All this talk lately about the Cardinals Ring of Honor got me thinking about the future. Who else we might see inducted one day? There are some obvious candidates on the current roster (see below), but who could surprise like Carson Palmer? I mean, he was only a Cardinal for 5 seasons. But, then, given the oft-ignominious history of the franchise, he was able to quickly rise up the franchise leaderboards in several categories in his short stint in the desert.
That is to say, the bar for entry into the Arizona Cardinals Ring of Honor is probably lower than it is for most other franchises. (Which is obviously depressing given the long history of the team.)
So, who on the current roster is capable of making the Ring of Honor and raising that bar? Let’s take a look into the crystal ball (okay, more like magic 8-ball) to find out, starting with the most obvious of obvious names.
Note: This list only includes players on the current roster (and one coach), so older players like Neil Lomax and Larry Centers, as well as more recent candidates like Anquan Boldin, Calais Campbell, and Bruce Arians, are not included—but do feel free to debate them in the comments!
WR Larry Fitzgerald– 100% In
Duh. One of the greatest receivers of all time. The man is a lock for the NFL Hall of Fame (despite what some might say), much less the Cardinals Ring of Honor. Moving on.
More Likely In Than Not
CB Patrick Peterson – ~75% In
A somewhat tricky case—see last week’s article—but I think he’ll eventually get in.
RB David Johnson – ~60% In
Before I started my research for this article, I had DJ’s chances a bit lower, in the 40% range or so. After all, he only really has one above-average season on his resume—although he did lead the league in yards from scrimmage in that 2016 season. Other than that, he only really played half his rookie season, then missed most of the 2017 season, and was merely average last season. So why the bump up to the 60% range?
Well, the Cardinals career rushing leader chart isn’t exactly imposing. Currently, DJ is ranked #13 in career rushing yards with 2,783 in parts of four seasons. If he can stay healthy (not exactly guaranteed) and rush for 1,000 yards in each of the next two seasons, he’d leapfrog Stump Mitchell for #2 overall. (He’d need 5 seasons of 1,000+ yards to overtake Ottis Anderson for #1—probably not in the cards for a 27-year-old, but you never know.) And if he adds 8 TDs in each of those seasons, he’d pass Anderson for the most rushing TDs in Redbirds history. If he’s reasonably productive over the three years remaining on his current deal, he’ll easily achieve both of those goals. Add in his receiving production and the Humble Rumble seems like he’s well on his way to Ring of Honor status, especially given how well-liked he is by teammates and fans alike.
Of course, he has to stay healthy first. And Kingsbury’s offense has to work for him to get those stats. The fact that he’s already 27 with previous injury issues also has to be taken into account. Finally, another couple postseason appearances would also help, and who knows when this team will be back in the playoffs. So there are plenty of questions here as well—but add it all up and 60% seems about right.
LB Chandler Jones – ~60% In
Jones is another guy who hasn’t worn Cardinals red for very long but who has rocketed up the career leaderboards. In just three seasons in the desert, Jones is already #7 on the team’s career sack list—and the names that Jones has and will surpass are much more noteworthy than those on the running backs list.
So what does Jones need to do to keep climbing the leaderboards and reach Ring of Honor status? Well, he has three seasons left on his current contract. If he continues to be a productive pass rusher in each of those seasons—say 9 sacks per season, well off his current 14-sack-per-season-pace—he’d pass Calais Campbell (#2 with 56.5) and Freddie Joe Nunn (#1 with 66.5) for most sacks in Cardinals history. He’d be a lock to make the Ring of Honor if he were to accomplish that.
But he’s only been a Cardinal for three seasons, so it’s hard to go higher than 60% for him. And some of the questions that apply to DJ also apply to Jones—he’s already 29 and there’s no guarantee of team success moving forward. (Although Jones doesn’t have the injury concerns that DJ does.) But suffice to say that Jones’s current trajectory—even with some diminished performance—has him on target to see his name up in lights at State Farm Stadium.
So You’re Telling Me There’s a Chance – <10% In
Other than the three guys above, there are no other clear-cut Ring of Honor candidates on the roster…yet. But there are myriad young/new Cardinals who have a non-zero chance to someday make it. Let’s break them down into a few categories and briefly discuss their chances.
The Future Is Now – Coach Kliff Kingsbury and QB Kyler Murray
If the Kingsbury/Murray experiment works here in the desert—meaning offensive fireworks come sooner rather than later and the team starts competing for the playoffs in the near future—this duo’s chances would quickly rise. And make no mistake, the fates of coach and QB are tied closely together. If one succeeds, the other almost assuredly will as well. These guys will be absolutely fascinating to watch this season.
The Young Wideouts – WRs Christian Kirk, Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler, and KeeSean Johnson
These are the guys who will take over after Fitz retires—and whom Murray will (hopefully) be throwing to for years to come. They’re all talented and will get every opportunity to prove themselves. Can one (or more) of them develop into a Pro Bowler and someday join Fitz (and maybe Boldin) in the Ring of Honor? It’s certainly possible.
The Young O-Linemen – T D.J. Humphries and C Mason Cole
I know—these guys are more like <1% than <10%. But hear me out. What if Humphries stays healthy this year and finally puts it all together to become a bookend left tackle? What if he makes a couple Pro Bowls on his second contract? He certainly has talent and pedigree enough where it wouldn’t be shocking. Remote, but possible. As for Cole, although he didn’t rate well metrics-wise as a rookie, he didn’t miss a single snap all season. What if he becomes a solid 10-year starter with a couple Pro Bowls or long ironman streak thrown in there? Again—remote, but possible. We’re exploring all semi-feasible possibilities here.
The Free Agent Defenders – DE Darius Philon and LB Jordan Hicks
More longshots—but they pretty much all are in this category. Both of these guys are still young and come to the desert with plenty of talent and potential. If either of them were to make a leap to Pro Bowl status and put together a strong 6–8 year career with the Redbirds, they’d certainly warrant consideration. Here’s hoping.
The Young Defenders – LB Haason Reddick, CB Byron Murphy, S Budda Baker, and S Deionte Thompson
These guys are all young, hungry, and talented. Could they be key components of the next great Cardinals defense under new coordinator Vance Joseph? Reddick has mostly been a square peg in a round hole thus far in his Cardinals career, but maybe Joseph can figure out how to unlock his obvious talent within his scheme. His draftmate Baker is probably the best bet of this bunch, as he already has one Pro Bowl appearance to his name (albeit as a special teamer). He looks primed to become a defensive leader as soon as this season. But will his career have longevity, or will he be the next Honey Badger? Finally, the two rookies—Murphy and Thompson—ooze potential. Strong rookie seasons would give them a leg up in the long quest to make the Ring of Honor. Odds are none of these guys make it, but it’s plausible at least one of them is in the conversation by the time they have all hung it up.
I feel pretty good about the first four names, and I feel pretty good that at least one or two of the others will at least be worthy of consideration when all is said and done in their careers. And, heck, it’s entirely possible that someone deep down the depth chart or some anonymous UDFA comes out of nowhere to have an amazing career. Just look at Kurt Warner, for example. Stories like those are one of the best things about this league, after all.
Time to weigh in, Cardinals fans. What do you think about the list above? Anyone we missed? Any predictions yourselves? Let’s get a debate going in the comments.