2016 in review: Kevin Minter

Arizona Cardinals' linebacker Kevin Minter is poised to enter free agency after spending four seasons with the organization the drafted him.

Though he doesn't work for the Arizona Cardinals, current Texas A&M defensive coordinator John Chavis has played a pivotal role in the development of the Cardinals' defense.

While Chavis didn't design the scheme and doesn't send in the signals, when the Cardinals rolled out their starting defense at the beginning of the 2016 season, Chavis had coached four of the 11 players at the college level.

Chavis was instrumental in the developments of defensive backs Patrick PetersonTyrann Mathieu and Brandon Williams, all Cardinals' draft picks who played in Chavis' secondaries at LSU and Texas A&M at the college level.

However, those three players aren't the only Chavis disciples turned Cardinals' draft picks, as inside linebacker Kevin Minter also played under Chavis during his college days with the Tigers.

As far as relationships between front offices and college coordinators go, it's hard to find an NFL team that seemingly accepts the word of a coach as gospel quite like the Cardinals do with Chavis. 

To further contextualize the Cardinals' fascination with Chavis' players, all four of the defenders were selected within the first three rounds of their respective drafts by Arizona, showcasing how the team puts a premium on players who studied under the long-time college coordinator.

Will that trend continue this offseason, as the Cardinals make a decision regarding Minter's future with the organization? Within the next few months, both sides will find out.

Minter in 2016

After beginning his career as a Cardinals' backup, Minter took over Arizona's starting inside linebacker position in a full-time capacity in 2015, his third NFL season. 

Over the course of 16 starts, Minter made 94 tackles and registered a half sack, which were solid marks for a first-time starter, but left something to be desired entering the 2016 campaign.

Because the Cardinals committed so much money to players in the secondary and to pass rushers, the team couldn't afford to upgrade the inside linebacker unit, which left Minter without serious competition for his starting position entering a pivotal season.

Knowing he was set to play out the final year of a rookie contract, the Cardinals entered the 2016 season hoping Minter would flourish as a run-stopper, and become a better sideline-to-sideline player who would set the tone for the defensive unit. 

While Minter racked up 81 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 2016, his play was solid, yet unspectacular, leaving the Cardinals in a challenging situation. 

A run-stopper by trade, Minter allowed himself to be blocked far too often in 2016, and struggled with key reads and dissecting where cutback lanes might develop. A pass defender by necessity, Minter doesn't have the speed to effectively cover a team's fifth option in the receiving game, which sometimes compromised the flexibility of the Cardinals' defensive scheme.

Though Minter works hard and clearly has a desire to play the highest level, he's somewhat limited athletically compared to other inside linebackers and doesn't play with the same relentless motor typically exhibited by the game's best players, and that became even more apparent in 2016.

Minter in 2017

With Minter set to enter free agency, the Cardinals are left with the decision as to whether they want to re-sign the former second round draft choice to continue patrolling the center of their defense or if they want to take a chance with new blood.

Sure, Minter isn't exactly a liability at inside linebacker, but if the team agrees to a multi-year extension with him, it's essentially stuck with a player who likely doesn't have the tools to progress much further. Whereas, if the Cardinals take a chance on a high-upside linebacker early in the NFL Draft, Arizona could add to the growing list of dynamic playmakers it has under contract on the defensive side of the ball.

It's unclear what type of options Minter will have on the free agent market, but based on his skill set and his physical limitations, he's probably best served finding an organization that wants to use him as a 3-4 Mike linebacker whose first priority is to stop the run. 

While that's still the role he would play with the Cardinals, both sides might be best served to move on and break the Chavis-Cardinals chain that's been linking since Peterson was selected fifth overall in 2011. 

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