Heading into the meat of the 2015 NFL preseason, the Arizona Cardinals have begun making moves and statements that will define the team that takes the field for the regular season. Many sources have reported that the Cards organization wish to become quicker on the defensive side. Couple that with their decision to let first round pick and starting NT Dan Williams test the free agency market places the Cards in the market for a very important defensive cog.
Aside from Williams, the Cards also have Alameda Ta'amu on the roster, however, his status is up in the air as he is a restricted free agent and did not play much in 2014, despite being healthy from his ACL tear.
So, who could the Cards target as their NT moving forward? Coach Arians made a statement that he wants a player who can stuff the run and get pressure on the QB. Williams was a good run stuffer, but was unable to generate much pass rush presence. In looking to free agency there are a few players aside from Williams at NT who also excelled at stopping the run, but generated no real pass rush. There is one exception on the list, Terrance Knighton of the Denver Broncos. In his career, Knighton has 12.5 sacks in comparison to Williams 2. With that being said, it bears to keep in mind that the Broncos run a 4-3 defensive scheme with some hybrid looks. Would Knighton be as effective moving to a true NT position in a 3-4 defense? Then there is the matter of cost. With multiple needs to fill, would Arizona be able to find the money needed to bring Knighton in?
Stepping away from free agency as a potential resource to fill their NT need, there are a number of big bodies in the draft that may meet the Cards needs. The first candidate profile to consider may not make it out of the top half of the draft, as Danny Shelton from Washington appears to be capable of blowing up the run and getting to the QB, posting 9 sacks in the 2014 season. I can't imagine the Cards passing him up if he falls to them.
Now that we've looked at the NT who probably won't be available, let's focus on two who most likely will be. Currently slotted as late first round or early second round picks are NTs Jordan Phillips of Oklahoma and Eddie Goldman of Florida State. Both have shown an ability to control the run, and have flashed the speed to get pressure on a QB. With that being said, each has issues which Arizona would be wise to do their due diligence on. Phillips suffered a back injury in 2013, requiring surgery. Such injuries can be devastating for a big man. Goldman on the other hand lacks consistency as a pass rush threat and has currently hobbled by an ankle injury.
With only a few options to strengthen the NT position in the way Arizona is looking to do, Steve Keim will have to be exceptionally creative in his maneuvering as he looks for a replacement for Williams. What are your thoughts Cards Nation, can the front office work their magic to find the NT of Arizona's future, or will the lack of a quality NT hurt the defense heading into 2015?