"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: Eskridge: 24, Farley: 24
Experience: Eskridge: 1st NFL season, Farley: 1st NFL season
Contract status: Eskridge: 2016- $450,000, Farley: 2016-$450,000
2015 season quick review: After finishing up his career at Syracuse in 2014, Eskridge spent the 2015 preseason with the New York Jets who took him on as an undrafted free agent. An injury ended Eskridge's time with the Jets at the beginning of September, and the Cardinals brought Eskridge aboard to the team's practice squad in early October where he remained for the duration of the season. Farley spent 2015 playing out his final season with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish where he finished the season with 41 tackles. Farley played quite a bit of nickel corner for Brian Kelly's Fighting Irish, despite being listed as a safety on the team's roster.
Projected roster status: Barring injuries to key players, it is unlikely either Eskridge or Farley makes the Cardinals' final roster at the end of fall camp. Farley's experience as a nickel corner could give him an advantage over Eskridge, but general manager Steve Keim has already identified a handful of players in Tyvon Branch and Brandon Williams who are almost sure bets to make the roster who can handle nickel corner duties.
Projected depth chart status: With Eskridge and Farley facing an uphill climb to even remain in contention for a roster spot, it's unlikely either player will factor into the depth chart conversation. At the beginning of fall camp, both players should be at or near the bottom of the depth chart, which means the first two preseason games could provide Eskridge and Farley the opportunity for extended action in live situations, particularly in the second half of those games.
Position group analysis: Because the Cardinals are limited to keeping eight or nine defensive backs on the roster, Arizona must prioritize versatility in the secondary which is why players like Tyrann Mathieu are so valuable. A player like Mathieu who can play both corner and safety effectively against the pass and the run gives defensive coordinator James Bettcher schematic flexibility and the ability to introduce more sub-packages that vary the team's personnel. Even players toward the bottom of the depth chart like D.J. Swearinger and Marqui Christian will likely be asked to walk up into the box and act as an extra linebacker in nickel and dime situations, which is another example of a way a safety can showcase versatility within the Cardinals' scheme. If Eskridge and Farley prove they can learn multiple positions and maintain their effectiveness in doing so, it would go a long way toward helping them carve out a future in the NFL.
Moving forward: While "moving forward" for certain players like Mathieu and cornerback Patrick Peterson means crafting a long-term plan regarding their futures, the most a player like Eskridge or Farley can look forward to is the month of September. By that point, the players will know if they made the Cardinals' final roster, if there's an opportunity to join another team's final roster based on their performances in preseason competition, or if sticking with the Cardinals' practice squad is an option. It's advantageous for many players to stay with the practice squad of the team who they participated in fall camp with because it means they won't be learning a new system or new terminology and they have the opportunity to be the first players called upon in the event of an injury to a player on the active roster. Once September rolls around, 37 of the 90 players trying out for the Cardinals this fall will have received word they didn't make the team, it's more likely than not Eskridge and Farley will be among those weighing their options.
Overall value: Both Eskridge and Farley are set to make $450,000 this season if either player makes the roster as each took a minimum contract to join the Arizona Cardinals. Even Tyrequek Zimmerman who is the other safety on the roster lacking NFL experience, would make more than this pair if he made the final roster. What this means is that the Cardinals could save about $400,000 if one of these players made the team and someone like Chris Clemons did not, or they could save a little over $1 million if one of these players made the team and Swearinger or Tony Jefferson did not. Of course, those scenarios are highly unlikely, but if Eskridge or Farley merits consideration for the final roster, their contracts are favorable for the Cardinals, who could be tight on cash if the team feels the need to add an additional veteran presence before the end of camp.