Arizona Cardinals blocking unit could look different in 2021

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) Josh Jones
(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) Josh Jones /

The offensive line of the Arizona Cardinals could look much different when the 2021 regular-season rolls around next fall

For many years now, the Arizona Cardinals have attempted to assemble a viable offensive line. This past fall, the club’s unit made their coach Sean Kugler proud, holding up well in both the run-blocking and pass-protection aspects of the job. Can Cards fans expect expect a repeat performance from the offense’s front wall next fall?

At this point of the offseason, that question would be extremely difficult to answer. For one thing, Arizona’s o-line could look significantly different in 2021. Free agency, and an expected drop in the NFL’s salary-cap number, could bring change to the team’s blocking contingent when the regular-season rolls around.

Two of the five starters from the Cardinals 2020 o-line are scheduled to hit the free agent market. Kelvin Beachum, the right tackle who was signed by the front office last July, will be looking for a new contract. The 31-year old, who started all 16 games for the Cards, turned out to be one of the franchise’s most important offseason acquisitions.

Hanging onto Beachum could turn out to be a tricky proposition. The veteran was inked to a one-year, $1.187 million deal, one of the biggest bargains of the 2020 campaign. You can be sure that Beachum and his agent will be looking for a big raise that could quite possibly take Arizona out of the running for his services.

The other Cardinals blocker who’ll be testing the free agent waters is right guard J.R. Sweezy. The 31-year old was not as effective as Beachum, and was frequently replaced in the lineup. It’s possible that the Cards will allow Sweezy to leave without making the 10th-year pro an offer to stay.

Arizona has a pair of in-house candidates waiting in the wings who could serve as replacements for Beachum and Sweezy. Justin Murray, who was signed to an extension this past October, can play both tackle and guard. Josh Jones, a rookie who was selected in the third round of last April’s draft, can also perform at either position.

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There’s one other change on the Cardinals offensive line that could also take place. Center Mason Cole struggled at times in his second full year as the group’s anchor. Lamont Gaillard was pressed into action in his second campaign with the Redbirds, and could challenge Cole for the starting gig during this coming summer’s training camp.