Arizona Cardinals positions of need: A look at linebacker
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.