Analyzing the Arizona Cardinals safeties for 2023 (inevitable shakeup?)

Dec 12, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker (3) and Jalen Thompson
Dec 12, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker (3) and Jalen Thompson / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Cardinals could enter 2023 with one of the best tandems at safety in the NFL…or they could be stuck improvising at the position all season.

At this point, we have no idea of what’s going on with star safety Budda Baker. Baker, one of the best in the NFL, could be given a contract extension with an increased salary, or he could demand a trade and force the Arizona Cardinals to send him elsewhere, and by the way he’s sounding, that potentially inevitable trade will be with a contender. 

So where does that leave the Redbirds at safety? Fortunately, Jalen Thompson is still there, and he too is one of the better players in the league at the position. But unfortunately, that’s about as good as it gets for the Cards, given the relative unknowns and one star backer who could replace Baker. 

What will the Arizona Cardinals safeties look like this season?

Projected Starters (with Baker): Jalen Thompson, Budda Baker; Star Backer: Isaiah Simmons; Backups: Juju Hughes, Josh Thomas; Projected Starters (without Baker): Jalen Thompson, Isaiah Simmons; Rotational: Juju Hughes; Practice Squad: Kendell Brooks; Won’t Make Team: Jovante Moffatt

Ideally, Baker returns to the Arizona Cardinals and starts alongside Jalen Thompson, while Isaiah Simmons sees time at the position in a star backer role. If Baker doesn’t return, expect Simmons to get the nod to play primarily at safety as opposed to linebacker or slot corner, though he will see time at all three positions, prompting Juju Hughes as the current next man up. 

But as you can see, neither Hughes, Josh Thomas, or Kendell Brooks are names you’d like to see lining up even as backups, because they’ve done, what, exactly, on the defensive side of the ball? The hope here is that someone steps up and surprises us, because if they don’t, what could be an excellent position group will stagnate. 

Overall, the Arizona Cardinals could be fine at safety if Baker returns. But if he’s out, then Simmons could take at least half the reps at strong safety. But given the latter’s versatility, someone else must step up. 

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