Arizona Cardinals continue to keep special teams unit intact

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 06: Andy Lee #4 of the Arizona Cardinals punts the ball against the Los Angeles Rams at State Farm Stadium on December 06, 2020 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 06: Andy Lee #4 of the Arizona Cardinals punts the ball against the Los Angeles Rams at State Farm Stadium on December 06, 2020 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /
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Over the past week or so, the Arizona Cardinals front office has clearly made the squad’s special teams unit a priority. One of the club’s most productive wedge-busters, linebacker Tanner Vallejo, agreed to a new two-year contract with the Redbirds back on March 10th. On Monday, the first day of the NFL’s legal tampering period, the Cards brought three more special teams standouts back into the nest.

Andy Lee, Arizona’s veteran punter, was signed to a one-year deal. Linebacker Dennis Gardeck, one of the special teams group’s most valuable performers, was tendered at a second-round level. Another important member of the contingent, linebacker Ezekiel Turner, was handed a right-of-first-refusal tender from the Cardinals.

Lee, a 38-year old who entered the league back in 2004, joined the Cards in September of 2017. The three-time Pro Bowler began his career with the San Francisco 49ers, and has also played for the Cleveland Browns and Carolina Panthers. Lee is coming off of a mediocre campaign in which he averaged just 44.8 yards per punt for Arizona, good for 26th-best in the NFL.

Gardeck was credited with seven special teams tackles in the 14 games he dressed for last fall. The 26-year old will be paid $3.384 million in 2021, a salary which could prove to be a huge bargain for the Cardinals. Before he suffered a season-ending knee injury in week 14, Gardeck also contributed an impressive seven quarterback sacks from his outside linebacker position for the defensive unit.

Turner led all Cards wedge-busters in 2020 with 13 special teams stops. That total tied the 24-year old for 6th-most in professional football last year. Turner has been a core special-teamer for the franchise since he came to the desert back in 2018.

Arizona still needs to add a placekicker for the ’21 campaign. Zane Gonzalez, who converted 16 of his 22 field-goal attempts last season, was released by the organization back on March 5th. Some free-agent kickers who the Cardinals could target include Matt Prater, Ryan Succop, Nick Folk and Randy Bullock.