The Cardinals can thank Cowboys’ owner/GM Jerry Jones for helping them bring DL Coach Brentson Buckner back to Arizona.
When Jones recently fired HC Jason Garrett, that led to the release of the Cowboys’ DC Rod Martinelli—-which in turn—-led to Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden hiring Martinelli as their new DL coach—-which ultimately—-led to Brentson Buckner’s rather shocking availablilty, considering the impressive improvement the Raiders’ showed in sacks and stopping the run.
Not only are the Cardinals re-acquiring one of the most passionate, knowledgeable and charismatic DL coaches in the NFL, hiring Buckner at this time is particularly auspicious, seeing as the Cardinals need to strengthen the DL in free agency—-and it just iso happens that Coach Buck has ties to a number of 2020 UFAs whom he has coached.
One such UFA is former Cardinal DE Benson Mayowa, who played a key role in helping the Raiders improve in 2019. The 6-3, 265 pound Mayowa was second on the Raiders with 7 sacks and 30 QB pressures (10 QB hits) as a nickel pass rusher in 2019 and if you recall, he was a stalwart versus the run with the Cardinals in 2018, recording 38 tackles and adding 4 sacks.
In this interview with the Raiders last year, Mayowa said about his DLC Brentson Buckner, ‘You’re blessed to have a coach like that.” Fast forward to the 2:28 mark of the interview:
At this point in his career, Mayowa fits well in sub packages because he can rush from the edge or from the interior. His 2020 salary should be reasonably affordable—-probably in the vicinity of $2-3M.
While Coach Buck worked with this past season with other former Cardinals like 34DE Josh Mauro (who could be signed for depth) and Olsen Pierre—-it’s the defensive linemen who played for him with the Tampa Bay Bucs in 2018 who could be impact UFAs for the Cardinals in 2020:
DE Carl Nassib (6-7, 275, 26, Penn. St., 5th season)—-the past two seasons with the Bucs, Nassib registered 63 tackles, 12.5 sacks a 3 forced fumbles. This past season he generated an impressive 36 QB pressures. He would figure to be a good fit in 34RDE Calais Campbell’s spot in the base defense next to OLB Chandler Jones—-and then in sub package he can double as an edge and inside rusher. My guess is he could be signed in the $5M a year range.
DT Beau Allen (6-3, 327, Wisconsin, 28, 7th season) is a classic run stuffer and linebacker protector. He could play NT or 34SDE in the base. Estimated salary: $2.5M a year.
OLB/DE Jason Pierre Paul (6-5, 275, South Florida, 31, 11th season) appears to have nine lives. A few years back he blew off his thumb in a fireworks accident and this past off-season he fractured a vertebra in his back in an awful auto accident, but amazingly he was able to return for 10 games and end the season with 27 tackles and 8.5 sacks. But, his best season with the Bucs was with Buckner in 2018 where he amassed 58 tackles and 12.5 sacks. At this point in his career, JPP is still a formidable pass rusher who could wreak havoc opposite Chandler Jones on passing downs. Imagine those two 6-5 dynamos storming the edges. Estimated salary: $7M.
Here is Coach Buck talking about JPP in 2018:
DT Rakeem Nunez-Rochez (6-2, 307, Southern Mississippi, 26, 5th season) was drafted in the 6th round of the 2015 draft by the Chiefs and started 16 games in 2016-2017, picking up 47 tackles and 1.5 sacks. He was waived in 2018 and signed by the Bucs in October of 2018. Word is that Buckner took a particular liking in Rakeem’s potential, which has yet to be fulfilled. Estimated salary: minimum. Could compete for a DL rotation spot as a depth DT.
Of course, Brentson Buckner is very familiar with 34NT Corey Peters, whom he coached while with the Cardinals. One can imagine that Peters is excited to have Coach Buck back.
The coach is also very familiar with UFA 34DE/NT Rodney Gunter, whom Buckner helped develop. Gunter has shown promising flashes and, if re-signed, it’s possible that Buckner could help Gunter take his game to the next level.
Its fascinating to think of what Brentson Buckner can do with 34DE Zach Allen, 34DE Michael Dogbe and 34NT Miles Brown.
Plus, with the impressively aggressive way that 34DE/DT Zach Kerr played down the stretch last year—-chances are good that Vance Joseph and Brentson Buckner will be happy to re-sign him. And possibly run stuffing 34DE Jonathan Bullard, too.
As we know there are some prize UFAs at DT and DE—-and it’s quite likely the Cardinals will try to sign Chris Jones or Arik Armstead or Javon Hargrave or Leonard Williams—-or Vance Josephs’ former Broncos Shelby Harris or Derek Wolfe—-but it’s good to know that Brentson Buckner has a number of former players to turn to if he and they want to reunite in Arizona.