Edge rusher is only 1 of many options for Cardinals
MAY 06, 2014 12:54p ET
TEMPE, Ariz. -- It's funny how some narratives take on a life all their own, becoming accepted truth. Take the Cardinals' dire need for an edge rusher.
Is it really that dire?
The Cardinals could certainly use an eventual replacement for defensive tackle Darnell Dockett. Dockett turns 33 this month and his cap hit balloons to $9.8 million in 2015 (the last season of his deal) with only $3 million in dead money. But Dockett (4.5 sacks in 2013), Dan Williams and Calais Campbell (nine sacks) will form a terrific front in the Cardinals' 3-4 defense this season, while nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu (when he returns from injury) and defensive end Frostee Rucker serve as valuable backups.
What about outside linebacker, a position many believe the Cardinals will target in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday?
"We have five guys who can play," defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said. "We have depth there, which creates heavy competition. Nobody can take a break."
There's no question the Cardinals would like to have a consistent threat off the edge to eliminate the need to blitz often and relieve pressure on the secondary.
But the personnel the Cardinals have is pretty solid. John Abraham tied for seventh in the NFL with 11.5 sacks despite limited duty early in the season. Matt Shaughnessy had three sacks, and the Cardinals will get three players back in the lineup who were lost or the season to injury in Week 3 -- Sam Acho, Lorenzo Alexander and Alex Okafor.
"Acho is a very active, he's an intelligent zone dropper and his range is good. We were just getting to know each other's strengths and weaknesses before he got hurt," Bowles said. "I thought he had real potential to do some things in various situations. I thought he was on the cusp of making some plays for us."
There's no doubt the Cardinals will have to find a replacement for Abraham, who enters the final year of his deal and turned 36 on Tuesday. But couldn't those needs at defensive end/tackle and outside linebacker wait another year or until the later rounds?
It depends on who's available when the Cardinals select at No. 20, and it depends on the coaching and management staff's opinions of other needs -- even if teams always say they won't draft for need.
With strong safety Yeremiah Bell gone and Tyrann Mathieu injured, the Cardinals seem to have a big need at safety that could be filled by guys like Louisville' Calvin Pryor or Northern Illinois' Jimmie Ward. They could also address the offensive line again if they don't feel that Bradley Sowell or Bobby Massie are capable of holding down the right tackle spot, and if they aren't interested in bringing back veteran Eric Winston or signing another veteran free agent like David Stewart.
If the Cardinals decide that an edge rusher is what they want, there could be several players available when they pick at No. 20, such as Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier, Boise State end Demarcus Lawrence or Missouri end Kony Ealy.
Top-rated draft prospects
|1. Khalil Mack
|2. Anthony Barr
|3. Ryan Shazier
|4. Carl Bradford
|5. Kyle Van Noy||Brigham Young||6-3||243|
|6. Jeremiah Attaochu
|7. Telvin Smith
|8. Jordan Tripp||Montana||6-3||234|
|9. Chris Smith
|10. Christian Jones
|11. Trevor Reilly||Utah||6-5||245|
|12. Jordan Zumwalt||UCLA||6-4||235|
|13. Christian Kirksey
|14. Howard Jones
|15. Khairi Fortt
|1. Jadeveon Clowney||South Carolilna||6-5||266|
|2. Dee Ford||Auburn||6-2||252|
|3. Demarcus Lawrence
|4. Kony Ealy||Missouri||6-4||273|
|5. Scott Crichton
|6. Marcus Smith
|7. Kareem Martin
|8. Trent Murphy||Stanford||6-5||250|
|9. Jackson Jeffcoat||Texas||6-3||247|
|10. Will Clarke||West Virginia
|11. Taylor Hart
|12. James Gayle||Virginia Tech||6-4||259|
|13. Ethan Westbrooks||West Texas A&M||6-4||267|
|14. Ed Stinson
|15. Michael Sam||Missouri||6-2||261|