When the Arizona Cardinals set their 53-man roster for the 2016 season, there were a handful of positions at which the Cardinals knew they couldn't afford to lose players due to injuries.
Because the team loaded up depth at spots like running back and safety, Arizona was short-handed along the offensive line and at inside linebacker, two positions where injuries are all too common in football.
The risk was significant, and by the end of a 7-8-1 campaign that failed to qualify the Cardinals for the playoffs, their risk hadn't paid off.
Throughout the season, the injury bug bit the team at key spots, especially along the offensive line, where Arizona rotated personnel in and out that head coach Bruce Arians wasn't exactly enamored of.
When an ankle ailment finally forced inside linebacker Deone Bucannon to the Cardinals' injured reserve list late in the season, Arizona was once again searching for a capable, competent option to offset the loss and help the team make it to the finish line.
While the injury replacements the Cardinals plugged in along the offensive line proved underwhelming, Bucannon's replacement caught the organization by surprise.
Reserve linebacker Sio Moore didn't join Arizona's squad until late in the season, but by the time he saw his first action in week 14, Moore was ready for it. Though fellow reserve Zaviar Gooden got the first crack at replacing Bucannon, it didn't take the Cardinals long to discover that Moore was ready to embrace the role.
Moore in 2016
Moore's 2016 campaign began with the Indianapolis Colts as one of the team's primary options at inside linebacker.
Even though Moore was productive in his first four games, racking up 30 tackles including 13 in the opening week of the season, the Colts released him and he signed with the Kansas City Chiefs.
While Moore had clearly proven he could still play at a high level in the NFL, he never appeared in a game for the Chiefs and was later signed by the Cardinals, his third team in the span of three months on November 22.
Arizona signed Moore for depth purposes and to add a special teams contributor, but within two weeks of his signing, Moore was taking the field as a starting linebacker for the Cardinals.
After an injury sidelined Bucannon in week 14 against the Dolphins, Moore took over his starting spot and never looked back, finishing the season with 35 tackles for Arizona in just three and a half games.
In eight total games in 2016, Moore recorded 65 tackles, 50 of which were solo tackles, and demonstrated he has the motor and instincts to play the inside linebacker position at a high level. Though Moore was tossed away by the Colts, an afterthought for the Chiefs and an emergency signing for the Cardinals, he made the most of his 2016 campaign and set himself up to compete for an expanded role on a team looking for linebacker help in 2017.
Moore in 2017
Moore caught the Cardinals by surprise in 2016, and could wind up becoming a factor in the team's plans in 2017 based on his end of the season performances. After posting 11 tackles in his first start with Arizona in week 15, Moore racked up 14 tackles in Arizona's week 16 win over Seattle and was the defensive catalyst the Cardinals needed with Bucannon and safety Tony Jefferson out of the lineup.
The question moving forward is whether Arizona wants to keep Moore in the fold as a potential replacement for starting inside linebacker Kevin Minter, or allow him to move on and pursue a starting job elsewhere. If Moore believes another team will give him an opportunity to earn a starting job --and some team should-- then it's unlikely he'll return to Arizona where the team may view him as a potential reserve next season.
If, however, Moore struggles to gain traction on the free agent market, it wouldn't come as a surprise if Arizona welcomed him back as the team's third inside linebacker next season and found various roles for him to play on special teams.
Though Moore isn't the most high-profile player on the market, he is a solid depth option who clearly showed he could patrol the middle of the field when called upon last season.