At the end of the 2012 season, middle linebacker didn’t appear to be a glaring need. However, the Cardinals still decided to add depth early in the free agency period by locking up middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley.
And for that, they are extremely happy.
Washington was suspended four games for drug use, and his suspension could be extended due to recent allegations. With Paris Lenon departing in free agency, the Cardinals decided to add a complement to Washington when they signed Brinkley. Instead, they ended up receiving a player who has an extremely good chance of starting in Week 1.
Brinkley registered 99 tackles and three forced fumbles in 2012 with the Vikings, so he knows how to make a difference. Brinkley played in a 4-3 with the Vikings, but he should have no problem making the switch to a 3-4 defense in Arizona. Brinkley will likely start the season next to Dansby as one of the Cardinals’ two middle linebackers, but he could stay there for a longer period of time.
Washington, who was on the second-team defense Tuesday, likely won’t start right away. However, when he does come back, he would be a great fit next to Brinkley. Brinkley isn’t good against the pass, and he hasn’t intercepted a single pass over the course of his three-year career. Washington, on the other hand, knows how to play good pass defense.
In other words, Brinkley’s poor pass coverage wouldn’t matter.
The Cardinals would benefit from using Alex Okafor and Sam Acho as outside linebackers and using them on a lot of blitzes. Both are better fits as defensive ends, but pass-rushing as outside linebackers would enable them to penetrate the line and hurry the quarterback. With Washington and Brinkley patrolling the middle of the field and five defenders pursuing the quarterback, the Cardinals would be able to keep the ball away from the middle of the field.
Dansby has intercepted 11 passes over the course of his career, and he intercepted three passes in two separate years with the Cardinals. With Dansby and Brinkley (who combined for 233 tackles in 2012), the Cardinals should be set for Week 1. Brinkley managed 6.2 tackles and 0.2 forced fumbles per game despite playing in a 4-3, where it’s easier to stuff a running back at the defensive line before a linebacker has a chance to make a play.
Despite having Washington, the Cardinals ranked 28th against the run in 2012. Brinkley is a great run defender who has a chance to make a huge impact for very little money. Brinkley is due $1.05 million in 2013 and $3.5 million over two years, which is great value for an impactful starter. Expect Brinkley to be plugged in next to Dansby right away, and expect him to excel in a favorable situation.
Arizona is very lucky to have obtained Brinkley. Kevin Minter is a good player, but Brinkley is definitely a better option to start in Week 1. Brinkley is a player who can come in and help Arizona’s poor run defense immediately, and because of the help he will provide and because of the cheap contract he signed, this signing deserves an A.