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Bring Back Rodney and Zach

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Seattle Seahawks v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Rodney Dangerfield never got much respect—-in fact, after revealing that he and his wife like to talk after making love, he admitted that she calls him frequently from hotels.

“I tell ya, I tell ya...”

Yeah—-that and—-Rodney said that after his doctor called him overweight and Rodney kindly asked for a second opinion, the doctor said, “OK—-you’re ugly too.”

“I tell ya I tell ya I tell ya, I don’t get much respect.”

Same goes for another Rodney—-the Cardinals’ DT Rodney Gunter, #95.

When the Cardinals drafted Rodney Gunter in the 2015 NFL Draft it was considered a bit of a coup.

As the story goes (beautifully chronicled by Bob McManaman on AZ Central) back at the time)—-Cardinals’ VP of Player Personnel, Terry McDonough, approached Steve Keim a month before the 2105 draft to tell Keim that he had discovered a “head snapper” in small school prospect DT Rodney Gunter from Delaware St. McDonough gushed about what he was watching on tape from the 6-5, 305 pound, 4.8 40 small school sleeper.

McDonough told Keim, ‘Steve, I haven’t seen a guy who can do this (snap guard and tackles heads when coming off the ball) at a small school since Leon Lett and Michael Strahan.”

So—-the Sunday before the draft, Keim sent defensive line coach Brentson Buckner on a visit to work out Gunter in his little home town of Haines City, Florida. This is where the story gets legendary. They got in Buchner’s rental car and were driving down old dirt roads looking for a field, when they finally found a small field beside a cemetery.

For the next hour and half, Buckner put Gunter through a series of intense DT/DE drills and did everything he could think of the break Gunter’s will. To no avail. Gunter was relentless.

Buckner returned to Arizona with a rave review and a two thumbs’ up.

On Day 3 of the draft and holding the #123 pick in the 4th round, the plan was to take Gunter with that selection. But as the picks in the 4th round commenced, the Cardinals were hearing that other teams were thinking of pouncing on Gunter, particularly the 49ers who had the #117 pick.

Steve Keim sprung into action and struck a draft deal with the Browns to move up from #123 to #116, one spot ahead of the 49ers. In return, the Cardinals gave the Browns their #123 (4th), #198 (6th) and #241 (7th) picks for the opportunity to select small-school head snapping shooting star DT/DE Rodney Gunter.

For those of you keeping score, with the three picks the Browns received from the Cardinals they selected Vince Mayle, WR, Washington St. at #123, Randall Telfer, TE, USC at #198 and Iso Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon at #241. Unfortunately for the Brown and the draftees, none of the three players panned out.

Meanwhile, Rodney Gunter has put together a string of respectable seasons. Over his 5 year tenure with the Cardinals he has played in 77 games, started 38 (13 in 2019) and has piled up 126 tackles, 26 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, and 29 QB hits.

Gunter’s 7.5 sacks over the past two seasons is 2nd on the team, only, of course, to Chandler Jones’.

Rodney was hoping to cash in on free agency last year, but didn’t get the offer he was hoping for. So he signed a one year $1.75M deal to stay with the Cardinals in 2019.

Zach Kerr was signed by the Colts as an undrafted college free agent in 2014. In his three seasons with the Colts he played in 36 games, started in 8 of them, and registered 64 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and 11 QB hits. He was signed by the Broncos in 2017 and for two seasons was used primarily as a run stuffing NT. He played in 21 games, starting 1 and recorded 54 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2 sacks and 3 QB hits.

Although he was signed to a two year contract extension by the Broncos last year, he was waived during final cuts by their new coaching staff and was picked up in early October by the Cardinals.

You might have noticed that once Kerr became a regular cog in the Cardinals’ DI rotation, the Cardinals had much better success thwarting the run. At 6-3, 334 pounds, Kerr is a prodigious force at the point of attack and he has surprisingly quick feet for a player his size. For the Cardinals he played in 12 games, starting 2—-contributing 19 tackles (13 solos) and 4 QB pressures.

Kerr played in 2019 on a one year $616K (12 game) contract.

2019 PFF Grades:

The grades on both Rodney Gunter and Zach Kerr were consistently good:

Overall:

Gunter: 64.8——Kerr: 69.5

Run Defense:

Gunter: 65.3—-Kerr: 72.4

Pass Rush:

Gunter: 64.7—-Kerr: 70.3

2018 Overall Grade:

Gunter: 68.9—-Kerr: 67.8

2017 Overall Grade:

Gunter: 66.8—-Kerr: 76.5

As you can see, the consistency of Rodney’s and Zach’s grades over the past three seasons is commendable.

Both Gunter and Kerr offer versatility in the Cardinals’ 34 defense as both can play NT or 34DE.

Based on their strengths, Gunter and Kerr are an attractive tandem, with Kerr being the classic run stuffer on running downs and with Gunter bringing versatility as an interior pass rusher. Furthermore, both Gunter and Kerr are valuable interior linemen to have in short yardage and goal line situations. In the video below, feast your eyes on Gunter’s 4th and goal sack of Russell Wilson.

The Cardinals’ 2015 draft class now boasts 2 of Steve Keim’s 3 multi-year 2nd contract deals for his own draft picks (Tyrann Mathieu—-2013 3rd Round; David Johnson—-2015 3rd Round; D.J. Humphries—-2015 1st Round).

With Brentson Buckner returning as defensive line coach, it feels like a good time for the Cardinals to sign Rodney Gunter to a 3 year deal at somewhere in the neighborhood of $3.3M a year, plus incentives.

Re-signing Zach Kerr to one or two year deal in the $2.5M a year range plus incentives feels like it would be be wise, as well.

The Cardinals will still need to add a starting caliber DT in free agency or the draft to feel confident about their overall talent and depth within a unit that features Corey Peters, Zach Allen, Rodney Gunter, Zach Kerr, Michael Dogbe and Miles Brown.

Thus, here is the syllogism (the good ol’ transitive theory) of the day:

  • 34 defenses require 6-7 good interior linemen for their rotations.
  • Rodney Gunter and Zach Kerr are good 34 interior linemen.
  • Ergo: The Cardinals would be wise to keep Gunter and Kerr as 2 of the 6-7 good players.

Trivia question of the day:

What uncanny and coincidental “small world” thing do Rodney Gunter and Zach Kerr have in common?

Want to pay your Rodney some respect? Check out his chronicle:

And speaking of hotels—-it would feel extra good to have Zach Kerr checking in the Cardinals at the hotel lobbies this season:

Rumor has it, Rodney and Zach like to talk after making OL, RBs and QBs pay.