"Making the Cut"
As the Arizona Cardinals begin their quest to cut the team's roster size from 90 to 53 by the end of the preseason, we're taking a look at the key players at each position group and determining their odds of making the final cut.
Age: Boggs: 29, McClain; 26
Experience: Boggs: 5th NFL season, McClain: 2nd NFL season
Contract status: Boggs: 2016-$675,000, McClain: 2016-$450,000
2015 season quick review: Neither Boggs nor McClain have much NFL experience to document, as Boggs played in two games for the Detroit Lions last season while McClain signed a "futures" contract with the Arizona Cardinals toward the end of the 2014 season but did not play at all in 2015. Boggs has seven games of experience under his belt accumulated over the last three seasons, whereas McClain has never appeared in a regular season contest despite bouncing around among seven different organizations in his short career.
Projected roster status: In looking at the Cardinals roster, eight linemen have an inside track at earning a roster spot including projected starters Jared Veldheer, Mike Iupati, Evan Mathis and D.J. Humphries as well as centers A.Q. Shipley and Evan Boehm plus projected reserves Earl Watford and Cole Toner. While the Cardinals prefer to dress seven linemen on game days, the team will likely still carry at least nine and potentially 10 offensive linemen on its active roster. Because the top is top heavy with talent and lacks experience at the bottom of the depth chart, we tend to the think Arizona will stick with nine offensive linemen on the 53-man roster. What that means is a player like Boggs or McClain has a decent chance of snagging the final spot, as the pair is competing against undrafted free agents for the opportunity. Though Boggs' experience is limited, we think he may have the best shot of the seven linemen outside the top eight players on the roster competing for a shot to stick with Arizona.
Projected depth chart status: Even if Boggs or McClain does make the Cardinals' roster, it's highly unlikely either player would assume a priority spot as a No. 1 or a No. 2 player on the depth chart at any position barring an injury. After the starting five is determined, teams typically have one or two linemen in reserve roles such as Watford who know multiple positions and can plug in as the first substitute when called upon. In the case of a Boggs or a McClain, they would likely find themselves as the third or fourth reserve option, and would only be used if the multiple players suffered injuries.
Position group analysis: It's not rare for a team to lack depth the way the Cardinals do at the bottom of the depth chart at multiple offensive line positions, but it is somewhat surprising management appears content with having just five linemen in Veldheer, Iupati, Mathis, Shipley and Watford who have significant NFL experience. Including Shipley and Watford in that category is somewhat of a stretch as well, considering neither player has appeared in more than 25 games during their careers. There's a strong possibility Arizona will end up with an undrafted free agent who makes the team as an offensive linemen, and if any of the Cardinals' inexperienced players competing to start like Humphries or Boehm struggle, management may need to considering making a move for a veteran player.
Moving forward: Because Boggs' does possess limited NFL experience and has a salary reflected of a typical NFL reserve along the offensive line, there's a possibility Arizona does view him as a likely candidate to make the roster this season. When teams do get down to the ninth or 10th offensive lineman on the depth chart, that player often has very limited in-game experience, but Boggs has spent four seasons in the NFL and though he hasn't played much, that's more than other players competing for a roster spot can say. As for McClain, he's been signed by seven different teams during a brief NFL career, which probably means he's a fringe player who teams see potential in, but don't have long term development plans for because they have to prioritize other linemen ahead of him.
Key skill: NFL experience
When you've got a group of six or seven players competing for one or two open roster spots, the candidates have to lean on every asset they have that might potentially work in their favor. For Boggs and McClain, it's their familiarity with the speed of the game at the professional level and their experience in NFL practice settings.
The majority of the players competing for the final spot on the offensive line are undrafted rookie free agents experiencing NFL coaching for the first time in their careers, which means the adjustment could impact their ability to play freely.
Players like Boggs and McClain who have spent time in camps understand the expectations and the coaching style, so it's up to them to use their experience to their advantage and help put themselves in position to make the final roster.
Overall value: This far down on the depth chart, the Cardinals are actually hoping they won't have to realize the value of Boggs' or McClain's contracts. With eight linemen likely ahead of them in the pecking order, using Boggs or McClain frequently this season would likely mean a surprisingly quick improvement for either players or number of injuries to players ahead of them on the depth chart. The Cardinals are paying Boggs a salary befit of an NFL reserve whereas McClain is on a future's contract, so if both players have relatively even camps and Arizona chooses one player to keep, McClain's contract is about $225,000 cheaper.