The defensive line of the Arizona Cardinals operated surprisingly well during the squad's 20-16 setback against the Washington Commanders on opening day. A plan devised by the coaching staff to keep everyone fresh by using the entire allotment of linemen seemed to work. Unfortunately, the group has lost a pair of key members since that Week 1 defeat.
L.J. Collier, a former first-round draft pick of the Seattle Seahawks, was placed on the injured-reserve list just a few days after the loss to Washington. Carlos Watkins, a journeyman from the Dallas Cowboys, received the same designation after he was hurt last Sunday versus the New York Giants. Ironically, injuries to a biceps muscle knocked both Cardinals out of action.
Not surprisingly, the setbacks have left Arizona perilously thin at the defensive end position. Collier and Watkins, though far from Pro Bowlers, were set to play vital roles for the team this season. Can anything be done by the Cards front office that could help make the potentially dire situation more manageable?
Actually, there are several free agents remaining on the open market who the Cardinals could kick the tires on. All are experienced veterans who could help to make coordinator Nick Rallis' first campaign as a defensive coordinator a more successful one.
Several competent free-agents could assist the Arizona Cardinals at defensive end
Matt Ioannidis, a former fifth-round choice of Washington back in 2016, is coming off of a down year with the Carolina Panthers. Last fall, the 6 foot 3, 308 pounder totaled just 37 tackles and one sack in 13 starts for the Panthers. However, the 29-year-old Ioannidis has been credited with 212 tackles, 25.5 sacks and 68 quarterback hits during his seven professional seasons
For the past 13 campaigns, Carlos Dunlap has been a solid contributor for any organization that has employed him. In 2022, the 6 foot 6, 285 pounder registered 39 tackles, four sacks and eight passes defensed in 17 games (two starts) for the Kansas City Chiefs. Dunlap has tallied 578 tackles,100 sacks, 77 pass breakups, and 22 forced fumbles in stints with the Cincinnati Bengals, Seahawks, and Chiefs.
One more player worth mentioning is Jason Pierre-Paul, a 34-year-old who racked up 26 tackles, three sacks and five passes defensed in 14 appearances (13 starts) for the Baltimore Ravens in '22. The 6 foot 5, 275 pounder previously spent eight campaigns with the Giants, and another four with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Pierre-Paul totaled 629 tackles, 94.5 sacks, 66 pass breakups, and 21 forced fumbles in 179 pro contests (150 starts).
(Statistics provided by Pro Football Reference)