The Arizona Cardinals need help on the defensive line; luckily the New York Jets have made one of their stars available.
In a recent article by ClutchPoints’ Skyler Carlin overviewing potential trade partners for the New York Jets’ star Leonard Williams, the Arizona Cardinals were listed as a possible destination. This doesn’t come as a surprise, as the Cardinals desperately need star power in the defensive front-seven to couple with a much-improved roster.
"Williams would be a perfect fit for Joseph’s defense and could succeed alongside Jones coming off the edge next to him. At just 25 years old, Williams makes a ton of sense for a team who is still reshaping their roster towards more youth."
In case you haven’t heard, the Jets are back to their messy ways. After firing general manager Mike Maccagnan despite having a successful off-season, New York has given the interim job to head coach Adam Gase. Since the switch was made, rumors have swirled about the Jets ridding themselves from decisions made by the former GM.
In fact, the Jets have already acted on those rumors. Gase traded away former first-round linebacker Darron Lee to the Kansas City Chiefs for a sixth-round selection next year. But more players could be on the move, specifically, Leonard Williams.
Per Rod Cimini of ESPN, rumors are swirling league-wide about Williams potentially being traded out of New York. This comes as a surprise. Though they drafted another interior defensive lineman in Quinnen Williams at No. 3 overall, many, including myself, believe that the Alabama and USC product could co-exist seamlessly.
But, that may not be the case. If it isn’t, the Cardinals would be wise to jump on the situation and nab the defensive stalwart in a trade. But it won’t be cheap, in terms of both trade compensation and salary.
Since entering the league in 2015 as the No. 6 overall pick, Williams has proved to be one of the better defensive linemen in the NFL. He was a Pro Bowler in 2016 and has not yet missed a game. His career totals include 220 total tackles, 17.0 sacks, 32 tackles for loss, and 85 quarterback hits.
Williams was ranked as Pro Football Focus‘ 30th best interior defensive lineman in 2018 with a 78.2 grade. Considering his age (24), and his success in the NFL, acquiring the USC product will be expensive.
Though Williams doesn’t play a premium position, trade talks would likely start at a second-round pick. However, it’s worth noting that he is on his fifth-year option, making him a free agent next year. The scare of a one-year-rental may hurt his trade value.
But, there is another hurdle that the Cardinals would have to clear not named trade compensation; salary, and how he’d fit in their limited cap space. The Redbirds currently have $6.5 million in cap space, and Williams 2019 salary is $14.2 million, per Over The Cap.
In order for a trade to work, Steve Keim would likely have to package an expensive player in the deal. Only five players currently on the roster would cover the $7.7 million difference; D.J. Humphries, David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, and Chandler Jones. With that being said, the Cardinals would likely have to restructure salaries to make it work, as all the five are likely in Arizona for the long haul.
Ultimately, trading for Williams may be tough. Though he’s undoubtedly one of the best young talents on the defensive line in the league, the Cardinals may have a hard time seeing value in a trade, mainly because they are restricted in cap space.
But, if they decide to do so, and can perform it without parting ways with high-level talent, the Cardinals would have another building block on defense. Factoring in that the team struggled on the defensive side of the ball last year, and are switching to Williams’ native 3-4, a move would be highly beneficial.