The start of free agency is still a couple of days away, but the Arizona Cardinals have already begun to shape their 2021 roster. Back on March 1st, general manager Steve Keim persuaded the sensational J.J. Watt to come to the “Valley of the Sun”. This past Wednesday, the Cards released Robert Alford, only to re-sign the veteran cornerback just 48 hours later.
One area of the Arizona roster that has not escaped the front office’s attention is the special teams unit. In fact, two specific moves by management this past week will have a direct effect on that underpublicized segment of the team.
On March 10th, the Cardinals announced that they were bringing Tanner Vallejo back to the nest. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that the contract will pay the 26-year old $4.1 million over the next couple of campaigns. Vallejo, who joined the organization back in 2019, was set to become an unrestricted free agent this coming Monday.
While Vallejo will be returning to the Cards, another member of the squad’s core special-teamers may be playing elsewhere this fall. It was announced on Friday that Trent Sherfield, a restricted free agent, will not be tendered. The designation means that the 25-year old wide receiver will now be permitted to negotiate a deal with any team who covets his services.
Although both players have seen action at their respective positions, it’s been on special teams that Vallejo and Sherfield have had their greatest impact. Last season, Vallejo finished second on the Cardinals with 10 special teams tackles, while Sherfield was right behind him with nine. Linebacker Ezekiel Turner led all Arizona wedge-busters with 13 special teams stops.
Vallejo totaled 26 tackles and a sack in 16 appearances for the Cards in 2020. The inside linebacker was outstanding during a week 17 defeat to the Los Angeles Rams. Vallejo played 88% of the defensive snaps that day, talling 12 tackles and the second sack of his professional career for the Cardinals.
Sherfield never really caught on as a pass-catcher during his time in the desert. In 44 games (four starts) for the Cards, the 6’1, 219 pounder hauled in just 28 passes for 340 yards and one touchdown for the Redbirds. Sherfield, who played his college ball at Vanderbilt University, originally signed with the organization as an undrafted free agent back in 2018.