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Offseason Forecast: Arizona Cardinals

With the offseason officially underway, Around The NFL will examine what's next for all 32 teams. The series continues with the Arizona Cardinals.

What's changing?

James Bettcher taking over the defensive coordinator role from Todd Bowles will have the biggest impact on the Cardinals next season. Bowles performed masterfully utilizing the team's strengths, designing schemes and overcoming a unit tattered with injuries. Bruce Arians speaks glowingly of Bettcher, but most first-year play-callers have growing pains.

Making it doubly difficult on Bettcher will be a defense that could be gutted by free agency and is in need of upgrades in the front seven.

Biggest free agents

» CB Antonio Cromartie: Cromartie brought a perfect complement to Patrick Peterson in his one year in the desert. Cromartie's size and ability to match up with any opponents' No. 2 receiver allowed the Cards to blitz heavily. There is a lot of speculation about Cro returning to the New York Jets. If the cornerback departs, it could cause a shuffle that would likely send Jerraud Powers out of the slot spot, where he fits best.

» Dan Williams and Tommy Kelly: Not much is being made of Williams' potential departure, which would leave a significant hole along the defensive line. Williams, along with Kelly -- who was plucked from the scrapheap a year ago -- played a significant role plugging the running game and taking up blockers. The play of the linemen last year allowed Bowles to unleash his massive blitzes and not fear being gashed.

Other key free agents: TE Rob Housler, DE John Abraham, OLB Sam Acho, RB Jonathan Dwyer

On the way out?

» Darnell Dockett : After inking Larry Fitzgerald to a new cap-saving contract, Arizona decided to release Dockett, saving the team $6.8 million. Coming off an ACL tear, Dockett was the best front-seven player on the Cardinals' roster. Given their uncertainty along the line, there is still a chance Arizona brings Dockett back at a reduced price. 

» Lyle Sendlein: The center is scheduled to count $4.275 million against the cap and would save the Cardinals $3.15 million if cut. The 31-year-old started every game in 2014, but was mediocre at best -- Pro Football Focus ranked him 40th out of 41 centers. With the much cheaper and younger Ted Larsen able to play center, Sendlein could be on the way out. After the team cut Ted Ginn Jr. this week, Sendlein appears the next likely player to be given walking papers.

What they need

The linebacker position sorely needs additions and upgrades. On the inside, the team is so hard up that veteran Larry Foote was signed as a coach with the option to continue playing if needed. Even if Abraham returns and plays at a high level, the outside 'backer position needs vast upgrading. The Cards have acknowledged that they need a thunder runner to pair with Andre Ellington's lightning. A future quarterback project might also be in the mix if Arians decides Logan Thomas can't be the guy. Oh, and the guard position could use an upgrade as well. As you can see, Keim has loads of work ahead this offseason.

Offseason crystal ball

The Cardinals will lower Dockett's contract number without having to cut the three-time Pro Bowl selection. They won't, however, be able to retain Cromartie, leaving them to enter the offseason with Peterson and Powers on the outside and Tyrann Mathieu dropping down to cover the slot at times. Keim will also use a high-round pick on a running back to pair with Ellington in the backfield.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast previews free agency and tells you which big-name players could be released. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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