The Arizona Cardinals defensive line was one of the best in the league last year. Going into 2017 the depth and a major piece may be changed significantly. Big decisions must be made to ensure that the Cardinals can reload for one more run at the post season.
Arizona Cardinals Future Of the Defensive Line
The Current Roster
The defensive line could be the deepest positions group that the Cardinals have. With veterans like Calais Campbell and Frostee Rucker leading the squad, they also have very young and talented players like Rodney Gunter and Josh Mauro. The big question for this offseason is two-fold. Can the Cardinals afford to keep Campbell and if not can Robert Nkemdiche step up his play?
Campbell is a force and will demand a hefty payday in the free agent market. His situation is complicated, with pending free agents Chandler Jones and Tony Jefferson. According to recent reports, the Cardinals have targeted those two players as priorities this offseason. If the Cardinals are unable to reach a deal with Jones, general manager Steve Keim made it clear that he will be willing to use the franchise tag on the pass rusher. All of the dominoes at the other positions make it tough to see a future Cardinals roster with Campbell unless he is willing to take a home team discount.
Free Agents Available
There are some big names available at the defensive tackle position. Players like Jason Pierre-Paul, Mario Williams, and Jabaal Sheard are all available this offseason. The Cardinals will probably not chase the high-end talent in this group. Keim will again try to work his magic and try to find a bargain in the mid-tier players. Players like Charles Johnson and Nick Fairley jump out as players that have veteran leadership qualities but are also not demanding the eight plus million per year in cap hit. It will be interesting to see if the Cardinals do anything with this group considering the depth and young talent they have accumulated over the past handful of drafts.
The Cardinals will not be picking a defensive tackle or defensive end in the first-round of the draft. Meaning Arizona will miss out on the two big names at the top of the class Myles Garret and Jonathan Allen. Caleb Brantly and Chris Wormley are players that should be around in the second round if the Cardinals look to add with early round talent. Brantly is part of the very talented Florida defense. He has position flexibility as he can play inside or the five technique. The position versatility is something that the Cardinals value a lot in their evaluations. Wormley also has the same flexibility but is also very athletic for his 6’5″ 297lb frame. He is strong against the run and improved his hand placement while rushing the passer as a senior.
The Senor Bowl showed that there are some talented defensive linemen and the Cardinals will probably use a pick on one. We will have to wait and see where they find the best value for the position that they already have depth.
Next year’s defensive line will look different, but will still be talented. Losing Calais Campbell will be hard to replace, but the Cardinals could save significant cap space if they move on from the big defensive tackle. If the Cardinals look to add in the draft of free agency, don’t expect it to be a flashy name.