Troy Wayrynen/USA Today Sports

Cardinals' 90-man roster analysis: Outside linebacker

The Arizona Cardinals return two of the top sack artists in the NFL as Chandler Jones and Markus Golden look to build off of their success in 2016.

Tier Key

1: Players who, barring a significant setback or injury, will make the Cardinals' 53-man roster this season

2: Players who must compete for a spot on the Cardinals' 53-man roster this season

3: Players who are likely to be cut by the Cardinals prior to the team finalizing its 53-man roster this season

Outside linebackers

Tier 1: Markus GoldenChandler Jones

Analysis: The Arizona Cardinals have as much top-tier pass rushing talent as any team in the NFL thanks to the return of Chandler Jones and Markus Golden, who helped the franchise lead the league in sacks in 2016. Both Golden and Jones ranked in the top 10 in the league in sacks, as Golden enjoyed a breakout sophomore campaign while Jones thrived off the edge in his first season in the desert. General manager Steve Keim's decision to trade the Cardinals' 2016 second round pick for Jones looks excellent in hindsight, as the organization has already locked up Jones on a five-year contract that will keep him in Arizona throughout his prime. As for Golden, the Cardinals have at least two more seasons to enjoy the benefits of his rookie contract before the team has to make a decision about his future. It will be fascinating to see how the departure of Calais Campbell via free agency impacts the team's defensive front, and particularly how it impacts Jones, who often played alongside Campbell and didn't have to face nearly as many double teams as a result. Both of these players appear primed for another big season, and their ability to impact the quarterback should help Arizona field one of the top defensive units in the league this year.

Tier 2: Jarvis JonesKareem Martin

Analysis: Behind Arizona's starting outside linebackers, there's serious questions as to the type of depth the organization has built. Veteran Alex Okafor left the franchise this offseason, which inspired the Cardinals to sign Jarvis Jones, a former first round draft choice who never translated his college success to the professional level in Pittsburgh. Perhaps starting over in Arizona will give Jones' career new life, because the Cardinals need a bigger-bodied outside linebacker capable of stopping the run to spell Chandler Jones on occasion. Jarvis Jones has the build to play defensive end in some of the Cardinals' nickel and dime looks, which should help him earn a roster spot this fall, even if the team isn't enamored with his pass rushing capabilities. Kareem Martin, meanwhile, has struggled to make his presence felt on the defensive side of the ball and could find himself on the chopping block if the Cardinals are comfortable moving forward with just three outside linebackers on the active roster. Martin isn't a quick-twitch speedster on the edge, and he lacks the power to make a huge impact against the run, which leaves his roster status in doubt heading into training camp. 

Tier 3: Cap Capi, Mikey Bart

Analysis: Backup outside linebackers need to be able to provide value on special teams, and if the Cardinals don't feel Martin can do that, perhaps Cap Capi or Mikey Bart will make a run at the 53-man roster. Capi went undrafted out of Akron in 2016, while Bart was the most recent addition to the Cardinals' roster after going undrafted this season. Neither player has excellent film at the college level, but often times, organizations just need bigger-framed players to serve as blockers on the punt team or set the front line on the kickoff return unit and both Capi and Bart would be wise to use training camp to prove their value in those regards. 


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