Robert Nkemdiche – DL
In his third season as a pro, Robert Nkemdiche showed progress in 2018. Though he wasn’t the game-wrecker most wanted him to be, he did well as a 4-3 defensive tackle and racked up a career high in sacks with 4.5. But, that all ended when he tore his ACL in early December.
The Cardinals responded to Nkemdiche’s lack of health and success by declining his fifth-year option, which makes next season the last on his rookie contract. Unfortunately for the Ole Miss product, he may not be able to prove the Cardinals wrong to the extent he wants to.
Not only is Nkemdiche expected to miss the first month or so of the regular season, he probably won’t have a big role when he comes back. The team drafted coveted lineman Zach Allen in the third round and made free agency signings that include adding on Brooks Reed, Darius Philon, Terrell Suggs, and retaining Rodney Gunter.
To go along with the new additions, newly hired defensive coordinator Vance Joseph will be switching the defense from a 4-3 to a 3-4. Nkemdiche flourished in the 4-3 last season, but he hasn’t yet registered a sack playing in a 3-4 defense.
So what does that mean for Nkemdiche? It means his last days as an Arizona Cardinal may be coming very soon. Unless he turns heads when he gets back (which he is very capable of doing), the Cardinals will likely look to go in another, cheaper direction in terms of defensive line talent.