Markus Golden feels right at home with Cardinals after trade from Giants

Nov 4, 2020, 2:34 PM

Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Markus Golden (44) lines up against the Green Bay Packers duri...

Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Markus Golden (44) lines up against the Green Bay Packers during an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)

(Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)

Markus Golden’s enthusiasm — or maybe it was just the volume of his voice — translated well over a Zoom conference with Arizona Cardinals reporters on Wednesday.

That’s not surprising if you already knew the personality of the pass-rusher and 2015 second-round pick, who spent his first four NFL seasons in a Cardinals uniform. Yet a trade last week that shipped him back to the desert from the 1-6 New York Giants added even more pop to his over-abundant energy.

“This is my home, this is the home team. Even when I was away, I was rooting for the Cardinals to do good because in my heart I’ll always be a Cardinal,” he said. “You’re going to get everything out of me.”

There are no hard feelings on Golden’s end after the Cardinals didn’t re-sign him following the 2018 season.

That year, in head coach Steve Wilks’ 4-3 defensive front, Golden played in 11 games coming off a season-ending ACL injury the year prior.

He produced an underwhelming 2.5 sacks and 30 tackles at defensive end, and Arizona didn’t re-sign him when it fired Wilks’ staff and moved on by hiring coach Kliff Kingsbury.

Golden said general manager Steve Keim’s staff showed interest in re-signing him as a free agent, but his representatives pursued an opportunity with New York.

“It didn’t work out with the agent I had at the time,” he said. “It wasn’t no hard feelings at all. At the end of the day, the Cardinals wanted me to stay here and be here, and I got to always respect them for that.”

With 10 sacks last year for the Giants, Golden thought he’d rebuilt his market as a top pass-rusher. Playing under former Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher, he flashed the kind of stuff that he last showed with Arizona in 2016, when he posted 12.5 sacks opposite All-Pro outside linebacker Chandler Jones.

Instead, the free agent’s hand was forced when the Giants extended a little-used “May 5” unrestricted free agent tender.

That tied New York to him at 110% of his 2019 salary, and though he was allowed to search for larger contracts elsewhere, the one-year tender potentially scared other teams off. A big contract never came, and Golden was back to play for the Giants this season.

That was until they floundered out of the gates and became a seller before Tuesday’s trade deadline.

Golden, who will again reach free agency after this season, didn’t know he was being dealt to Arizona until it’d already been completed.

“I kind of went to sleep in a bad mood, man … woke up with a couple missed calls,” he said. “My agent was one and the New York Giants was one. So I knew then: I say, ‘I know I’m out of here, but I don’t know where I be going.

“They told me where I was going, and I got up and started packing my bags, man … I got right up out the bed and started packing my bags to get out here.”

The transition to play for the Cardinals should be relatively seamless.

Golden literally got off the plane when he arrived in Phoenix and went to his house.

He slept in his own bed, ate out of his own refrigerator and spent time with his kids, who live in the Valley. That made it easy as he spent several days sitting in quarantine — NFL protocols called for an isolation period after travel — during the Cardinals’ bye week.

The pass-rusher was out on the field for Arizona this week.

“He fits perfectly into our plan,” Joseph said last Wednesday. “He’s a classic outside backer. He loves to be in a two-point stance, he loves to get one-on-one in pass-rushing and he’s a guy that plays hard. As an outside backer with his relentless personality, he’s going to make plays for us.

“Watching him over the years as an outside rusher, man, he overwhelms tackles just with effort.”

The 6-foot-3, 260-pound linebacker will be needed Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.

The Cardinals were already down Jones to a season-ending biceps injury before fellow starter Devon Kennard found himself moving to the reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday.

“I know, Chandler, he’s happy for me,” Golden said. “He called me quick (after the trade) and was yelling on the phone. So yes, it’s hard to know Chandler had to go down, ’cause to be honest I want to be on the opposite side of Chandler and be huntin’ like we used to.”

Haason Reddick and Golden are atop the outside linebacker pecking order with Kylie Fitts and Dennis Gardeck backing them up.

Golden doesn’t see too much of a learning curve playing as an attacking edge rusher in Joseph’s 3-4 scheme, like he did for Bettcher.

Suiting up in the No. 44 jersey once again, the Cardinals hope it looks just like the old days.

“Not really a notable change to me,” Golden said. “See ball, ball snapped, you go off and play football. Kind of like when I was here.”

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