The Arizona Cardinals need help at inside and outside linebacker.
After serving a season-long suspension a year ago, Daryl Washington will be back in 2015 but the Cardinals will still be seeking help at both positions via free agency.
Arizona overcame numerous obstacles in 2014 with the linebacker position being one of the many hurdles. If the position is not addressed during the offseason, though, the team might not be so lucky this coming year.
Washington missed the entire 2014 season due to a violation of the league’s substance abuse program and John Abraham also sat out all year with concussion issues. The rest of the Cardinals’ linebacking corps was good but not great and the team even moved rookie safety Deone Bucannon from the secondary to linebacker to provide extra depth.
The names currently slated for the 2015 roster are somewhat underwhelming. In addition to Washington and Bucannon, Alex Okafor, Matt Shaughnessy and Kevin Minter highlight a lackluster group. The before mentioned Abraham along with Sam Acho and Marcus Benard are all scheduled to hit the free-agent market and could end up returning to the desert.
A couple of pipedream scenarios would include the likes of Brian Orakpo (Washington Redskins) or Pernell McPhee (Baltimore Ravens) making their way to Arizona, but those two players in particular will be in high demand on the open market. Both are high-impact players with a knack for disrupting opposing offenses by getting after the quarterback.
A more realistic scenario would include either Sean Weatherspoon (Atlanta Falcons) or Nate Irving (Denver Broncos) coming to Arizona as reports have surfaced that GM Steve Keim and company have targeted those two specific linebackers.
Weatherspoon is coming off Achilles injury which cost him the entire 2014 campaign and he’s had ongoing injury issues throughout his five-year NFL career. When healthy, Weatherspoon’s production hasn’t been particularly great (8 career sacks) but would still be an upgrade given the situation he’d be coming into with the Cardinals.
Meanwhile, Irving has also been hit by the injury bug – missing eight games a year ago – and like Weatherspoon hasn’t been overly productive during his four NFL seasons. Irving has only 67 tackles and two sacks during his career but perhaps Keim and coach Bruce Arians see something in his skill set that could be utilized in Arizona.
While Weatherspoon and Irving aren't anything to get overly excited about, they would still be serviceable options for a group of linebackers that needs help desperately.
The Cardinals defense, however, has several pieces already in place and the team would be doing itself a disservice if they didn’t supplement those pieces with an established pass rusher who could truly make a difference.
Free Agency Watch: Cardinals need help at LB
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