Arizona Cardinals: The Earl Watford Conundrum
Last season, we had a situation on the offensive line, a weakness that was apparent. Bobby Massie, the presumptive starter at right tackle, was suspended for the first two games for a police altercation.
The Arizona Cardinals fans were in a state of disarray, who would be the starter in place of Massie for the first two games?
Many assumed a veteran offensive lineman would be signed off the streets to step in (including me). Some thought that D.J. Humphries, the first round selection from last year would fill in, and maybe would show enough to maintain the job for the year.
Instead, a talent that had been in the stead waiting for an opportunity stepped up during the final preseason game to ease the coaching staffs concerns. Earl Watford didn’t get meaningful reps until week 4 of the preseason, when it finally started to sync in that Massie wouldn’t be able to beat suspension.
Watford proved capable to remain the starter for two weeks, afterwards, I thought he might have had a chance to remain the starter, instead he was pushed back into the quality reserve role. That signaled the end for Watford for the year.
You could say that this is the “make-or-break” season for Watford. The opportunity won’t come at right tackle, even though Massie signed a great contract with the Bears, the team has full belief in Humphries to maintain the position. It won’t come at the right guard position either, even though the team traded the incumbent starter from last season (Jonathan Cooper), as the team signed a true veteran for the spot in Evan Mathis. No no no. It’ll come at the center position.
At the end of the season, the Cardinals didn’t retain the incumbent starter Lyle Sendlein, instead the team made it known it was veteran A.Q. Shipley’s job to lose. Of course, the Cardinals kept one eye on the present and one on the future. They drafted Evan Boehm.
With not a single Cardinals writer to report about it, everyone assumed the Cardinals would let it be between Shipley and Boehm, but head man Bruce Arians and offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin pointed at the possibility of Earl Watford being a new center.
When asked about the center position pecking order, Bruce Arians made it known that it was 1. Shipley 2. Watford and 3. Boehm. Apparently Watford was not going to give up on his dream to start on the Cardinals offensive line.
Pride. Arizona took Earl as a developmental project, someone who could eventually start on the offensive line. If Earl Watford beats A.Q. Shipley, it wouldn’t be a surprise. Shipley is currently being paid as a backup either way. Earl Watford wants the Cardinals to know they didn’t waste a 4th round selection on him.
Remember, Watford would probably be a lot cheaper to keep around. To see his value go up would put an already laundry list of free agents at an all-time high. Remember though, Evan Mathis is a free agent next year, as he is 34 years old and might want to retire next offseason.
Earl Watford could be possible replacement next year, if only he could prove his worth to the Cardinals, hence the chance of him winning the starting center spot this year. Boehm could be the starting center next year while Watford and this years 5th round selection, Cole Toner, could battle for the position that could be vacated by Evan Mathis.
Even if he starts and the Cardinals don’t have the money to bring him back, the fact remains that he would be a valuable addition to another team on the open market. Why does this help the Cardinals? Compensatory picks. The Cardinals could get the equal value of Watford. Why not?
Then again, just like Jonathan Cooper, it could end up to be a bad investment.