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2020 Cardinals: OL Menu

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to everyone who who got the 2020 discussion going yesterday. Today I would like to offer some detailed thoughts about the most interesting and difficult decisions the Cardinals are going to have to make along the OL. There are quite a number of them—-so let’s get started.

Q1: Would it be best for the Cardinals to try to keep as much of the current continuity on the offensive line going—-which would mean re-signing LT D.J.Humphries, C A.Q. Shipley and RT Justin Murray (or perhaps re-sign RT Marcus Gilbert)?

One of the major reasons why the Cardinals’ offense currently finds itself in the top 10 in scoring percentage has been the gritty, versatile and spirited play of the offensive line. In recent years the OL grades have been consistently poor—-much in part due to a lack of continuity caused by a barrage of injuries.

This year under HC Kliff Kingsbury and OL coach Sean Kugler, the OL continuity has been a significant boost, as 4 of the 5 opening day starters have stayed healthy and have been highly competitive. Here are their PFF grades after 10 games, with their pass blocking grades and their number of penalties:

(66. 5) RG J.R. Sweezy: 73.9 pass blocking, 6 penalties (15 games 2018: 45.7, 59.3, 9)

(65.8) LG/RT Justin Pugh: 77.3, 2 (7 games 2018: 50.7, 52.1, 2)

(61.8) LG Mason Cole: 75.6, 1 (16 games 2018: 50.9, 41.9, 3)

(61.6) LT D.J., Humphries: 70.6, 11 (9 games 2018: 68.8, 62.9, 2)

(60.4) T Joshua Miles: 71.2, 0

(56.4) RT Justin Murray: 59.5, 2

(51.4) C A.Q. Shipley: 69.1, 3 (16 games 2017: 61.8, 77.9, 5)

For 2020 it would appear the Cardinals are solid at the guards with J.R. Sweezy and Justin Pugh. Mason Cole has graded well at LG while Justin Pugh has shifted over to RT.

While Justin Pugh has been very clear that he prefers to play guard—-would it make sense for the Cardinals to keep him at RT and Mason Cole at LG?

Pugh had his highest game grade of the season playing RT versus the 49ers: 79.4. That grade dipped last week versus DE Shaq Barrett (46.9). Mason Cole had his best game grade at LG versus the 49ers: 68.1. He slipped to 55.7 versus the Bucs.

At C, A.Q. Shipley’s grades are significantly lower than what they were in 2017. However, Shipley has been receiving high praise from Kliff Kingsbury for his work ethic and leadership. Shipley is a now a highly respected captain. The question is—-do the Cardinals view Shipley, at age 34, as their starting center in 2020? They obviously have favored him over Mason Cole this year. Just how high are the Cardinals on 2019 6th round pick C Lamont Gaillard?

The top rated C in 2020 free agency is the Bengals’ and former Texas Longhorn Trey Hopkins (61.6, 65.5. 2). He’s 27. Hopkins’ emergence at C meant sliding 2018 1st Round pick Billy Price over to LG.

Man, I would love to see what Sean Kugler could do with Billy Price at C. I think the Bengals would be pen to trading Billy Price, especially if they re-sign Trey Hopkins. How about swapping Haason Reddick for Billy Price in a trade of 1st round picks who could use a fresh start with another team? Plus the Bengals play the 43, and could play Reddick at WOLB, his most natural position. the Cardinals might have to add a Day 3 pick to make that trade.

Peeking ahead to 2021 free agency, three Cs stand out: Alex Mack (ATL), Corey Linsley (GB) and Ryan Kelly (IND).

At LT, D.J. Humphries has been inconsistent (70.6 pass blocking and 54.8 run blocking) —-and leads the team with 11 penalties. Looking within the division, he did well versus Jadaveon Clowney (77.7 pass blocking), but struggled versus Nick Bosa (32.0 pass blocking).

Can D.J., for the first time in his career, start all 16 games?

Will D.J. improve his consistency over the final 6 games?

If he does in both cases, he is probably looking at a contract in the $12M a year range.

Here is the huge question—-should the Cardinals pay D.J. Humphries $12M a year?

Let me ask you this—-do you think D.J.’s play thus far this year is worthy of the $9.625M the Cardinals elected to pay him by picking up his 5th year option?

One of the problems, as I discovered yesterday, is that the free agent pool at LT is fairly shallow.

Here are the top free agent left tackles: Anthony Castonzo (82.5 2019 PFF grade—-will be 32 next year entering 10th season), Daryl Williams (58.6—-will be 28 heading into his 6th season) and Greg Robinson (67.3—-is 27 and is having his best season).

Bryan Bulaga (72.5) is the top rated free agent RT. He will be 31, heading into his 10th season, like Anthony Castonzo).

As far as trades go, would you be willing to swap Patrick Peterson, David Johnson or a couple of high draft picks for LT Trent Williams? When healthy and in good shape, Williams is a top 5 LT, but he will be 32 next year having not played a snap since the 2018 season and there are uncertainties about his health.

The good news for the Cardinals and teams that want to upgrade their offensive line in the 2020 NFL Draft, the pool at offensive tackle is very talented and deep. The Cardinals could set their sights on drafting one of the top 3 tackles in Round 1:

  1. T Andrew Thomas, Georgia.
  2. T Tristan Wirts, Iowa
  3. T Jedrick Willis, Alabama

Or the Cardinals could decide to wait until Round 2 to select one of the following:

4. T Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma

5. T Trey Adams, Washington

6. T Alex Leatherwood, Alabama

7. T Calvin Throckmorton, Oregon

8. T Alaric Jackson, Iowa

9. T Prince Tega Wanogho, Auburn

10. T Mekhi Becton, Louisville

One would imagine that Sean Kugler would find the prospect that he likes best among these prospects.

So—-here is your 2020 OL Menu—-choose for the following:


  1. UFA—-D.J. Humphries (ARZ)
  2. UFA—-Anthony Castonzo (IND)
  3. UFA—-Daryl Williams (CAR)
  4. UFA—-Greg Robinson (CLE)
  5. Trade—-Trent Williams (WAS @ $12M next season)
  6. Use round 1 pick on Andrew Thomas, Tristin Wirfs, or Jedrick Willis
  7. Joshua Miles


  1. Justin Pugh
  2. Mason Cole
  3. Max Garcia
  4. UFA—-Joe Thuney (NE)
  5. UFA—-Graham Glasgow (DET)
  6. Draft Pick


  1. A.Q. Shipley
  2. Mason Cole
  3. Lamont Gaillard
  4. Max Garcia
  5. Trade—-Billy Price (CIN)
  6. UFA—-Trey Hopkins (CIN)
  7. Draft Pick


  1. J.R. Sweezy
  2. Max Garcia
  3. UFA—-Quinton Spain (BUF)
  4. Draft Pick


  1. Justin Pugh
  2. Justin Murray
  3. Marcus Gilbert
  4. UFA—-Bryan Bulaga (GB)
  5. UFA—Jack Conklin (TEN)

Here are my picks:

LT—-Anthony Castonzo (As a BC alum, AC is the best LT to come from The Heights in a very impressive group of good NFL OL)

LG—-Justin Pugh

C—-Billy Price (trade with CIN for OLB Haasan Reddick)

RG—-J.R. Sweezy

RT—-Alaric Jackson, T, Iowa—-Round 2—-#77 at LT on this tape

So go ahead and make your choices—-and feel free to add players who are not on the menu here. Fill in your choices—-and tell us why:


LG: ____________________________________

C: _____________________________________

RG: ___________________________________

RT: ____________________________________