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While the Arizona Cardinals continue to make headlines off the field for all the wrong reasons, the football-related news surrounding the club has also been steady here at the NFL Combine.
The Jalen Carter situation, which was made public on Wednesday, was something that most teams have known for “some time,” per a source. So while it doesn’t change the fact that the former Georgia standout is under immense scrutiny, there’s a strong likelihood that general manager Monti Ossenfort was made aware of Carter’s incident prior to this week.
With that being said, barring something unforeseen, I don’t see the Cardinals utilizing the third overall pick on Carter. Despite his obvious gifts, all of which would surely aid Arizona’s underwhelming defensive line, selecting Carter as the club’s first pick in the Ossenfort/Jonathan Gannon era would send all the wrong messages. With a much-needed culture shift taking place, this is bigger than just your routine top-five selection. Fair or not, whomever Ossenfort selects will be the “poster player” for this new era of Arizona Cardinals football.
Speaking of a new era, fans should expect wholesale changes to this roster outside of the forthcoming DeAndre Hopkins trade. Ossenfort and Gannon have no allegiance to a roster that has been mismanaged for far too long. Isaiah Simmons, who remains positionless until further notice, does not yet have an answer from the club regarding his fifth-year option. If I had to wager a guess, expect 2023 to be Simmons’ last year with Arizona.
Why? Well let’s start with the noncommittal response by Ossenfort despite his many GM peers actively announcing such moves.
Monti Ossenfort on Isaiah Simmons’ status and fifth-year option. pic.twitter.com/WBObHNkvS4
— PHNX Cardinals (@PHNX_Cardinals) February 28, 2023
Ossenfort and Gannon have a history of undervaluing the inside linebacker position, dating back to their time in Tennessee and Philadelphia. They would prefer to make their living investing in premium positions like defensive tackle, edge rusher and corner rather than paying a hybrid player upwards of $12 million. Gannon, in particular, thrives with the undervalued and forgotten. Which is why, ahead of free agency, keep an eye on former Eagles linebacker Kyzir White to potentially join the club as one of JG’s “culture guys.”
Keeping it in house with the Redbirds, while fan favorites, free-agents-to-be Byron Murphy and Zach Allen are expected to have solid interest from opposing teams on the open market. While solid contributors, neither has achieved the elite level status that could reflect the eventual offers they receive from cash-flushed teams.
See Christian Kirk from a year ago — a good player that was paid like an elite one. That’s what happens when teams believe they’re primed to earn a player’s “peak years.” Shame on the Cardinals for mismanaging the usage of too many young draftees during the Steve Keim era.
Ossenfort echoed potential cap limitations for universal retention during his Tuesday press conference in Indianapolis.
A way to free up some cap space would be by trading All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, a move I’m told could happen “at any time.”
First reported by Jordan Schultz of The Score, and later confirmed on the PHNX Cardinals Podcast by NFL Insider Benjamin Allbright, Hopkins will likely net the club anywhere between $8-18 million in cap space. The Cardinals are currently asking for a first-round pick in exchange for D-Hop, but per Schultz and Allbright, will likely net a second (with some change).
While the eventual jet-setting of an elite level player is never easy, Hopkins has become old, unavailable and expensive. Turning 31 in June, Hopkins will have a cap hit of over $30 million in 2023 while having played only 19 games combined the past two seasons. While you would obviously prefer to have Hopkins on your team, with the Cards set to approach a rebuilding year of sorts in 2023, it makes sense to sell high while you can. The deal that sent Hopkins to the desert was made by the prior regime during an “all-in” period centered around Kyler Murray’s rookie contract.
Those years are over, and so is the club’s prior way of team-building. This franchise is desperate for a rebrand, which will be highlighted by a draft-and-develop mentality.
The Cardinals are in asset acquisition mode, and that starts with draft capital. Word in Indianapolis is that Arizona would prefer to trade down with the idea of acquiring additional “high-end picks” tailored for 2024.
It’s well known that the club plans to completely revamp their scouting approach, which means an implementation of new strategies and ideas for the 2023 college football season. Adding draft capital next spring is something this team is actively considering, especially if a top-10 team comes calling for a quarterback.
If a trade down isn’t an option at pick No. 3, the two likeliest candidates at this time remain Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. and Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson, with the latter being perhaps the fastest riser here in Indy.
Follow Johnny Venerable on twitter @JohnnyVenerable
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