The Arizona Cardinals have had moderate success sandwiched between runs of ineptitude since the turn of the century. Since 2000, the Cardinals have posted a 164-221-2 record (seventh-worst in that span), won the NFC West three times, earned a Wild Card berth twice, and made it all the way to Super Bowl XLIII before falling in a classic. As for this year, Arizona missed out on the playoffs for the second year in a row and are among the longest odds for Super Bowl XLIX in New Orleans following this next year according to sites like bettingaz.com.
Despite limited success, the franchise has been home to a number of stars over the last two-plus decades. They couldn’t have won the division or made it to the Super Bowl without them, naturally. Let’s count down the best to go in the desert since 2000.
The 5 Greatest Arizona Cardinals Since 2000
For 10 years, Darnell Dockett called Arizona home and only ever appeared in a game for the Cardinals. He was initially selected in the third round of the 2004 draft out of Florida State and started all but one game that year. Oddly enough, over that 10-year span, Dockett only missed two games.
In total, Dockett recorded 472 tackles, 90 tackles for loss, and 40.5 sacks. Additionally, he added four interceptions, 18 pass breakups, nine forced fumbles, 14 recovered fumbles, and two touchdowns.
In his time, he earned three Pro Bowl nods and a Second-Team All-Pro selection.
Dockett was big for the run to Super Bowl XLIII, however. In four games, he forced three sacks and recovered a fumble for the Cardinals.
Statistically, Dockett was not one of the greatest Cardinals but his impact on the game was what made his legacy.
With The 50th pick in the 2008 draft, the Cardinals drafted Calais Campbell out of Miami (FL) and he made a name for himself quickly, earning a rotational role as a rookie before taking over as the full-time starter in 2009. In total, Campbell spent nine years with Arizona and played in every game possible except for six. He finished with 501 tackles, 107 tackles for loss, and 56.5 sacks in his time.
As a Cardinal, his best years were in his final three where he finished with two Pro Bowl nods and two Second-Team All-Pro selections.
Following the 2016 season, he was not re-signed by the Cardinals and signed with Jacksonville. There, he helped lead the Jaguars to the AFC Championship Game. After the 2019 season, he was traded to the Ravens where he spent the next three years. For the 2023 season, he was a member of the Atlanta Falcons.
In his time away from Arizona, Campbell added 364 tackles, 68 tackles for loss, and 49 sacks. He earned four more Pro Bowl selections, a First-Team All-Pro honor, and even earned Defensive Player of the Year votes. Additionally, he won the Walter Payton Man of the Year award in 2019. Campbell was recognized both as Sporting News and the Pro Football Writer Association’s Defensive Player of the Year. He was also named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s All-2010s Team.
A criminally underrated player both in his time and after, Adrian Wilson is among not just the best since 2000 but one of the best Cardinals players of all time.
Wilson technically played from 2001 until 2014 but missed his final two years due to injuries. In his time, he was one of the best safeties in the game. And, if you want to look at just stats, he was. In his 12 years (all with Arizona), Wilson finished with 903 tackles, 81 tackles for loss, and 25.5 sacks. Wait, he’s a safety, those are respectable EDGE numbers. He added 27 interceptions (two pick-sixs), 99 pass breakups, 16 forced fumbles, and eight recovered fumbles (two for touchdowns).
Wilson deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame but will likely be passed up due to the era in which he played. Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu were consistently favored over Wilson. The issue was the fact that Reed and Tolamalu played on great teams and franchises while Wilson played for the Cardinals who only made the playoffs twice in his career.
Overall, Wilson managed five Pro Bowl nods one First-Team All-Pro, two Second-Team All-Pro, and garnered some Defensive Player of the Year votes in 2005.
The only member of this list still playing, Patrick Peterson was a menace for the Cardinals in his time. He was selected with the fifth overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft and he was well worth it.
As a rookie, Peterson earned a Pro Bowl invite and First-Team All-Pro honors. In total, he played with the Cardinals for 10 years and earned Pro Bowl invites eight times in his first eight years as well as three First-Team All-Pro honors.
In total, Peterson amassed 499 tackles, 28 interceptions, and a touchdown. He was a true of a lock-down corner as there was in the NFL. Considering the era he played in early on, that’s saying something.
After Arizona, Peterson suited up for the Minnesota Vikings for two seasons and then spent the 2023 season with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
When it’s all said and done, there will be a real conversation to include Peterson in the Hall of Fame. Nobody can deny that he was one of the best corners in the NFL for the first eight years of his career.
By far the best Arizona Cardinals player since 2000 was Larry Fitzgerald. It could be argued that Fitzgerald is the best Cardinals player of all time, of course.
For 17 years, Fitzgerald made good on the Cardinals selecting him at third overall in the 2004 draft. In total, he ended up with 17, 492 receiving yards (second all-time in NFL history), 1,432 receptions (also second all-time), and 121 touchdowns (sixth all-time). He made 11 Pro Bowls, as named First-Team All-Pro once, Second-Team All-Pro twice, was named on the Hall of Fame’s all-2010s team, and won the 2016 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.
He was as sure-handed as any. Well, actually, he was the most sure-handed. In 17 years, Fitzgerald dropped 29 passes.
Fitzgerald led the NFL in receptions twice and in receiving touchdowns twice.
During that 2008 Super Bowl run, Fitzgerald was automatic. He recorded 546 yards and seven touchdowns off of 30 catches.
In his time, the Cardinals made the playoffs four times and Fitzgerald averaged 105 yards per game. In his final playoff win, Fitzgerald nearly single-handedly won the game. After the Packers tied it up at the end of regulation, Fitzgerald took the first snap of overtime 75 yards to the five-yard-line. Two plays later, he cashed in and Arizona won in Lambeau.
Fitzgerald is among the greatest wide receivers to play the game, not just among Arizona Cardinals history.
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