The Arizona Cardinals could very well to decide to move on from a former second-round draft pick who’s set to become a free agent
The Arizona Cardinals, like every other club in the NFL, have a fresh new set of decisions to make this offseason. Steve Keim is certain to endure some sleepless nights, trying to figure out what’s best for the roster. One player in particular, once the free agent signing period begins, is sure to keep the Cardinals general manager from getting the recommended amount of shut-eye.
Arizona is going to have to think long and hard about what to do with Markus Golden. The former second-round draft pick did not play very well this past fall. Ex-head coach Steve Wilks brought a 4-3 defensive alignment to the desert, forcing Golden to play defensive end for the first time since college.
The position change wasn’t the only obstacle that the 6’3, 260 pounder had to overcome. Golden had suffered a torn ACL in 2017, and had not fully recovered from it by 2018’s opening week. Lingering effects from the knee injury cost the outside linebacker the first two games, and he also had to deal with a bum ankle later on in the campaign.
Golden’s statistics in ’18 were not impressive. The 27-year old tallied 30 tackles and just two and a half sacks in the 11 contests he suited up for. Numbers that paled in comparison to the 51-tackle, 12.5 sack performance Golden registered in 2016.
With those factors in mind, there are some extremely intriguing free agent linebackers who’ll be hitting the market this coming March. The Cards, for the first time in awhile, will have the salary-cap space to be major players once the spending spree commences.
One defender who’s guaranteed to cash in this offseason is the Houston Texans Jadeveon Clowney. The 25-year old accumulated 47 tackles, nine sacks and an outstanding 21 quarterback hits last fall. A pairing of Clowney and current Cardinal Chandler Jones would undoubtedly put a tremendous amount of fear in opposing offenses.
Dee Ford was an unstoppable force for the Kansas City Chiefs in ’18. The 27-year old tallied 55 tackles, 13 sacks and a mind-boggling 29 quarterback hits during the regular season. Those outstanding numbers got Ford voted to the first Pro Bowl of his five-year career, and will give his agent superb leverage at the bargaining table.
Clay Matthews would also look fantastic in an Arizona uniform. The Green Bay Packers stalwart racked up 43 tackles, three and a half sacks and 12 quarterback hits this past season. Matthews would also provide a leadership element that seemed to be missing from the Cardinals defense in ’18.
Despite the fact that he’s 36 years old, the Baltimore Ravens Terrell Suggs is still performing at a high level. The former 10th-overall pick of the 2003 draft amassed 34 tackles, seven sacks and 15 quarterback hits during this past campaign. Suggs is a native of Chandler, Arizona who could conceivably finish his career at home by signing with the Cardinals.
Preston Smith may not be a household name like the others who’ve been mentioned in this article. Nevertheless, the 26-year old has been one heck of a contributor since he was drafted in 2015 by the Washington Redskins. Smith has registered 164 tackles, 24.5 sacks, 29 tackles for loss and 59 quarterback hits during his four campaigns as a professional.
Losing Golden would not be the end of the world for the Cardinals. The front office certainly has the funds to replace him if his departure does become a reality. And plenty of outside linebacker talent to choose from as well.