Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim believes injured first-round pick Jonathan Cooper is a “slam-dunk” as a starter in the NFL. The Cardinals have found gold in third-round pick Tyrann Mathieu and running back Andre Ellington, and the draft class is off to a decent start because of it. But out of sight, out of mind is linebacker Kevin Minter, the team’s second-round pick. Minter plays, but only on special teams. He’s gotten one defensive snap in 10 games. In a league where second-round picks usually come in and play right away, it’s noticeable.
Minter’s situation is easily explained, and fortunately for the Cardinals, it doesn’t have anything to do with Minter being a bust. To the contrary, it has everything to do with veteran Karlos Dansby, who ended up signing — somewhat surprisingly — as a free agent with the Cards after Minter was drafted and who has found a fountain of youth season in his return to Arizona. In the meantime, Minter plays special teams. And waits.
“I mean, it’s alright,” Minter said. “I’m not comfortable with it. I’m ready to play and whatnot, but I know I need to learn more. What he’s got on me is experience and I can envision in the future being able to take that spot. I’m just trying to contribute as much as I can to the team.”
Keim acknowledges the draft class already had a couple of misses in late-round picks Ryan Swope and D.C. Jefferson. Minter is not one of them.
“The one guy who has an asterisk beside him is Kevin Minter,” Keim said. “Kevin just has a unique situation, he came in behind Karlos Dansby who is having a fantastic year. We didn’t draft Kevin thinking he had to come in a start right away. We were drafting him with the mindset we are drafting a really good football player at a position that is going to be a need, whether it was now or the future. He is continually growing.
“We have high expectations for him. It just so happens after the draft we had a chance to sign Karlos and the rest is history. It goes back to not only wanting to improve starting talent but also depth. There’s noting wrong with bringing in a Kevin Minter, who you have high hopes for, playing behind a talented veteran like Karlos, learning the mental side of things.”
That doesn’t make it easier for Minter. Dansby is only signed to a one-year contract and his status for 2014 is up in the air. Dansby has played really well, but he is 32 and it will be interesting to see how both he and the team approach contract negotiations. It’s possible Dansby tests the market value first, although it was that stark reality last year that finally allowed him to accept the Cards’ offer (and one of the reasons it took so long for him to sign, after the draft.) Dansby is happy in his spot, regardless of his contract.
Minter said his role makes him almost feel like he is redshirting in college again. He is playing (and Bruce Arians has praised his special teams play) though, and he understands what Dansby is giving the Cardinals as well.
“He’s doing his thing,” Minter said of Dansby. “He’s playing lights out, playing out of his mind. You just compete every day.”
Tags: Karlos Dansby, Kevin Minter, Steve Keim
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