Kingsbury: Released WR Hakeem Butler, Cardinals needed ‘fresh start’

Sep 7, 2020, 4:37 PM | Updated: 4:47 pm
Arizona Cardinals’ Hakeem Butler looks on during the team’s training camp Sunday, July 28, 2019...
Arizona Cardinals’ Hakeem Butler looks on during the team’s training camp Sunday, July 28, 2019, at State Farm Stadium. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)
(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

The Arizona Cardinals released second-year receiver Hakeem Butler well in advance of the Saturday 53-man roster reduction deadline. Putting the fourth-round pick on the open market a day before was a sign the team had no interest in hoping he would clear waivers.

Indeed, the Cardinals didn’t re-sign him to their practice squad roster.

“For Hakeem, he’s a talented young man. We really like Hakeem,” Kliff Kingsbury said Monday. “It’s just one of those deals — sometimes it’s better for both sides to have a fresh start, and we felt like that was one of those instances. He has a tremendous upside and we still think he can be a really good player in this league.

“It just wasn’t working here and so we allowed him to go somewhere else. I hope it works out for him because we did enjoy him while he was here.”

Butler, the 6-foot-5 jump-ball receiver, was a victim of the numbers.

The Cardinals kept six receivers, including his 2019 draft classmates Andy Isabella and KeeSean Johnson. Arizona also waived young pros JoJo Ward, A.J. Richardson and Andre Patton before bringing them back on the practice squad.

As of Monday, Butler remains a free agent.

The Iowa State product, who came to the NFL with a reputation of dropping easy catches and needing time to develop as a route-runner, missed his entire rookie year after a hand injury put him on the IR.

That kept him away from practices, and though he improved, according to Kingsbury and receivers coach David Raih, it wasn’t enough to push him up the depth chart ahead of Isabella or Johnson. Those rookies flashed last year, as the reliable third-year pro Trent Sherfield, who is also one of the Cardinals’ top special teamers.

Post-deadline roster news and notes

— Arizona kept three quarterbacks on the roster, and Kingsbury didn’t divulge exactly if the third, Chris Streveler, might be utilized in a unique way. But the coach did say that the risk of coronavirus impacted the team’s decision to carry a trio of signal-callers.

“We just feel like there’s three quality players on this roster,” Kingsbury said. “The other two we feel like can come in and perform and win games. With everything going on, the COVID situation, you can’t have enough guys like that who truly can step in and operate at a high level. They all earned it, basically.”

— After Butler, the cut of 2020 sixth-round pick Evan Weaver was surprising. He racked up 181 tackles at California as a senior but as an inside linebacker didn’t do enough with Isaiah Simmons, Tanner Vallejo and Zeke Turner as options behind Jordan Hicks and De’Vondre Campbell.

“I think not having an offseason at that position, which is so mentally challenging for a young player, definitely hurt,” Kingsbury said. “He knows what he has to work on to crack this lineup. We like how hard he works at it and how tough he is. We’ll see how that goes development-wise.”

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