Questions the Arizona Cardinals need to answer as OTA begins

ARIZONA – Good morning and welcome to the first day of offseason volunteer team activities for the Arizona Cardinals.

Today another foundation stone is laid for 2024 after the rookie minicamp has come and gone.

The Cardinals have done a lot of work on their roster over the offseason, but as voluntary OTAs begin and we approach training camp, we still have a few questions:

Both James Conner and Budda Baker are in the final year of their contracts. Both are almost 30 years old and both are among the most respected players in their positions.

Thanks to his public trade request last season, Baker's contract status garnered more headlines. The Cardinals moved some money around for Baker to have guarantees in 2023, but he has none in 2024. However, according to OverTheCap, he has about $900,000 in potential bonuses with a prorated contract bonus of $3.925 million.

Meanwhile, Conner saw his potential replacement in Florida State running back Trey Benson on the second day of the 2024 NFL Draft. However, Conner is coming off his best statistical season after finally reaching the 1,000-yard mark as a rusher.

It will be interesting to watch the situation for both over the summer – will general manager Monti Ossenfort look to extend one of the key veterans? Or will Arizona let their contracts expire before seeking extension talks?

Talks could (or should) take place on both sides, we'll see if a solution is reached.

Arizona has secured four of five starting spots along the offensive line, with left guard seemingly the only open option for players to compete for as the offseason progresses.

There are a handful of candidates who will ultimately take the crown – we previously picked returning veteran Elijah Wilkinson as the leading candidate in our offensive starter predictions, although we feel it will be either free agent signing Evan Brown or rookie Isaiah can give Adams a push to get started.

Some have ruled out Jon Gaines as a possible candidate, even though he is recovering from a season-ending knee injury that prevented him from even playing in 2023. The Cardinals definitely like him, although he already faces an uphill battle.

Regardless, there are a handful of candidates who can do the job. Who will gain a head start in the coming weeks?

No, not that slot, silly. Greg Dortch has been patient over the last two seasons and is finally getting his chance now that Rondale Moore is gone.

Turning to the other side of the ball, we know at least one starting corner in Sean Murphy-Bunting. The rest remains to be seen, as does the slot corner spot and what the Cardinals want to do there.

There are a few candidates at the top of the list, most notably freshman Max Melton and second-year player Garrett Williams.

Melton – out of Rutgers – was praised for his versatility in the draft and can play inside or outside when needed.

We may already have our answer when we look at PFF's snap count logs, which show that Williams played primarily in the slot last year, while Melton played no more than two slots after Week 4 in his final season at Rutgers -Snaps played per week.

Violence and diversity are Jonathan Gannon's two calling cards – we'll see who's where when the dust eventually settles – but at least the organization has options.

Anna Harden

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