Veteran inside linebackers are on standby for the Arizona Cardinals
By Jim Koch
Nick Vigil and Ben Niemann are ready to step in for the Arizona Cardinals if the club’s youthful pair of ILBs fail to succeed.
Two years have passed since the Arizona Cardinals used their first-round draft pick on Isaiah Simmons, a versatile youngster who settled in at inside linebacker for the squad.
The Cards went in the very same direction one year later. This time around, general manager Steve Keim grabbed ILB Zaven Collins with the club’s number one choice. Was spending two consecutive top selections on the exact same position the right call for the Super Bowl-hungry Redbirds?
Actually, the jury is still out on that all-important question. With an extra campaign of experience under his belt, Simmons appears to be more of a sure thing. On the other hand, Collins struggled mightily as a rookie last season.
As insurance for the youthful duo, Arizona’s management team went out this offseason and acquired two veteran inside linebackers. Individuals who are ready and willing to take over if Simmons and Collins fail to live up to their inflated pedigrees.
Free-agent acquisitions can provide insurance at ILB for the Arizona Cardinals.
Nick Vigil, a 28-year-old who spent time with the Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Chargers, and Minnesota Vikings, was signed by the Cardinals in March.
The acquisition came one week after Jordan Hicks, a three-year starter at inside linebacker for the Cards, inked a free-agent deal with the Vikings.
In 85 pro appearances (51 starts), Vigil has racked up 430 tackles, five sacks, three interceptions, and 16 passes defensed.
However, the “Red Sea” may have a not-so-fond memory of the 6 foot 2, 235 pounder from 2021, when Vigil recorded a 38-yard pick-six for Minnesota during a week-two matchup at State Farm Stadium.
Three months after Vigil’s arrival, Keim decided to secure even more insurance for the center of Arizona’s defensive unit. Ben Niemann, a fifth-year professional from the Kansas City Chiefs, agreed to a one-year contract.
Niemann dressed in 62 games over four seasons while he was with the Chiefs and was credited with 12 starts. The 6’2″, 233-pounder totaled 167 tackles, two sacks, and five fumble recoveries for Kansas City.
If things work out as planned, both Simmons and Collins will live up to the lofty expectations that have been placed upon them. Vigil and Niemann are standing by to help out if the highly-touted inside linebackers are not up to the task.
(Statistics provided by Pro Football Reference)