Arizona Cardinals positions of need: Offensive line breakdown
Jan 21, 2022, 1:05 PM
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
The Arizona Cardinals could roll out the exact same starting offensive line in consecutive Week 1s if they choose to.
Right guard Max Garcia, who started in Monday’s playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams but was a backup early on, is the only upcoming free agent in the position group heading into the offseason.
The Cardinals will decide whether or not they want to do that.
Continuity and chemistry within a line is a positive, and this group spent a lot of time off the field with each other to build that bond.
Plus, the Cardinals started nine different offensive line combinations in 2021 due to injuries and COVID-19 cases. That’s a lot of adversity.
However, the line was overwhelmed by the Rams on Monday, one of the more prolific pass rushes in the game but a unit the Cardinals have to deal with in the NFC West.
Four of the five starters in that game were past 30-years-old, so the organization has to decide on continuity or mixing it up, potentially with younger players.
There are ways to clear cap within this unit.
Under contract in 2022:
– LT D.J. Humphries
– LG Justin Pugh
– C Rodney Hudson
– RT Kelvin Beachum
– OL Josh Jones
– OL Justin Murray
– OT Joshua Miles
– OG Sean Harlow
– C Marcus Henry
– OG Koda Martin (future deal)
– OL Eric Smith (future deal)
– OG Danny Isidora (future deal)
Humphries and Jones are the only linemen signed beyond next season.
Pugh, Murray and Beachum are players the Cardinals have to decide whether to keep under contract or cut to create cap room.
Arizona could save $9.26 million by cutting Pugh, who has a $2 million dead cap hit, according to Spotrac. He’s already taken a pay cut help the Cardinals build the roster.
He dealt with a calf injury in the second half of the season which held him to 13 starts, but Pugh was one of the more reliable blockers when playing. The veteran was flagged only twice and finished fifth in the league in pass block win rate as a guard, per ESPN.
Beachum and Murray combined are set to impose a cap hit of just over $5 million in 2022, but the Cardinals can save nearly $4 million of that by releasing both.
Murray is coming off a back injury that limited him to three games this past season.
Jones is the youngest lineman on the active roster at 24 years old.
He was a 2020 third-round draft pick who led the team with 10 accepted penalties against him in 2021. Jones began the year starting at right guard but lost his spot to Garcia.
He was drafted as a tackle, but the Cardinals saw a chance to develop him as a swing lineman.
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury told reporters on Tuesday that the team needs Jones to continue to progress for next year.
The Cardinals have not drafted an offensive lineman in the opening two rounds of the draft since Humphries in 2015, as the organization has chosen to focus on veterans opposed to developing younger players.