first_img TEMPE, Ariz. – No one ever remembers who finishes second.The Arizona Cardinals, however, will remember how it felt to finish second.The sting of losing the NFC Championship Game to Carolina won’t go away anytime soon; not because of the final margin of defeat (49-15) but because the Cardinals stood at the doorstep of Super Bowl 50 only to have the door slammed in their faces.Carolina will represent the NFC in Santa Clara in two weeks’ time, while the Cardinals digest their runner-up status. Former Cardinals kicker Phil Dawson retires “There is nothing like adversity to fuel a fire and continue to grind; continue to work,” quarterback Carson Palmer said. “Staring over that sideline, seeing that feeling that the other team has is something that’s going to stick with him for, probably the rest of my life.”That thinking served the Cardinals well a year ago.Walking off the field at Bank of America Stadium after a Wild Card loss to the Panthers in 2014 propelled the Cardinals to their best regular season in franchise history in 2015.The Cardinals set team records for wins (13), road wins (7), touchdowns (58), total yards (6,533) and points scored (489). In addition, several individual single-season marks were established within the franchise, including Palmer (passing yards, touchdown passes and passer rating), Larry Fitzgerald (receptions) and David Johnson (touchdowns, as a rookie).The 2015 season also marked the first time in over 50 years that the Cardinals ranked in the top five in both offense (No. 1) and defense (No. 5) in a season.“We’re a special team,” defensive tackle Calais Campbell said Monday, taking a break from cleaning out his locker. “We got to be able to stay together and use this as motivation and allow this moment to bring us together because I really believe that we have a great, young core, nucleus of talent and we can be good for a long time to come, especially next year.” Arizona Cardinals’ Brittan Golden looks at the scoreboard during the second half the NFL football NFC Championship game against the Carolina Panthers, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) Free agency begins March 15.The NFL Draft, meanwhile, is April 28-30 and the Cardinals will have the 29th overall pick.“Looking at the team that’s coming back versus where we were this time last year, very few holes to fill,” head coach Bruce Arians said. “Steve’s (Keim, general manager) already off starting to do it and this offseason already has begun.” – / 15 The 5: Takeaways from the Coyotes’ introduction of Alex Meruelo 0 Comments   Share   Top Stories For the third straight year the Cardinals took that next step; from 10 wins in 2013 to 11 wins and a playoff appearance in 2014 to 13 wins, an NFC West Division title, first-round playoff bye and spot in the NFC Championship Game.There’s only one more step to take.“We definitely have climbed each year, the last three years in getting better, but if you go back and listen to our interviews in OTAs (organized team activity), the main talk was winning the West and coming to the Super Bowl, putting ourselves in position to win a Super Bowl and we did that, but failed at the ultimate goal of getting to the Super Bowl. But, the future is bright still here. Still so much talent, so many playmakers; a great coaching staff and everything,” cornerback Jerraud Powers said.“We definitely got what it takes, and I think around the league everybody knows the Cardinals are for real or whatnot, so I mean we’ll be back next year, for sure.”The team may be back among the Super Bowl contenders, sure, but how the roster shapes the 2016 Cardinals will be different from the 2015 version, perhaps drastically.The one thing constant in the NFL is change.The Cardinals have 17 unrestricted free agents, including Powers as well as three-fifths of the offensive line (Lyle Sendlein, Ted Larsen and Bobby Massie). Another six players are restricted free agents, like starting tight end Darren Fells and starting safety Tony Jefferson, giving the Cardinals the first option to retain their services. Derrick Hall satisfied with D-backs’ buying and selling Grace expects Greinke trade to have emotional impactlast_img read more