TEMPE, Ariz. — With one day remaining to trim their roster to 53 players, the Cardinals announced 13 cuts on Friday as well as the decision to place left guard Jonathan Cooper, the team’s first-round draft pick, on season-ending injured reserve with a broken leg suffered in the third preseason game.
The biggest surprise in Friday’s cuts was nose tackle David Carter, who showed great promise the past two seasons after the Cardinals selected him in the sixth round of the 2011 draft out of UCLA.
“David was in a battle with Ronald Talley. Talley’s strength at the point of attack and ability to play nose stronger was better,” coach Bruce Arians said. “David has a lot of hustle and a lot of effort but was struggling to hold the point as much.”
The other players released were former University of Arizona receivers Mike Thomas and Dan Buckner, former Arizona State linebacker Colin Parker, guard Chilo Rachal, guard Senio Kelemete, receiver Charles Hawkins, center Adam Bice, tight end Alex Gottlieb, linebacker Zack Nash, tight end Richard Quinn, safety Curtis Taylor and safety Jonathon Amaya, who may have lost a battle with Oklahoma rookie Tony Jefferson. Jefferson has made several impressive plays this preseason, including a sack and a fumble recovery Thursday in Denver.
Linebacker Reggie Walker later tweeted that he had also been released, likely the victim of a numbers game in a deep linebacking corps.
Thomas, Buckner and Hawkins had been among those competing for the team’s fourth and fifth receiver spots, while Rachal was considered a backup option at guard in light of Cooper’s injury. Arians said ASU product Kerry Taylor and rookie Jaron Brown have continued to impress and are still in the battle for the final receiver spots. Rachal likely lost out to rookie fourth-round draft pick Earl Watford, who has been inconsistent but has the advantage of having been drafted, meaning the team is invested in him.
The cuts brought the Cardinals’ roster to 60 players. Since Cooper won’t count against the roster and linebacker Daryl Washington won’t either while he is suspended for the first four games, the Cards must make six more roster moves to reach the NFL-mandated limit of 53 by 3 p.m. Saturday. Arians expects those decisions to be made by noon, and the team will then start choosing its eight-man practice squad Sunday.
With 10 linebackers still on the roster (not counting Washington), that would seem a likely place to begin the cuts, possibly with players such as Kenny Rowe and Kenny Demens. Tackle Jamaal Johnson-Webb would seem to be another candidate, and the Cards still have seven cornerbacks on the roster, not including Tyrann Mathieu, who will play some nickel, so that means either Bryan McCann or Jamell Fleming could be gone.
There are seven defensive linemen left, so rookie Padric Scott could become a practice squad player. The Cards will also have to make a decision on tight end Jeff King, who underwent surgery on his troubled knee on Monday.
Even when the decisions are made, Arians emphasized that the 53-man roster on Saturday might not be the final one.
“There’s always door No. 2 — the waiver wire, trades,” he said. “Nothing’s set in stone with these final guys.”
The Cards had hoped that Cooper, the starter at left guard, would be able to return later in the season — possibly with six games to play — but his medical report changed their minds. The NFL allows teams to designate one IR player for potential return the same season.
“(We) don’t feel like it’s fair to our football team in case we get somebody who can come back sooner if there is another injury,” Arians said. “We felt like we needed to keep that spot open. As much as we wanted to get Jon back, the chances of him coming back and then getting in football shape weren’t as realistic as we hoped for.”