The Arizona Cardinals are looking to add players at inside linebacker this offseason. In particular, they want to add speed at the position. There might just be a player who could be had via trade who is very inexpensive, at least for one year.
According to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, The San Francisco 49ers are shopping exclusive rights free agent Michael Wilhoite, looking to make a trade for a sixth or a seventh round draft pick.
Wilhoite started 16 games for the Niners in 2014, collecting 87 tackles, two interceptions, one forced fumble and six passes defensed. He was forced into action with the injuries of Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. However, with those two returning in 2015 and Chris Borland emerging, Wilhoite would be a special teams player at best, where he is an able contributor.
Where do the Cardinals fit in?
This isn't a report, per se, but as noted on the podcast, Seth Cox has heard the Cardinals could be looking at Wilhoite as a possibility this offseason.
Wilhoite could be had for cheap. As an exclusive rights free agent, he will make the league minimum if tendered a contract by the Niners. He cannot negotiate with any other team. San Fran could then trade him. He will be a restricted free agent in 2016, so whatever team acquires him would essentially control his rights for a reasonable price for a second year.
What does Wilhoite offer?
He is a great story, as he played in the CFL and then was a shoe salesman before cracking the NFL. He is a hard worker.
He is not super athletic, but there are some interesting raw numbers. At 6-0, 240 pounds, he is essentially the same size as Seattle's Bobby Wagner. Arizona wants to add speed. Wilhoite's pre-draft numbers had him running a mid-4.6 to a low 4.7 second 40-yard dash. That is not slow, but not top end speed. It's not quite Daryl Washington or Bobby Wagner. However, Wilhoite's numbers for the change of direction drills -- the 20-yard shuttle and the three-cone drills -- were better than the very speedy Wagner and also Daryl Washington. Wilhoite's shuttle was 4.14 seconds, while Wagner's was 4.28. Washington didn't run that drill.
Wilhoite's three-cone drill time was 6.73 seconds. Wagner's was 7.10 and Washington's was 7.07. So while Wilhoite does not have the top end straight line speed, He has very good change of direction.
In another comparison, his straight line speed compares to Kevin Minter, but his change of direction is better than Wagner or Washington. One of Minter's knocks is his quickness.
Wilhoite has starting experience in a 3-4. He has been productive. He graded positive in pass coverage by Pro Football Focus.
The fact that a starting-caliber player at a position of need is available for the league minimum in salary and a late-round draft pick looks like it could a slam dunk, at least if the Cardinals see him as fast enough.
Should the Cardinals be kicking the tires?