TEMPE, Ariz. — Brittan Golden first joined the Arizona Cardinals in 2013 as a free agent, and that season he caught four passes for 136 yards in five games.
He spent most of the following season on the team’s practice squad and was inactive for the three games he was on the active roster.
Golden’s status took a step forward in 2015, as he appeared in 14 games and tied for second on the Cardinals with seven special teams tackles, but caught just one pass — for five yards — and even began to get some work at cornerback.
The former West Texas A&M product’s role within the offense grew again in 2016, where in 12 games he caught eight passes for 82 yards and his first career touchdown, which came in Week 14 against the Miami Dolphins.
Now, as the Cardinals get ready for the 2017 season, Golden has put himself in position to see the field even more.
“Britt had a great camp,” coach Bruce Arians said. “He’s one of those guys that’s always on the bubble, but he’s a core special teamer.
“He had probably the best — one of the best — springs of any receiver.”
In typical fashion, Golden’s great spring was not enough to get him off of the bubble, Arians said. However, the coach provided the caveat that “everybody’s on the bubble.”
That’s not entirely accurate, as it’s unlikely the team will part ways with Larry Fitzgerald, Carson Palmer, Chandler Jones and a good many others.
But for the 5-foot-11, 186-pound Golden, a great spring is likely not enough to guarantee a roster spot come Week 1.
It’s a start, though.
“I’m just trying to get better,” Golden said of his performance. “My whole thing is just trying to make sure I got better every day.”
It’s evident he has done that, if not this spring then over his time with the Cardinals.
Golden left West Texas A&M with 165 receptions for 3,007 yards — numbers that ranked fifth and second in school history, respectively — along with 33 touchdown catches. He excelled as a returner, too, but went undrafted out of college in 2012.
He first signed with the Chicago Bears, but was waived in August. In December he landed on the Jacksonville Jaguars’ practice squad, but was brought back to the Windy City in January 2013.
Again cut in August, it was not until mid-September of that year when the Cardinals brought him into the fold.
Since then it has been a battle, both to stay on the roster and find a role.
“Brittan Golden’s been here forever and when his number’s been called has made play after play,” Cardinals QB Carson Palmer began when questioned about his team’s receiver depth.
With just 13 catches, 223 yards and one touchdown to his credit, Golden is anything but a certainty at the position, which for Arizona may be the deepest on the team.
Fitzgerald, John Brown and J.J. Nelson would appear to be locks, while Jaron Brown — who is recovering from a torn ACL — should also see the field plenty. After that, rookie third-round pick Chad Williams would appear to have an edge, and veteran Aaron Dobson’s work has been praised, too.
Where exactly Golden fits in remains to be seen, but his preference would be to finally emerge as an NFL receiver.
“I would love to,” he said. “Every receiver wants to be in the receiver rotation, but I mean, any way I can help this team to make this team, I’m available.”
As Arians noted, Golden is a “core special teamer” so even if he cannot crack the receiver rotation, he brings plenty of value. The 28-year-old is more than happy to continue in that role, understanding that the more he can do, the more he will play.
With playing time comes an opportunity to show what he can do.
“You’ve got to take it and run with it,” he said. “When your number’s called you’ve got to make sure you’re ready to go, and I hope that’s what I made an impression on in this spring ready to go into (training) camp.”
Long known as a speed guy, Golden said in his head he feels like he can do more than just take the top off a defense, albeit with a smile. He said the plan for the rest of his summer is to work on his all-around game while staying in shape in order to avoid injury when he gets back on the field.
The goal is to ultimately see more of it, though first Golden must again make the roster. The pressure that comes with being on the roster bubble is not enjoyable, but it is a reality the receiver is plenty used to.
“That’s every year,” he said. “That comes with the territory so I’ve just go to make sure I’m ready to go.”
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