Arizona Cardinals could field a young defensive unit in 2021

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) Leki Fotu
(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) Leki Fotu /

The 2021 offseason is going to be a challenging one for the Arizona Cardinals front office. A drop in the salary-cap ceiling (predicted to be as low as $175 million) could make signing free agents a difficult task for general manager Steve Keim. The effects of such a scenario could mean a much younger group of Cards on the playing field this coming fall.

Arizona’s defensive unit, in particular, could be forced to undergo a youth movement when the regular-season gets underway in September. The club will be dealing with an extensive free-agent list that is peppered with several veteran defenders. Players that could quite simply be out of the price range of the cash-strapped Cardinals.

Defensive tackle Corey Peters is a prime example. The 32-year old has been a solid contributor both on and off of the field for the franchise, but his contract demands could force him out of town. Second-year linemen like Leki Fotu and Rashard Lawrence could serve as the replacements for Peters going forward.

At inside linebacker, De’Vondre Campbell is another free agent who could be playing elsewhere in ’21. Last year’s first-round selection, Isaiah Simmons, will almost certainly get to prove his worth next season. Campbell is coming off of a productive performance (99 tackles, two sacks), and will likely be looking for more than the $6 million he collected from the Cards in 2020.

The cornerback position could also be injected with an infusion of youth this year. Patrick Peterson (30) and Dre Kirkpatrick (31) will both be seeking new contracts this spring that the Cardinals may not be able to provide. There are those who believe that the club will use the 16th-overall pick of this year’s NFL Draft on a cover guy to pair with 22-year old Byron Murphy.

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Arizona also has some other youngsters who will play significant roles for coordinator Vance Joseph‘s unit this coming fall. It’s a contingent that includes safety Budda Baker (25), defensive end Zach Allen (23), outside linebacker Dennis Gardeck (26) and safety Jalen Thompson (22). Management will need to hope that a possible lack of experience on the defensive side of the ball will somehow translate into more victories for the Cards in 2021.