Post-NFL Draft defensive roster review for the Arizona Cardinals

Apr 30, 2020, 7:13 PM | Updated: May 2, 2020, 8:42 pm

Clemson's Isaiah Simmons (11) tackles AJ Dillon (2), causing a fumble, during the first half of an ...

Clemson's Isaiah Simmons (11) tackles AJ Dillon (2), causing a fumble, during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Clemson, S.C. Simmons was the Atlantic Coast Conference defensive player of the year and a finalist for three national defensive player of the year awards. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro, File)

(AP Photo/Richard Shiro, File)

Done with the NFL Draft, the Arizona Cardinals began virtual team meetings Monday with the 2020 season on the horizon.

It’s a good time to recap where the roster stands after free agency and now the draft.

Though this is rolling out in two parts — offense and special teams went first — it should be known that the list of potential rostered players includes 27 offensive players, 27 defensive players and three special teamers.

That means, with a full offseason ahead, we’re above the 53-man roster limit by four players.

Below, you’ll see each positional group followed by the number of roster spots eating into the 57 players considered.

The list of players in each group are broken into starters, depth/developmental and a tough-cut zone. The last of those categories indicates the players or players who might be on the bubble if the cuts were tomorrow.

Obviously, free agents can still sign. Not every player on the current roster, including 21 undrafted free agents, are listed below. Training camp will have to play out for those Cardinals to move into consideration.

As it stands just after the draft, here is what sketching out a 53-man roster looks like from the defensive side.

Defense (27)

Inside linebacker (7)

(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Starters: Jordan Hicks, De’Vondre Campbell, Isaiah Simmons

Depth/developmental: Tanner Vallejo, Evan Weaver

Tough-cut zone: Zeke Turner, Dennis Gardeck

After needing a starter to begin the offseason, no positional group saw the influx of talent like Arizona’s inside backers. Adding Campbell in free agency and Simmons with the first-round pick gives them exceptional depth.

It’s possible Arizona rolls with three of them at a time with Simmons serving as a slot man.

We’ll say sixth-round pick Evan Weaver has higher upside than Gardeck or Turner — only because of his draft slot and rookie status. All three, though, remain high-level special teams contributors. The drafting of two inside linebackers, however, could squeeze somebody’s spot on the regular season roster.

Cornerback/nickel (4)

Patrick Peterson (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Starters: Patrick Peterson, Robert Alford

Depth/developmental: Byron Murphy, Chris Jones, (Isaiah Simmons)

Tough-cut zone: —

Murphy must make a leap and find consistency in a slot position that he at times struggled with after starting the year outside at corner. His ability to play one position and have more help covering big tight ends should go along with his second-year growth, and it’s expected he becomes a starting-quality DB.

Jones can hang and serves as a nice backup, but behind him it’s still a little thin, especially if Alford or Peterson get hurt. Simmons could play a bit in the slot depending on matchups but probably shouldn’t be considered as true depth.

This is the biggest need that wasn’t addressed in the draft.

Safety (5)

Jalen Thompson (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Starters: Budda Baker, Jalen Thompson

Depth/developmental: Deionte Thompson, (Isaiah Simmons), Chris Banjo, Charles Washington

Tough-cut zone: —

You could argue Jalen Thompson should fall into the depth tier, but considering he was a late addition via the supplemental draft and improved without major concerns, it’s his starting job to lose alongside Baker. That Arizona has not addressed safety other than re-signing backups Banjo and Washington, who are key special teamers, might also indicate the Cardinals feel good about this positional group.

Again, Simmons could also contribute here in spot duty.

Outside linebacker (3)

Chandler Jones (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Starters: Chandler Jones, Devon Kennard

Depth/developmental: Haason Reddick, (Isaiah Simmons)

Tough-cut zone: —

Reddick has a chance to find his role as a pure edge-rusher after Jones and Kennard take most of the snaps. And it’ll be interesting to see if Simmons is an edge rusher for more than a handful of snaps per game or used more as a second-level chess piece.

If Arizona is down on Reddick as the 2017 first-round pick approaches the fourth year of his rookie deal, then Simmons or somebody else will be needed as the third outside linebacker.

Defensive line (8)

Leki Fotu (Photo by Boyd Ivey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Starters: Corey Peters, Jordan Phillips

Depth/developmental: Jonathan Bullard, Zach Allen, Leki Fotu, Rashard Lawrence

Tough-cut zone: Michael Dogbe, Miles Brown

It’s still not clear if there’s a favorite to become the third starter next to Peters or Phillips, but Bullard is the most logical choice at this time due to his experience.

Who’s even in the two-deep rotation? There are at least enough options where you would think one or two of the young players can separate themselves.

Fotu, Lawrence and Allen in theory should join Bullard as rotational pieces, but Dogbe and Brown might not be too behind after getting a decent number of snaps during their rookie campaigns.

Presented By
Western Governors University

Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals GM Monti Ossenfort talks to reporters...

Tyler Drake

Monti Ossenfort keeping trade options open as Cardinals’ draft board nears completion

The Arizona Cardinals have about 95% of their draft board completed about a week out from the NFL Draft and continue to look at all avenues.

17 hours ago

Monti Ossenfort looks on during the 2023 NFL Draft Combine...

Tyler Drake

Daniel Jeremiah: NFL Draft is Cardinals’ moment to set up franchise for years to come

The 2024 NFL Draft marks a big set-your-franchise-up situation for the Arizona Cardinals, says NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah.

21 hours ago

Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill speaks at a press conference...

Tyler Drake

Michael Bidwill: Cardinals ‘aligned on getting this thing right’ in 2024

Michael Bidwill believes the Cardinals aren't that far off from really turning things around under Jonathan Gannon and Monti Ossenfort.

2 days ago

Marvin Harrison Jr....

Nick Borgia

Marvin Harrison Jr. remains Cardinals top pick in latest ESPN mock

With the 2024 NFL draft just around the corner, ESPN's latest mock draft details what could be in store for the Cardinals' first six picks.

3 days ago

Rome Odunze...

Kevin Zimmerman

Peter Schrager’s NFL mock draft has a surprising Cardinals trade-down with Giants

Peter Schrager believes the New York Giants could trade with the Arizona Cardinals, who move down to the No. 6 pick to select Rome Odunze.

3 days ago

Trey McBride works out...

Tyler Drake

Tweaked process, same message: Cardinals begin strength and conditioning program

Arizona Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon isn't the biggest believer in picking up where you left off, especially on a year-to-year basis.

4 days ago

Post-NFL Draft defensive roster review for the Arizona Cardinals