Work to do on the linebacking lineup

Posted by Darren Urban on February 11, 2013 – 11:46 am

With the news, reported multiple places, that the Cards are a little more than $3 million over the salary cap about a month away from needing to get in compliance, general manager Steve Keim still has some maneuvering to do. Knowing now that new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is sticking with the 3-4 base defense, the linebacker corps remains a crucial part of the equation.

What that means going forward is the question as free agency/cap compliance/the offseason gets closer.

Daryl Washington, the Pro Bowler and burgeoning star, isn’t going anywhere. He got his new contract last year and is the cornerstone of the position. But beyond that? The biggest part of the to-do list is got to be the other inside linebacker spot next to Washington. Paris Lenon is an unrestricted free agent, but he is also going to turn 36 in November. With a new staff, those are often the kind of players that are left to move on, or brought back later in the offseason. But Lenon has been playing, which in Stewart Bradley’s two Cardinals’ seasons hasn’t been the case. Bradley took a reduction in salary last season of 50 percent and still didn’t play much on defense at all, relegated to mostly special teams. Again, that could change with a new defensive coordinator, but up against the cap and with Bradley owning a $6.5 million salary cap number for 2013, his return under that deal doesn’t make sense. At best, renegotiation/pay cut would be coming, although the Cards may just part ways. UPDATE: I’m not sure why I forgot to mention Reggie Walker, who played solidly this season. Walker is under contract for another season and surpassed Bradley on the depth chart.

(That’s the dangerous part of this process, however. Bradley would still cost $3M of dead cap space if released, which is still a savings of $3.5M, but it’s not like it’s zero impact. The cap hit has always got to be considered with moving on from any player or trading him. Sometimes it can be spread out over a couple of years, but it’s still a hit of worthless space.)

O’Brien Schofield and Sam Acho, your outside starters, still have to prove themselves to the new staff too, although the decision to go with a 3-4 base helps both tremendously. They might have a much harder time in a 4-3 setup finding a place to play.


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29 Responses to “Work to do on the linebacking lineup”

  1. By graetschinger on Feb 11, 2013 | Reply

    man i love groves and walker, but the inside is very thin and i think that only one stay bradley or lenon.

    darran, is the draft the right thing to boost the inside-corp?

  2. By Darren Urban on Feb 11, 2013 | Reply

    graet —

    RE: Draft

    I don’t know where they go right now. Free agency also possible. Bowles needs to figure out what he likes of the incumbents and what he might want to upgrade.

  3. By D on Feb 11, 2013 | Reply

    Bradley’s contract is like Brown, Colledge, Kolb etc, tough to cut with the high cap hit amounts…don’t see too many players under contract that could be cut without huge cap hits…maybe Doucet….I could see some of AZ’s UFA being picked up by former coaches…like Toler and Hyphen

  4. By aaron on Feb 11, 2013 | Reply

    The lack of linebacker depth and Bradley being an effective 4-3 LB is why I’m a bit surprised they decided to stay 3-4. And, before the obvious is pointed out, Daryl Washington came from a 4-2-5/ 4-3 system at TCU and was scouted to be a WILL coming out of college. It’s a lot easier to find a 4-3 DE than a 3-4 ILB in this league

  5. By Coach Kevin on Feb 11, 2013 | Reply

    My latest Cardinals three round Mock Draft possible selections each round based on need and player ratings:

    Round one- Pick # 7

    Luke Joeckel, OT
    Eric Fisher, OT
    Dee Milliner, CB
    Star Lotulelei, DT
    Geno Smith, QB
    Sheldon Richardson, DT

    Round two- Pick #38

    Kawann Short, DT
    Xavier Rhodes, CB
    Eddie Lacy, RB
    Arthur Brown, LB
    Barrett Jones, C-OG
    E.J. Manuel, QB

    Round three-Pick #69

    Tyler Bray, QB
    Monte Ball, RB
    Shawn Williams, SS
    Jamie Collins, LB
    Brandon Williams, DT
    Robert Alford, CB

    QB Situation: Restructure Kevin Kolb’s contract and sign Drew Stanton from Colts to compete with Kolb for starting job. Add a young QB from draft to develop. Manuel or Bray fit the Arian’s mold.

  6. By georgiebird on Feb 11, 2013 | Reply

    No hard feelings- but this could be the worst group of linebackers to ever be put together in a 3-4 alignment. I know there is work to be done but the only positive from this group is DWash’s speed.
    Since I don’t envision a playoff team until 2015 at the earliest, the Cards still have a chance to correct this mistake.
    Without a real good NT, and with a linebacker group with major flaws, the 3-4 defense is doomed to failure (just ask Bill Parcells-post Giants). This defense will be lucky to compete in up-tempo games- when our offense hopefully improves.
    I thought Arians could see what is so evident. Wish he would use Tom Moore’s philosophy- “Fit the system to the players”. Very disappointing.

  7. By iammattyoung on Feb 11, 2013 | Reply

    I’ve sort thought this was the most glaring issue to address in the draft, rather than O-line. Yes, the O-line is a weakness, but if Potter can progress, if Levi can step back in, if Massie can maintain his improvements, we’re an second-round pick of Larry Warford away from having a serviceable line. More glaring, as Darren demonstrates in this post, is the fact that we completely lack a speed rusher, or even a guy who can get the edge from the linebacker position. You think it’s been a while since we took a lineman with our #1 pick (2007), the last time we drafter a pass-rushing OLB/DE was in 2003, when we traded down for Calvin Pace. I am not for reaching for a guy like Mingo, whose character issues and fall-off last year make him too much of a risk at #7, but, if by some miracle Jarvis Jones, Bjoern Werner, or Damontre Moore fall to us, they’re no-brainers over Eric Fisher.

  8. By Omar on Feb 11, 2013 | Reply

    Cardinals should take a close look to QB Tyler Bray maybe he could be a guy they could develop, it be nice to see him making all those big plays i saw on tape for the Cardinals.

  9. By aaron on Feb 11, 2013 | Reply

    “On tape”. Does that mean YouTube highlight video?

  10. By AndyStandsUp on Feb 11, 2013 | Reply

    One of my favorite stats:
    Number of AZ Card tackles (and remember Bradley also plays special teams)
    Stewart Bradley – 43.
    Lyle Sendlein – 13.
    Darren, someone IS going to select Manti Teo as a LB in April and the Cards are in the mix. Still ruing the possibility?

  11. By Omar on Feb 11, 2013 | Reply

    Cardinals also could try to trade the #7 Pick to the Rams if the Rams were really interested for their #16 and #22 Picks hoping OT Lane Johnson would fall to them at #16 and Manti Te’o at #22 and that would help both positions and Te’o could become that other ILB the Cardinals need to play next to Daryl Washington for many years to come.

  12. By Omar on Feb 11, 2013 | Reply

    yeah thats what i meant aaron

  13. By EricB on Feb 11, 2013 | Reply

    Regarding “On Tape” – Try the website draftbreakdown. Full games condensed to the relevant plays of whatever particular player you want to watch. Not highlight reels.

  14. By Jordan on Feb 11, 2013 | Reply


    We get it. You don’t like the 3-4. Fine. But is it really necessary to remind everyone of this over and over and over again? You’ve made your point and there is some validity to what you’re saying, but nothing is changing right now so there’s no use complaining every chance you get. You’ve been saying the same things repeatedly for months and I’m pretty sure we all understand by now. Message received. But it’s only February, the combine hasn’t even been held yet and you’ve already decided that this team has no hope of reaching the playoffs until 2015. Really? Even before free agency, the draft, training camp and preseason? Give these men a chance to show you something on the field before you jump to these conclusions.

  15. By Doc on Feb 11, 2013 | Reply

    My confidence remains in the steady, reliable, intelligent, professionally mature and the amazingly age-defying Lenon. He still has a few good years left and he is invaluable on and OFF the field. Cards better grab him up or he will transfer all those attributes to another organization. Ask Wasington what he thinks– I suspect you will get a resounding “keep #51”!

  16. By Cards Season Ticket Holder on Feb 11, 2013 | Reply

    Let’s not forget this defense competed at a very high level last year, even with all the minutes they had to play because the offense could not stay on the field. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”
    Minor tweeks with some later round draft picks for the defense, but the first 4 rounds of picks needs to go to the lack-luster offense that was last in the league in several categories on the field last year. Concentrating first on the QB and Oline positions.

  17. By djjackson81 on Feb 11, 2013 | Reply

    Moore said with Arians QB play starts at the Oline. Good passing plays come from good protection.
    Priority good teams are build through the draft year end and year out. FA are additions. Remember Philips said he has interest in Az he is a line backer. Both Bradshaw or Ivory would help in the RB position. First Az need to do some cuts to allow them to sign some guys also. I really like the idea of EJ Manuel and Arians style at QB. Love Lacy or Ball as RB if possible. Lenon even could come back for another year and allow us to use next years draft to add LB. forget Bradley let him go. Wells let go. Kerry Rhoads stays hopefully.

  18. By ored on Feb 11, 2013 | Reply

    the last 1/4 season our tackles played well,actually played really good for being rooks,an off season,then preseason,etc.i think we’re ok,maybe an upgrade at guard and with some coaching on blocking schemes,chip blocking,practice,practice,practice i like our o line-potter,massie,levi,and insert a nasty road grader here-we be good.find db to compliment across from pp,pass rusher,and ilb,the harvard kid plays inside and outside and the florida st.olb(brandon jenkins) i think,looks like a fit,then some hidden talent to develop,i’m getting excited just thinking about it all coming together,hope springs eternal and just like the phoenix we rise from the ashes.outside of a sure thing qb,this draft seems pretty deep and we have all our picks this year so maybe we can gain a little ground,we’ll be looking for difference makers while some of the better stocked teams will be draftiing depth,we just need to hit a couple out of the park to even things a little.
    looking back,i still find it amazing we never took a chance on a qb in the middle rounds like 49r’s and shawks did,especially considering our floundering at that position,don’t know if that was on whiz or above him,but we sure paid the price for poor planning.that said,with just a few of the right pieces we could be right back in the thick of things. and now is the tme to plan for young studs to get ready to replace our warriors that are graying.this could be the start of a winning tradition.

  19. By ored on Feb 11, 2013 | Reply

    btw,while our defense may not be #1,it’s still very respectable and like Cards said it was on the field playing uphill way too many times,i’d stick with it and try to upgrade pieces where we can,if we can upgrade db across from pp,thumper in the middle,and more pressure from the outside i like the look.

  20. By georgiebird on Feb 11, 2013 | Reply

    Let me repeat myself so we are perfectly clear. You are wrong when you say that “I don’t like the 3-4”. Fact is I love the 3-4 when you have a great NT and four big, fast linebackers. We don’t have any of the above.
    I also am glad to hear that you feel there is some validity to my points.
    Darren’s article addressed the state of the linebacker group- I feel my post dealt directly with that article.
    The Cardinals are all about repeating the same mistakes over and over- it’s led me to repeat myself over and over. I’ve been a fan too long to know any other way.

  21. By Campbells on Feb 12, 2013 | Reply

    Our linebackers can’t pass cover. We don’t have an edge rush. However, there are other areas where we can make cap room. Our running backs are injury prone. Tight ends are terrible.
    LRS, and Wilson should be let go. LRS is too small, and PP is better on special teams.

  22. By Zach on Feb 12, 2013 | Reply

    @Georgiebird – Dan Williams is a top 10 NT, not sure why you think he is not good. The guy is a beast, but he was off the field a lot in Horton’s scheme because he ran a TON of nickel.

    Dwash is one of the fastest LB’s in the game, but the other spots need help. Acho is a good player, but not a pro bowler. The combo of Scho and Groves is servicable to me – but if we can grab a star OLB that is always great.

    I think we need a real SILB, Lenon is getting old and Bradley for whatever reason has not worked out. My biggest concern is SILB, than OLB.

    Overall – are defense was amazing last year given the field position and time of possession.

    Not sure why you think we are so bad and not capable of playing our base 3-4…

    If our offense can rank around 20ish (compared to 32nd last year) we can make the playoffs. That is not too much to ask…

  23. By Jordan on Feb 12, 2013 | Reply


    Understood. Yes your post did directly deal with the article and no matter how much some people may disagree with your opinion on the state of this linebacking core, everyone is entitled to an opinion. I just would like to understand why it is that you have already written off this next season. What do you think would need to happen for this team to have a shot at the playoffs (other than changing the defense to a 4-3, seeing as it has already been confirmed that it’s not gonna happen) and why can’t those things happen this year?

  24. By Louisville Card on Feb 12, 2013 | Reply


    You’re Missing Jordan’s point. You’ve been repeating yourself for at least the last 10-15 of Darren’s article’s that the LB’s aren’t any good. Give Darren and the rest of us a break and stop with the 3-4 stuff, we understand how you feel about it.

  25. By Brazilian Fan on Feb 12, 2013 | Reply

    do you think that the lack of playing time for Bradley with the Cardinals came strictly from what he showed in practice, in comparison to Walker; problems in learning the system; was he being “kept fresh” for special teams (which I don’t think so) or he did’n have much of an opportunity under Whiz and Horton because of his previous system, that was a 4-3?
    isn’t this the case of keeping him now that everybody will adapt to another ner system?

  26. By Darren Urban on Feb 12, 2013 | Reply

    Brazilian —

    RE: Bradley

    I don’t know exactly what it was. They are staying in a 3-4, so I don’t know how much different it will be. And for the salary he is supposed to get, I don’t know if you can afford another wait-and-see.

  27. By Coach Kevin on Feb 13, 2013 | Reply

    If no trades occur, I really believe the Cardinals are going to get Fisher with the first pick. This instantly cuts the QB sacks in half or more immediately.

    So the question is, what do we do in round 2 and 3?

    I am really starting to like the idea of having the Bama Center Barrett Jones drafted in round 2. Because he can play C, G and Tackle. That is the kind of quality depth we could use on the o-line. So I think Jones makes the most logical sense. The only other realistic option for me would be Xavier Rhodes the huge shutdown corner from Florida St. Can you imagine the defense with Peterson and Rhodes at corner? Wow! The only risk is, Xavier might not fall to pick #36.

    Finally, in round three, we find the young QB to learn under Arian’s and Moore. I like Bray or Manuel here because of their arms. If there are both gone, then I get my inside backer with Reddick, or Bostic, or I get my durable running back in Monte Ball.

    Bottom line, the Cardinals are positioned high enough in this draft to allow for much flexibility and still find instant starters in the first three rounds.

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