th-overall pick. They’re not going to pass up the chance to draft Marvin Harrison with their first selection, and Bowers isn’t going to be around for the 27th pick.

This leaves Ja’Tavion Sanders and the only other tight end prospect who could realistically contribute as a rookie. While the Cardinals could take him in the second round, he’s not good enough to challenge McBride for serious targets. Chances are, the Cardinals will instead decide to draft a tight end like Cade Stover, Brevyn Spann-Ford, or Jaheim Bell in the third or fourth rounds as a developmental prospect.

Main Photo: Charles LeClaire – USA Today Sports


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