Arizona Cardinals got it right by keeping four tight ends in 2023

The Arizona Cardinals did something a little differently this year, keeping four tight ends on the roster, which further implies they will be running A LOT.
Kansas City Chiefs v Arizona Cardinals
Kansas City Chiefs v Arizona Cardinals / Michael Owens/GettyImages

You don’t often see NFL teams keeping four tight ends, but when they do, it means one thing: They will be running the ball…a lot. And you can also expect to see many two tight end sets on the field this season for the Arizona Cardinals, with likely one lining up on the line and another in the backfield. 

We saw Trey McBride getting some playing time at fullback in the preseason. So my initial projection is that he lines up in the backfield often this year while Zach Ertz, Geoff Swaim, and Blake Whiteheart mainly find themselves playing the true tight end spot. 

This isn’t to say McBride won’t play the position too, but if there was ever a three-down tight end in the desert this year, it’s him. McBride also showed us last season that he was a willing blocker, so putting him at fullback makes sense. It will also allow him to sneak out of the backfield and catch passes.

Arizona Cardinals correct to keep four tight ends for 2023

While I was convinced Noah Togiai beat him out, it was refreshing to see the Redbirds hang onto Blake Whiteheart. He showed sure-handedness in Preseason Week 1, and he may wind up as the ultimate successor to Zach Ertz.

Whiteheart showed enough talent during the preseason to the point Arizona didn’t want to, at this point anyway, put him on waivers at the risk of him landing on someone else’s roster. Keeping Whiteheart also lets the Cards shop the aging Ertz, so perhaps the rookie will succeed the veteran sooner than some of us may anticipate. 

Finally, there is Geoff Swaim, who could factor in as a sound blocker in short yardage and goal line situations. Swaim has shown off his incredible hands at times during his career, so don’t be surprised if he also becomes a target at the goal line this season. 

As you can see from above, all four of the Arizona Cardinals tight ends can play an effective role on the team. It will be interesting to see if they move Ertz, but if they don’t, he will remain a sound part of the offense.

Update: The Arizona Cardinals claimed tight end Elijah Higgins off of waivers and placed Blake Whiteheart onto the practice squad.