The defensive line of the Arizona Cardinals took a huge hit a year ago when future Hall of Famer J.J. Watt played his final NFL game. If that wasn't bad enough, the unit was compromised even more when Zach Allen left in free agency. Significant losses for sure, but there was hope that first-year general manager Monti Ossenfort would take care of this problem for the Cards with a couple of first-rate acquisitions.
Ossenfort's attempts to tackle the issue during the offseason were far from impressive. Veteran additions such as Carlos Watkins, L.J. Collier, and Kevin Strong did not elicit excitement out of the fanbase. Jonathan Ledbetter and Leki Fotu, a pair of leftovers from Arizona's previous regime, did very little to remedy the line's deficiencies.
Fortunately for Ossenfort, the Cardinals GM will be given a another chance to repair what is arguably the most undermanned defensive front in professional football. One way to do so would be through the league's free-agent signing period, which gets underway in March. If that isn't the solution, the 2024 draft is another tool that the organization can use to strengthen the weakness.
At the present time, the Redbirds are in possession of two opening-round selections. From the looks of things, University of Illinois standout Jer'Zhan Newton is the only defensive lineman worth taking in Round 1. It seems more likely, however, that Ossenfort will wait until the draft's second night to add talent to the front wall of the defense.
Arizona Cardinals could have their pick of several intriguing defensive linemen when the 2024 NFL Draft rolls around
One youngster who could be a second-day option for the Cards is Michael Hall Jr., a defensive tackle out of Ohio State University. In 26 career games, the 6 foot 3, 290 pounder has been credited with 45 tackles (10 for a loss) and six sacks for the Buckeyes.
If it's a bona fide run-stuffer that Arizona is looking for, then University of Texas senior T'Vondre Sweat should definitely be on management's radar. During his five collegiate campaigns, the mammoth 6 foot 4, 340 pounder totaled 127 tackles (17.5 for a loss), five sacks and an eye-popping 13 pass breakups for the Longhorns.
Kris Jenkins, a 6 foot 3, 280 pounder out of the University of Michigan, is another young prospect who the Cardinals can target. In 36 total appearances, the 22-year-old has tallied 111 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and an interception for the Wolverines defensive unit.
One more defensive lineman who Ossenfort can kick the tires on is Byron Murphy II, a University of Texas defender who happens to share a name with the former Cards cornerback. During his three seasons with the Longhorns, the 6 foot 1, 297 pounder amassed 70 tackles (15 for a loss) and eight sacks in 34 career appearances.
(Statistics provided by College Football Reference)