Arizona Cardinals positions of need: A look at linebacker

Jan 21, 2022, 8:00 AM | Updated: 9:15 am

The Arizona Cardinals have used their last two first-round draft selections on linebackers Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins, yet the position still seems to be one of need.

Simmons found more consistency and playing time in his second year, while Collins struggled to find defensive snaps all season as a rookie.

The second-year linebacker played in under 80% of defensive snaps just three times all season, but Simmons’ lowest percentage was in the Wild Card game against the Los Angeles Rams with 32%.

Collins was named the starter in the offseason before playing a snap, but Jordan Hicks was featured in fewer than 90% of the defensive snaps just one time all year in Week 7, where the rookie saw over 50% of defensive snaps just two times in Week 5 (52%) and Week 7 (57%).

Tanner Vallejo played more snaps than Collins or Simmons in the playoff game against Los Angeles.

Hicks asked for a trade in the offseason when Collins was named the starter at his position, but he has declined to comment on if that request still stands after playing a majority of the reps.

Players under contract in 2022:

– OLB Markus Golden

– LB Isaiah Simmons

– ILB Zaven Collins

– ILB Jordan Hicks

– OLB Devon Kennard

– ILB Tanner Vallejo

– OLB Victor Dimukeje

– ILB Joe Walker (future deal)

Players not under contract for 2022:

– OLB Chandler Jones

– OLB Dennis Gardeck

– ILB Ezekiel Turner

The question to bring back the franchise’s all-time leader in sacks in Jones is one of the biggest of the offseason.

Jones made a $15.5 million base salary in the final year of his contract, but he could be looking for his last big pay day at 32 years old.

Hicks, Golden and Kennard all have one year remaining on their deals while Simmons, Collins and Dimukeje are all on rookie contracts.

Golden has been a bright spot for the Cardinals after they acquired him midseason in 2020. He has recorded 71 tackles and 14 sacks in 25 games since returning to the team.

Kennard wasn’t a major factor for Arizona in 2021, totaling 24 tackles and zero sacks in 15 games. The 30-year-old has only 43 tackles and three sacks in his two seasons in the Valley.

His base salary will almost double in 2022 to $6.75 million, and his cap hit is $9.1 million. The Cardinals can save nearly $5 million by cutting Kennard, but he has a $4.2 million dead cap hit.

Depending on what the team does with Jones, it is possible they could target veteran outside linebackers in free agency or take a flier on one in the draft.

Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) is congratulated by tight end Maxx Williams (87) aft...
Arizona Sports

NFL Network’s Frelund leaves Cardinals off list of top NFL offenses

The Arizona Cardinals have not had a top-10 scoring offense since head coach Kliff Kingsbury and quarterback Kyler Murray arrived in 2019.
22 hours ago
New Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Marquise Brown answers a question at a news conference at the C...
Tom Kuebel

Arizona Cardinals’ Hollywood Brown could be next in line for big contract

The Cardinals made one of the most surprising moves on draft day by trading out of the first round for receiver Marquise "Hollywood" Brown.
2 days ago
Keaontay Ingram #28 of the USC Trojans runs as he is chased by Ricky Miezan #45 of the Stanford Car...
Arizona Sports’s Reuter: Cardinals’ Ingram among late picks with chance to start

NFL Network draft analyst Chad Reuter placed Cardinals RB Keaontay Ingram on a list of Day 3 picks with a chance to start games in 2022.
2 days ago
J.J. Watt #99 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrates in the second quarter against the Houston Texans ...
Arizona Sports

Seven words or less: The Arizona Cardinals’ 2022 schedule

Cardinals Corner co-hosts Tyler Drake and Erik Ruby took a look at each of Arizona's matchups in -- you guessed it -- seven words or less.
3 days ago
James Conner #6 and Byron Murphy #7 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrate as they run off the field af...
Arizona Sports

NFL Network’s Rosenthal projects Arizona Cardinals’ 2022 starters

With OTAs next week, NFL Network's Gregg Rosenthal projected the 2022 starters for the Arizona Cardinals with notes about every position.
3 days ago
A.J. Green #18 of the Arizona Cardinals runs after his catch from David Long #22 of the Los Angeles...
Arizona Sports

The Athletic’s Jones: Cardinals-Rams in Week 3 a must-watch game in 2022

Of the Cardinals' 2022 slate, The Athletic's Lindsay Jones believes the Week 3 matchup against the Rams stands out above the rest.
3 days ago
Arizona Cardinals positions of need: A look at linebacker