GM Steve Keim won’t rule out Cardinals re-signing A.Q. Shipley

Apr 15, 2020, 1:38 PM | Updated: 8:19 pm

Center A.Q. Shipley #53 of the Arizona Cardinals reacts during the second half of the NFL game agai...

Center A.Q. Shipley #53 of the Arizona Cardinals reacts during the second half of the NFL game against the Detroit Lions at State Farm Stadium on September 08, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Veteran center A.Q. Shipley’s free agency has dragged into mid-April, but Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim believes his team already has a starting NFL center on the current roster.

On a video call with reporters Wednesday, Keim praised third-year pro Mason Cole’s fit in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense but also left the door open for the return of Shipley, who started all 16 of Arizona’s games last year.

“It’s like anything else. There’s a number of guys who are free agents right now. I wouldn’t rule anything out is all I’ll say,” Keim said regarding Shipley’s potential return.

Shipley and Cole battled for the starting center position through training camp heading into 2019, but even after the veteran beat out the 2018 third-round pick for the job, Kingsbury called the backup the team’s “most valuable” lineman.

Cole played 20% of the available snaps last season, making two starts at guard. In spots, he was utilized as an H-back and even as a blocking wide receiver.

That showed just how much Arizona valued his athleticism.

Any negotiations between the player and the Cardinals would go like this from Shipley’s and his agent’s perspective: He came back from a season-ending knee injury in 2018 in the best shape of his life. He was the respected leader in an offensive line room that as a whole helped quarterback Kyler Murray win the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year Award while setting a franchise averaged rushing mark of 5.0 yards per carry.

The Cardinals, on the other hand, would argue something like this: Shipley is 33 years old. While valued in the locker room, he is a year removed from a torn ACL that took the center out of the entire 2018 season. Cole and second-year Lamont Gaillard are younger, more athletic fits.

“We have a couple guys who can play center,” Keim said Wednesday. “Mason Cole started every game at center two years ago. He played a lot this year at center and guard. He’s shown his positional flexibility.

“He’s extremely smart, he’s tough and he’s really, really athletic climbing and adjusting at the second level, so he’s a great fit for our offensive scheme.”

Keim would not say whether the team was still in active negotiations with Shipley. The team had, however, had discussions at some point.

A week ago, Kingsbury called the center’s free agency a “work-in-progress.”

“He did a phenomenal job last year, leadership-wise, to step into a college offense, if you will,” the head coach said. “The way he led that and bought in to the tempo and different things we were doing, I couldn’t have been more impressed with him. We’ll see where that goes.”

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