Now that UFA S Tre’ Boston has apparently burned his bridge with the Cardinals, and as an answer to Seth’s timely question of whom the Cardinals should look to next for valuable safety depth, how about making a table of 5 reservation at Steak 44 for Steve Keim, Steve Wilks, Al Holcomb, David Merritt and former Raiders’, Panthers’ and Steelers’ FS Mike Mitchell.
The Steelers released Mitchell in March following a season in which he had 53 tackles and 0 interceptions (a PFF grade of 71.2). It was, no question, a difficult season for Mitchell. He recently revealed that he tried to play the season with a broken foot. Plus, there were two controversial incidents involving Mitchell. The first was a low tackle he made on the Chiefs’ QB Alex Smith, which some pundits felt should have resulted in a suspension. Mitchell claimed he was pushed down into Smith and thus wouldn’t have hit him so low. Upon a close review of the play, it is clear that Mitchell was actually pushed from behind by his own DE Antony Chickillo.
The second incident involved what was termed an “epic” rant to reporters in the locker room on December 8th wherein Mitchell challenged the NFL’s policy for protecting “vulnerable” WRs from hard hits over the middle. What Mitchell argued was that so often it is the QBs who put their WRs in harm’s way, like the time Andy Dalton threw a low pass to TE Tyler Eifert and Mitchell said he had tried to hit Eifert in the gut, but because Eifert had to dive for the low pass, Mitchell wound up hitting Eifert in the head, which incurred a 15 yard penalty, a hefty fine from the NFL and ESPN’s Matt Hasselbeck calling Mitchell on the league’s “dirtiest players.”
We have often seen a safety take a proper tackling angle to the WR or TE, only to see the receiver fall into head to head contact or leap up into getting scissor flipped. Thus, in that sense, Mitchell made a good case.
The biggest detriments going against Mitchell this off-season are his age (he recently turned 31) and his coming off of a sub par, injury marred season.
However, when Mitchell is healthy he has proven himself to be one of the most productive, speedy and intimidating safeties in the NFL.
The intriguing link here is that Mitchell had arguably his best season with the Panthers in 2013, a season in which he produced 51 tackles (43 solo), 4 interceptions, 4 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. One would imagine that Steve Wilks remembers Mitchell very well.
Mitchell also had two very good back-to-back seasons with the Steelers in 2015 and 2016 where he combined for 157 tackles, 18 pass deflections, 4 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles.
Mitchell recently has said that his foot has healed and that he ran a 4.48 40. He says that he is as passionate as ever.
If not Mitchell, then what about Eric Reid? Reid, only 26, is coming off a solid season with the 49ers in which he produced 66 tackles (55 solo) and 2 interceptions for a PFF grade of 81.4 (tied coincidentally with Tre’ Boston as the #30th ranked safety).
I know in the past that Steve Keim has raved about Eric Reid and stated how high he and the Cardinals had him on their board when he was drafted at #18 in the 1st round by the 49ers in the 2013 NFL Draft.
The question marks about Reid are (in the national context) whether he is being blackballed by the owners for kneeling with Colin Kaepernick and (in the local sense) whether former teammate Antoine Bethea would recommend Reid to Steve Keim, or not. It appears that Bethea and Reid had a good rapport in SF, but maybe Bethea has his own reservations about Reid and whether he could fit into the Cardinals’ chemistry. One thing is clear---Bethea has been loudly lobbying for the return of his good friend and teammate Tyvon Branch.
What may be prophetic, however, was this May 5th tweet from Mike Mitchell:
“Don’t believe the lies. I’m healthy now my foots (sic) not broke no injuries and just ran a 4.48. When I come back like the Phoenix you’re all gonna eat your words.”
Just maybe some good eating at Steak 44 in Phoenix this time of year for Mike Mitchell and the Cardinals could do the trick!